Mac and Windows users may never see eye to eye. But the release of Outlook 2001 for the Mac should at least make it easier for their computers to share scheduling and contact information.
That hasn't always been the case with Outlook. Past Mac versions of Microsoft's messaging and collaboration client for its Exchange Server were little more than basic ports of the Windows software. Since Outlook had different data formats for each platform version, it didn't allow for shared contact lists or team scheduling between Mac and Windows users.
So when Microsoft began work on this latest version of Outlook (which should not be confused with Outlook Express, Microsoft's free e-mail client), it had two goals in mind[~]improve the interoperability between the Mac and Windows versions and spruce up the look and feel of the Mac software.
"The goal with this release of Outlook for the Mac was to deliver on what we originally had in the beta," says Exchange Product Manager David Siroky, referring to the beta Microsoft released this January.
To that end, Outlook 2001 for the Mac now uses the same data format as its Windows counterpart. This allows Outlook users to easily share data regardless of their platform.
"Let's say I'm an admin using a Mac, and my boss uses Windows," Siroky says. "Using Outlook, I can go in and open my boss's calendar."
Outlook 2001 also sports a distinctive Mac-look, reminiscent of the interfaces for the Mac versions of Office and Internet Explorer. Like Explorer, Outlook has a Mac-only Themes customization tool that lets users change the color of the messaging client's interface. Other Mac-specific Outlook features include drag-and-drop installation and Keychain support for storing password and user ID information.
Microsoft has made several changes since the beta release by improving the application's stability and turning on features[~]such as Secure MIME, calendar import/export, and integrated troubleshooting tools[~]that weren't available in the Outlook preview, Siroky says.
The January release of the Outlook beta caused confusion among some Mac users who wondered if Outlook would take the place of Entourage, a personal information manager (PIM) built into Microsoft Office. Addressing that confusion, Siroky says Microsoft plans to continue developing Entourage and that the PIM serves entirely different customers than Outlook does.
"Entourage is ideally suited for e-mail, working with an ISP, and your own personal contact manager and calendar," Siroky says. Outlook, on the other hand, is aimed at businesses that run their own e-mail and messaging system.
The Mac version of Outlook is available for download at Microsoft's Web site. Exchange 2000 customers are licensed to use Outlook 2001 for the Mac. The software requires 32MB of memory and will run on Mac OS 8.6 and higher. Outlook isn't OS X-native yet, though Siroky says it will run in the Classic environment of the new operating system.
Outlook also requires the use of Exchange Server, which starts at $699 plus a client access license of $67 per desktop. Smaller businesses can opt for the lower-priced Microsoft Small Business Server, which includes Exchange Server.