Category Archives: Outlook

the evolution of my category list

I started using Entourage:Mac when I joined the MacBU in 2005.  As my mail changed from a steady stream to a rushing river, I evolved some techniques in Entourage (and later in Outlook) to handle it.  One of my techniques was the use of an extensive set of server-side rules to filter my mail.  My goal was to have only mail that was sent directly to me in my main inbox.  Anything that was sent to a list of people would go into a subfolder.

The other technique was to use colour-coded categories.  My category list evolved over time.  When I left Microsoft, I had one category for my user experience team, one for each application team, another one for general MacBU stuff, one for colleagues on the Office for Windows team, one for travel stuff, one for my personal contacts, and so on.   I had about 20 categories.  The categories were all colour-coded (for example, my PowerPoint category was orange and my Excel category was green).  This allowed me to tell, at a glance, what’s in store for me.  If I opened my inbox and saw a lot of yellow, I knew that there was something going on for Outlook.  If I opened my calendar and saw a lot of magenta, I knew that I was going to be heads-down working on user experience stuff.

I’m still using Outlook:Mac (of course!), and I imported my contact list.  But suddenly I don’t need all of those categories anymore.  All of my old categories for my work at Microsoft don’t apply any more.  I collapsed all of my old Microsoft contacts into a single category.  I created a new category for my new user experience team, as well as a general VMware category for all of these people that I don’t know yet how they fit into everything.  Now, my categories are: business, personal, services, SPLASH, travel, UE, and VMware.

I tried to go category-less when I started here to see what it was like, and that lasted for all of two weeks.  Categories help me keep track of and easily find things.  It was driving me crazy that I couldn’t glance at my inbox and tell the difference between mail from the people on my user experience team and mail from a developer on vCloud.  I couldn’t filter my calendar to only look see my flights.  I felt lost, and so the categories came back posthaste.

My category list will continue to evolve.  As I meet more people and learn more about the applications that I’ll work on, the list will change to accommodate all of these new relationships.  It might even be time to add a secondary category, “holiday”, to my list so that I don’t have to go through all of my contacts as I send my holiday cards this year.  (Which reminds me: I love sending holiday cards, so ping me if you want to be added to that list.  It’s somewhere between possible and likely that my holiday cards will be postcards from Sydney this year.)

Exchange Connections slides coming

Today, I presented two sessions with Bill Smith at Exchange Connections: Administering Macs in Exchange and Outlook:Mac 101. Once I get back to a better network connection, I’ll post my slides here. For those of you who attended the conference, the slides will get posted to the conference site as well.

I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the sessions, since this is my first time here.  We ended up with about 50 people in both sessions, with about half of those attending both.  So I was really pleased with it.  I’ll be waiting to see the conference evaluations to see if I’m the only one who was pleased.

Macworld: Make a smooth switch to Outlook

Joe Kissell wrote an article about how to make a smooth switch to Outlook from Entourage for Macworld.  He also published a guide to Outlook keyboard shortcuts.  They’re both pretty useful articles, although I have to admit that I’ve been using Outlook for so long that my muscle memory has been reprogrammed for changed keyboard shortcuts for ages.

I am surprised that he calls Outlook’s Scheduling Assistant a new feature.  While the Entourage one wasn’t as easy on the eyes, nor as easy to use, as the Outlook one, it did exist.  My colleague Amir wrote a blog post titled How does Entourage work? that includes a screenshot of the free/busy information that’s provided by the scheduling assistant in Entourage.

Joe’s list of Entourage features that you might miss includes NNTP support.  Even though I’m an old-skool Usenet user myself, I can’t say that I preferred having it in Entourage to using a separate client.  That said, my preferred Usenet newsreader is still tin, so I think it’s fair to say that my usage isn’t representative.  Not that I’m sure that there’s really any representative Usenet usage left out there.

looking forward to Exchange Connections

Amongst everything else that’s going on in the past few weeks, I realise that I’ve completely forgotten to mention that I’m speaking at the Exchange Connections conference!  I roped Bill Smith, one of the Outlook:Mac MVPs, into giving two talks with me: Administering Macs in an Exchange Environment, and Outlook:Mac 101.  Both talks are on Thursday morning.

Sadly, this is a super-busy week for me, so I’m not going to be able to spend as much time at the conference as I had originally planned.  If you’re there, say hi!  Feel free to email me, or just catch me on twitter for my current whereabouts.

identities in Outlook:Mac and Entourage

In the comments thread for Q&A: where can I buy Office:Mac 2011?, a commenter named Mark discussed the differences between identities in Entourage and Outlook, and said that the changes would mean that he won’t upgrade to Outlook.  Here’s part of his comment:

I, as well as others I know, share a computer with a partner. The main reason we use Entourage instead of Mail, was the ability to easily switch identities, so that each of us can separately check and view the various personal and business accounts we have.

In Entourage, the identity is where all of your data is stored: accounts, preferences, your data, everything.  The identity is an implementation detail that most applications wouldn’t expose, since most people have little reason to care about how this kind of thing is stored.  However, back when Entourage was first introduced, there was another purpose for exposing the concept of the identity: multiple people who share the same computer.

