Microsoft Outlook for Mac 2011 still not ready for prime time

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My verdict on Outlook? Still a Massive Fail.

Microsoft let me know via an onscreen message that it wanted to update my Office 2011 suite with Service Pack 2 last night, bringing it to version 14.2.0.  So, without expecting much, I gave Outlook another whirl over the past 18 hours — my third time in a year and a half.   I’ve been using Word, Excel and Powerpoint 2011 since, and those were largely many steps ahead of the 2008 suite.

After importing all my stuff from Entourage 2008 last night, it immediately crashed, and has done that intermittently while using it today during launch.  And, yes, it was a brand new “identity,” so nothing was corrupt there.

The New York Times’ David Pogue wrote about many of Outlook’s omissions and problems in 2010’s “Office for Mac Isn’t an Improvement” column, and many of them still exist:

  • Resend was a huge feature missing in action, and that was remedied early in 2011.  But, that one and only change did not redeem it from my condemnation then or now.
  • Cleanup Text is still MIA.  That is a godsend in Entourage and other mail apps, as it fixes those multi-forwarded messages with a million indented >>> forwarding brackets, or gets rid of ugly line breaks.  Microsoft’s advice?  Buy a $40 third-party application like TextSoap to do that.  Uh, what?

Other Entourage missing features Pogue pointed out in October 2010 that have not been restored in 18 months since the official launch:

  • Redirect (lets you forward a message to the proper party, with the original sender still in the “From” box)
  • The option to use the same keyboard shortcuts for editing text that you’ve set up in Word.

Another thing missing is the inability to embed urls in graphics in my signature, like I’ve seen others do with little LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook icons.  I can do that in Outlook for Windows; why not Mac?  By the way, you can do that in Apple Mail.

That stupid close-to-empty Microsoft Ribbon takes up too much real estate in Outlook, so the functionality easily found via convenient menus across the top in Entourage need extra key strokes or hunting.  And some of those missing functions are moved down to the lower left of the screen, cutting off my email folders 3/4 of the way down.  So what if it looks like that in Windows?

Another productivity problem: Ever scanned your email for an attachment after sorting it via the “paper clip?” That is almost useless in Outlook 2011, as even embedded graphics in emails (such as in a signature) are seen as attachments; Entourage wisely ignored those.  Dumb.

The biggest crime:  fonts are displayed much too small due to the way Microsoft decided to render them (I won’t get into the weeds on this, but trust me, they screwed up).  The 10-point fonts in Entourage 2008 appear larger than the 12-point fonts in Outlook 2011 on my 15″ Macbook Pro!  I need a magnifying glass (or need to zoom in) to read emails I’m writing that will display in less than giant type on the recipients’ computers, or to read stuff they send me.

Update April 25: I wasn’t the only user with issues, as Macworld UK wrote about in “Time Machine saved me from Outlook-killing Microsoft Office update.” Microsoft pulled the SP2 update on April 23.

So, Steve Ballmer, I know you won’t fix things, as you don’t care about Mac users.  Not really.  But if I have to use your 5-year-old email tech, I guess I’m stuck.  And I’ll cross my fingers and continually back up my Entourage database, just in case it dies.  With Outlook that would be less likely, as emails are kept as separate files and not inside one huge corruptible database as with Entourage, but Outlook’s other glaring negatives outweigh that risk.

Microsoft is no longer most popular or most used when it comes to Internet browsers; far from it.  As of March 2012, it has declined by 60% to 18.9% market share from 49% when Google Chrome launched in 2008.  With apathy like this Mac Outlook issue, Office may be next.  All it takes is something perceived to be better — and better marketed — to come along.

Now, if Apple actually made a robust Exchange-savvy business email application (Mail is not it), many Mac users would at least have a modern alternative.

Marketing Takeaways to Consider:

  • If you have customers buying your product, ask them what they can’t do without.  And truly listen.
  • If you launch a product that is missing benefits, and there is an outcry from customers, add them as quickly as possible.
  • Even if you’re king of the hill, you can get knocked off, so don’t become complacent.

Jonathan Blaine

I've always called myself a "Marketing Guy." If I had a brand and logo, perhaps that would be my slogan. Measuring ROI is huge. Just because you're now using "new media" does not mean marketing fundamentals should be discarded. Customers' desires do not change. I'm a "right-brained creative analytical" guy (if you can fathom such a thing) who looks at a project several different ways. My first instinct is usually the correct one. I'm a "doer," and often a "diplomatic fixer;" someone who gets things done and still gets a thrill out of customers actually buying something because of something I mailed to them, or an ad I placed. Most of my success has come from strategy, writing, how ideas are presented to the potential customer and the actual thoughts that somehow originate within the ether between my ears. As a fan of DM guru Denny Hatch, I believe that the brand should never outweigh the message, and that art should never win over copy. The mix has to be “just right.” And continually tested. I have solid ryttan, err, written and verbal communication skills, and a reputation for consistently producing cost-effective quality work.

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