Friday, May 16, 2008

Office: mac 2008

Okay, so I'm new to the world of Macs. I've only been using them since the early Fall of 2007, and all of my experience was previously on a PC. Admittedly, I was both curious and skeptical as I approached this new platform. But like all IT professionals, I am doing my best to evaluate it objectively.

I wrote a couple of articles in which I told it like it was— objectively. The Mac evangelists came out of the woodwork and challenged me— which I loved! It's always great interacting with others in this and other forums. So I wrote a follow-up article addressing the areas in which they challenged my statements and conclusions. Not a peep. I didn't hear from even one!

Macs are nice computers! But so are Dells! And, to be honest, Dell exceeds my expectations and— so far— the Mac doesn't even meet my expectations. But that may be because of all the Mac hype and their great commercials. Anyway, I digress... on to Office: mac 2008.

Office: mac 2008 vs Office 2007
I purchased a Mac, and am doing my best to use as many programs written for it as possible rather than constantly running my Fusion PC and working there. Since we're a Microsoft shop running a MS network and Exchange, etc, I installed the new version of Office for the Mac. Not surprisingly, there were things I liked, and things I didn't.

Word: mac 2008
In Word the features are almost equivalent. Because the Mac is a nicer feeling environment to work in, I like working in Word: mac 2008 more than Word 2007.

PowerPoint: mac 2008
I like PowerPoint: mac 2008! A few things are different, but it’s at least equivalent to PowerPoint 2007, and nice to work in.

Excel: mac 2008
Here’s where the two platform programs begin to diverge. There aren’t a lot of differences, but one feature I find myself missing is the context-sensitive menu that allows formatting cells, etc. Excel 2007 seems to be much more powerful in this way. I also miss being able to easily insert symbols into cells. Though as easy to do in either version of Word, Excel: mac 2008 doesn’t include this feature, forcing one to use many more keystrokes and mouse movements to accomplish the same thing. Finally, cutting or copying and pasting entire rows of spreadsheets requires a few extra keystrokes

Entourage: mac 2008
Okay, here’s where I really don’t get it. Both versions of Office come from the same company, and that company is also the same one that produces Exchange Server. Rather than including Outlook in Office: mac 2008, Microsoft includes Entourage. It’s very different, which isn’t necessarily bad. But what is bad is that Entourage: mac 2008 doesn’t come close to Outlook 2007’s capabilities! And it doesn’t fully synchronize with Exchange!

Tasks and categories— which I rely on heavily— don’t synchronize at all! So when I noticed that some of my calendar events were no longer synchronizing, the fix was to clean out that part of the Entourage database. Before doing that I had to go through hundreds of events, or appointments, and make certain they were identically represented in Outlook to ensure that Exchange had the latest data. It then re-synchronized with Exchange, but nothing was categorized! I had to go through all of those events in Entourage and categorize each one. This happened twice!

Office: mac 2008 Service Pak 1
This week Microsoft released the first service pak for Office: mac 2008. I haven’t gotten to see what they’ve improved yet because it trashed itself while installing, and it trashed the previous version too! So, in addition to getting to go through the rebuilding of all my preferences and templates, I’ll lose all my tasks since they never made it to the Exchange Server. And Time Machine (the Mac’s automated backup system) can’t help me here.

I know the Mac is supposed to be the simplest computer to use. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I’ve left the standards and reliability of the corporate world and have entered the less reliable, more vulnerable and chaotic consumer world. I’m just telling it like it is, and my wife is taking out more life insurance on me!


dgsg said...

Hi Nick, Understand that you'd be making comparisons between platforms, and you still appear to be a bit of a reluctant Mac user. That's okay. What I don't get is you appear to be making comparisons between platforms based on how well a third party (in this case MS) have done their job. Is it Apple's fault that MS give Windows users one thing (ie Outlook) and Mac users another (Entourage)? Is it Apple's fault that MS forces you to compare apples with oranges? Perhaps the various insufficiencies of this product on both platforms stem from a simpler rationale: It's a Microsoft product.

Nick Nicholaou said...

You may be right, dgsg, that wasn't fair to put MS' failing regarding Office 2008's sefvice pak on Apple's shoulders. That is Microsoft's problems.

What I didn't write about, however, is how I had to spend a couple of hours last weekend at the Apple Genius Bar because of a hard drive issue (missing space) and a shut down issue (Apple said it was a recurring kernal panic attack, but only after I pressed them to look at the logs rather than just blame it generally on software-- they wanted to reinstall Leopard!-- which was their first response).

They want my notebook for 48 hours to run a diagnostic on it. I guess that's part of what is underwhelming me... that kind of support (we need your computer for 48 hours) has never happened to me with Dell. Dell just shows up the following day with the most likely failing part or two and inconveniences me for 20 minutes.

The reality is proving to be that the Mac is the emperor's new clothes to an even greater degree than it is with Microsoft! Based on the hype, I wasn't anticipating that.