Longtime Apple users will know that the ability to quickly switch between accounts wasn’t originally part of OS X.  So in the case of email, if multiple people wanted to share a computer but keep their mail separate, it was pretty difficult.  Entourage’s identities allowed for this to happen.

But the introduction of fast user switching in Panther changed things.  Instead of having a single user account, it’s very easy now to have multiple user accounts for different purposes.  Each of those different user accounts can then run Entourage or Outlook to get their mail.  Switching between users is quick and easy.

As we worked on Outlook, we made the decision to continue to support multiple identities, but not to make it quite so obvious.  We don’t need to expose this implementation detail to the world.

Personally, I also have a shared Mac at home, for me and my husband.  For our shared Mac, we have a shared account (named Tipsy) which has all of our shared stuff on it: Netflix, Quicken for our joint finances, iTunes (and then we have playlists for syncing with our individual iPhones and iPods), iPhoto, etc.  Then we each have our own personal accounts for storing our own information.  For us, this is more about ease of access than privacy; he has his own organisational scheme and I have mine, and so we don’t force each other to figure out the other’s scheme.  If I need to access my stuff on our shared computer, I just quickly switch into my user account to get it, and then I usually return it to our shared account when I’m done.  We use different desktop backgrounds for the individual accounts so its easy to see which account is currently the one that has focus.

For my work computer, I also maintain different user accounts.  I have my primary user account, which is where I spend most of my time.  I’ve also got a demo user account, which I have populated with a bunch of demo documents and a couple of test Exchange accounts.  I often use my demo account when I’m giving presentations too, so that I don’t have to worry about whether I’ve logged out of Communicator.  If I’ve got Outlook running in both of my user accounts, it feels faster to switch between my user accounts rather than the old Entourage model of switching identities.

Q&A: Can I import my .PST files into Outlook:Mac?

Dean asked:

I am converting from Office:Windows 2010. Do my current .pst files work on Outlook:Mac 2011? If not, how do I convert from Office:Windows to Office:Mac?

Yes!  If you have a .PST file from Outlook for Windows (created using Outlook 2003 or later), you can import it into Outlook:Mac.  Just transfer the .PST file from your Windows computer to your Mac (such as putting it on a thumb drive), and then go to File -> Import in Outlook:Mac.

For full instructions for how to import your .PST file into Outlook:Mac, read this help file: Import a .pst file from Outlook for Windows.

Q&A: should I import my Entourage identity to Outlook:Mac?

Via mail, I got this question:

I have Entourage EWS running now off Exchange Server 2010 and will be upgrading to Outlook. Do you recommend:
a) doing a fresh download of all mail and other data from the server when setting up Outlook, or
b) importing the data from Entourage into Outlook locally?

With a fresh download, you’re starting off with a clean slate.  This is important for someone like me who’s been using Entourage since 2004, since gunk can build up in your database.  But, with an import, you get the goodness of keeping all of your local data.  Since I have been using Entourage for years, and at one point I had a teensy Exchange account size limit, I’ve got lots upon lots of local data.

With every release, I’ve gotten into the habit of starting off with a clean slate.  For this release, that means that I first saved out all of my local mail (that’s the only local data that I have: all of my contacts, calendar, and so on live in Exchange).  I let Outlook start off with a clean slate, download my mail from Exchange and from my IMAP accounts, and then imported the local data.

To do this, in Entourage for Web Services, I saved all my local mail folders by dragging them out of Entourage and onto my desktop.  That creates .mbox files, which can then be imported into Outlook (as well as any other mail client which supports .mbox files, which is most of them).  I don’t have any other local data other than mail, but I’d do the same if I did have local contacts, calendar, notes, or tasks.

Then, after Outlook had downloaded all of my Exchange and IMAP data, I made sure that it would show my local data.  Go into the Preferences, then select General, and make sure that the box next to “Hide On My Computer folders” is not checked.  Then, I dragged those .mbox files into Outlook.

In my opinion, that’s the best of both worlds: I start fresh and still get to keep my reams and reams of local data.

Walt Mossberg: “by far the best Mac version of the suite I’ve used”

Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal has reviewed Office:Mac 2011, with a bit of an Outlook pun: Mac Users Are Getting New Outlook From Rival.  It starts out by saying that “[a] new, faster, better version of Microsoft Office is coming out Oct. 26”, and wraps up by saying that the “new Mac Office is by far the best Mac version of the suite I’ve used, and I can recommend it”.

Sandwiched between those two stellar lines, Mossberg notes that performance is “dramatically snappier” and says that Outlook is “fast and capable”.  He also notes improved compatibility and file fidelity between the two platforms, as well as some of our Mac-only features like dynamic reordering and Word’s full-screen view.

Getting Office:Mac 2011 out the door has been a long road.  It’s fantastic to see all of these great reviews come in.  I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks when it finally hits store shelves on October 26.