Microsoft’s latest update for Office 2011 is great, some really significant improvements for Outlook especially. Yes, there are improvements for Word and PowerPoint and some bits and pieces for all apps in terms of improved document handling and Lion features, for me Outlook is the biggy.
For me it was the Outlook stuff that made me pay attention. In the organisation I work for, we’ve been having terrible trouble with Outlook wanting to do database rebuilds at every opportunity and then when it does, it will pretty reliably duplicate either contacts or calendar entries. We’ve been caning our DPM server doing multiple mailbox restores! Recently we’ve simply been using a piece of freeware to remove duplicates in a Windows based outlook profile instead.
All that aside, back to the update, the headlines are:
The database and the rebuild utility are improved
As mentioned above, this ha been a real issue for us, not only wasting user time, but also admin time. Time will tell if things are vastly improved, but I thought it was worthwhile to comment on the upgrade process itself. It’s pretty lengthy, when you complete the install of the patch and load outlook for the first time it will prompt you to select which profile you would like to upgrade. This is also good news as you might want to leave a backed up profile alone. One you start the process, it is pretty length and is of course entirely dependant on the size of your mailbox. Be prepared to give up some time to it, you can NOT cancel it once it’s started.
IMAP account sync that includes support for synchronising with Gmail is improved.
Not tried this as yet, but as a lot of organisations fall in love with the Cloud, reliance on Gmail will inevitably increase.
Outlook for Mac performance in key scenarios is improved.
So far so good! My Outlook session has been grinding to a halt more and more lately, and since the install I’ve noted a vast improvement in reaction speed and in opening mail items.
Exchange email message sync is improved.
We’ve got a lot of people who are connecting via wifi and 3G, and although that is normally ok, when you’re on the edge of coverage, or something like Edge (E) or HSDPA (H) or GPRS (G) then you can really struggle. Being able to pull just headers and also pull the message in parts is great for poor bandwidth areas
Support for calendar scheduling resources is improved
The scheduling area in the calendar is vastly improved, a picture tells a thousand words, so here’s what it now looks like.
Week numbers are added to the calendar display.
AGain this is configurable, so you can put the week numbers into the Calendar view. It’s not a huge one for me, but I can see how that will be a vast improvement for some people.
Distribution list expansion functionality is included.
A real user improvement, our organisation uses loads of distribution lists and mail enabled security groups, and our users have been used to being able to check membership or alternatively be able to expand a group to remove 1 person (say when it’s about a birthday treat or something)
Some of the other bits I liked were the improved 2 line ‘Toast’ email alert, you get a wee bit more info now to make you decision on whether or not to read.
The new version of Office for Mac 2011 (std) is available to download for MVLS customers. It’s very early as I didn’t expect the release until mid October. One surprise for me was the inclusion of a Communicator for Mac (Version 13). I hadn’t realised (I can’t admit to having done piles of research!) that there was the intention of releasing a full communicator client for mac. I have until now been using the MSN client, which functioned very well.
Setup was very easy with all the SRV records in place, it was very straightforward, email address, username and password and I was in. First impressions are excellent, I can’t see anything I am missing. It prompts for it to be your default presence client and also your default voice client for Telephone and Conference.
I’ve yet to try out the voice side of things, but I’m interested to se ow it fares with a live meeting request.
As per the Windows version of the Communicator 2007 client, logging options are offered, which I am pleased about, and places the log files into your /users/username/library/logs folder.
Mac features like bouncing apps in the dock are all present, with options for Once or continuous bounce.
Displaying of your out of office is optional as is presence indicators based on Exchange calendar.
Another intersting inclusion is the option to use Bonjour to allow local users to be displayed in your contacts list, additionally allowing to block or allow their ability to see you.
Video, conversation saving (prompted or auto) are also there.
Amusingly the status indicator (that has always been round) is a square, just to be different.
Final verdict? Well, i think it’s great, I spent the day using it at home today to connect back to the office over dsl, and where the windows client would have dropped out a few times, it was rock solid. Fantastic.