Using Microsoft Entourage on my Mac

I’m not really a Microsoft fan, nor do I consider myself a Microsoft hater. I generally like Linux and free Open Source software, and as a network and software engineer type I really like the power and flexibility of Unix-like operating systems. I made the switch to Mac because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and if I would benefit from a “Unix like system that just works.” Though there were a few bumps in the road, I’m pretty happy overall. Sometime maybe I’ll post about my Mac experience and thoughts in a broader sense.

This post is about Entourage. When I started this fall, my employer was using Zimbra for our mail and calendar platform. A few weeks ago we migrated to Microsoft Exchange. As a Mac user, I’d gotten very happy with and iCal; suddenly I was in an environment where my iCal couldn’t sync to the server like it did previously with Exchange. The only real solution was to either use the web-based client OWA (Outlook Web Access) or to switch to Entourage. I decided to give Entourage a shot.

Entourage is like Microsoft’s Outlook for Mac. It has most of the same features, but a very different interface.

One of the most annoying things I immediately noticed was the layout of the message list pane. By default there’s a three column view, folders (etc), message list, and message preview pane. I’m ok with this in general, but the message list was not very configurable. Sure you could change how messages were sorted, but the messages were ALWAYS displayed using two text rows, even “conversation” headers with only tiny text like an arrow and the work “mail” used two lines, wasting tons of space and limiting the info and number of messages I could see at any one time. I could change that, but I switched to a two column view with message list above the preview pane. This works pretty well as the messages in the list now only use one line and the columns displayed are fully configurable.

This has seriously been my biggest beef so far, though there are others. But I’m really tired… I’ll come back to discuss the other issues. Bottom line though, since I need some of the Exchange functionality, I don’t have a lot of choices, but it’s not too bad once you get past some quirks.