Macintosh users in a Microsoft Exchange community fight a constant uphill battle for compatibility with their Windows-based neighbors. Until just recently, Mac users could barely exchange formatted e-mail messages with Windows Outlook users, let alone participate in the rich traffic of Exchange calendars, meetings, task and contact lists, notes, and document archives enjoyed by their Windows colleagues.
Those days are over. Microsoft Outlook for Mac 2001 offers feature parity with the Windows version, letting Mac users participate in group scheduling, share address books, collaborate on projects, and publish documents. It even has a few features--such as drag-and-drop copying and easy setup--that Outlook for Windows doesn't, and the Mac interface makes this version more user friendly than its Windows counterpart. There are only two real disappointments: Outlook 2001 doesn't run natively in Mac OS X--you can run it in OS X's Classic mode, but performance suffers--and it requires Microsoft Exchange Server.
Outlook 2001 is easy to install: simply drag the application folder from the CD to your hard drive, and the program self-installs when you first launch it. A startup wizard walks you through the initial configuration, offering context-sensitive troubleshooting advice if things go awry.
Once launched, Outlook presents a single multipaned window displaying mail, calendars, contacts, and other Exchange resources. Overall, the new interface is very pleasing, even though it lacks the Aqua sheen that users are starting to expect. And Mac-friendly features abound: message-preview zooming magnifies those insanely tiny Windows fonts, for example, and the Mac's Keychain security feature saves your password for you. Interactive documentation via the program's Mac Help Center puts how-to information at your fingertips.
Behind the slick interface, Microsoft has added a mountain of new capabilities. A full-featured calendar keeps track of appointments and lets you share them with others. You can have calendar items sent automatically to other Outlook users and create public calendars for jointly managing vacation or project schedules.
A meeting planner helps you arrange meetings with multiple users. You choose several users from an address book, display a consolidated view of all their schedules, and select a compatible time or let Outlook 2001 choose one for you. All invitees get an e-mail message about the suggested time, which they can confirm or, with permission, reschedule.
Shared folders let you delegate management of some or all of your Outlook functions to another person. A feature unique to Outlook 2001 for Mac is the Sharing Panel, which consolidates permission controls for all Outlook functions in a single dialog box; Windows users must click through dozens of windows to configure sharing and delegation.
Beyond the lack of native OS X support, one minor omission remains: HTML mail formatting. Outlook 2001 converts incoming HTML messages to RTF format and doesn't let you compose HTML mail messages. Windows users don't suffer these limitations.
Macworld's Buying Advice
Outlook 2001 is elegant and responsive in Mac OS 9, but it drags somewhat in OS X's Classic mode, and the user interface isn't up to Aqua standards. Still, if you're living in a Microsoft Exchange corporate culture, you have to get along--and with Outlook 2001, you finally can. mIt's a Date: Outlook 2001 lets you share schedules with other Exchange users.