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Entourage is not Outlook

Contributed by Michel Bintener, Microsoft MVP

A number of users approach Entourage the wrong way: since most applications contained in the standard edition of Mac Office have their Win Office counterparts (Word, Excel and PowerPoint), these users automatically assume that Entourage is the Mac version of Outlook. And since Microsoft also includes Outlook Express as part of the Windows operating system, many users also expect Entourage to have the exact same feature set as the default Windows email client. These assumptions often cause bewilderment, disappointment and even anger, and this article tries to explain in how far Entourage is not Outlook (Express).

First of all, it should be pointed out that there have indeed been several versions of Outlook for Mac (the latest version, Outlook 2001, can still be downloaded from Mactopia, but does not run natively in OS X). Microsoft has also released Mac versions of Outlook Express, which was the default email client in pre-OS X versions of Mac OS and which can still be run in the Classic environment of PowerPC machines. It becomes clear then that, while there have been Mac and PC versions of Outlook and Outlook Express, Entourage has always been a Mac-only product, with no equivalent on the Windows platform.

When Microsoft released Entourage as part of Office 2001, it was not meant to be a replacement for Outlook; as has already been pointed out, there was at that time a perfectly functional version of Outlook available for the Macintosh platform. Entourage was a new breed altogether, combining elements from different applications, among them Outlook and Outlook Express, to address an entirely different audience. To begin with, there was no Exchange support at all in Entourage 2001 ; Entourage 2001 was not a corporate user’s tool, but rather a home or small business user’s. It offered all the features you would expect from a traditional email client (or most of them, depending on your expectations), and as such, resembled Outlook Express for Mac quite a lot. At the same time, it offered other features, such as a calendar, notes and tasks, thus giving the impression of a light-weight version of Outlook.

This concept of a light-weight version of Outlook is very helpful when it comes to understanding where Entourage generally fits in: it offers more features than Outlook Express, but generally fewer features than Outlook, all the while offering several unique features that make it a Mac-only product, such as the Project Center in Entourage 2004.

With the advent of Mac OS X, the Macintosh Business Unit improved Entourage considerably: Outlook (which had never been a MacBU product, actually) was not ported to Mac OS X, so users in a corporate environment were forced to run Outlook either in the Classic environment or on a Windows machine. After porting Office to Mac OS X (Office v.X, released in November 2001), the Mac BU released service packs which allowed Entourage to function as a limited Exchange client. Entourage 2004, and later on, its SP2 update, introduced many important improvements, and Entourage, though it is still not as fully featured as Outlook in its interaction with Exchange Server, is a more than acceptable Exchange client for Mac OS X.

Why was this more or less lengthy look at Entourage’s history necessary? In the Microsoft newsgroups, a number of people post questions along the lines of “I’m looking for feature [xy], I know it is available in Outlook (or Outlook Express), but I can’t find it in Entourage”. These users expect absolute feature parity between Outlook (Express) and Entourage, based on the incorrect assumption that Entourage is “Outlook for the Mac”, which, as this article has hopefully shown, is not the case. At the same time, a number of users post wild conspiracy theories, saying that by not releasing Outlook for Mac OS X, or by not making Entourage as fully featured an Exchange client as Outlook, Microsoft is deliberately crippling the Mac platform, increasing its revenue by selling disgruntled Entourage users Windows licenses in addition to the Office licenses to allow them to run Outlook.

Speculations such as these do not take into consideration a number of factors. Firstly, the Macintosh Business Unit is exactly what the name says: a business. They have to release software that can be used, more or less happily, by a large number of users in order for them to remain profitable. The MacBU does not gain anything from crippling its own software; they want to sell as many copies of Mac Office as possible, and crippled software does not sell nearly as well as carefully designed software. Secondly, as the article has shown, Entourage was originally not meant to be an Exchange client; its functionality was that of a personal information manager (PIM) with email capabilities. In the three iterations Entourage has known so far, it has made some remarkable progress in the Exchange area, and it is fairly safe to assume that future versions of Entourage will continue this trend.

So if you happen to be an Outlook (Express) user who, for some reason or other, wants to or has to use Entourage, keep in mind what you have just read. Do not automatically assume that, just because a particular feature is available in Outlook (Express), it ’should’ be available in Entourage as well. Of course, it can never hurt to ask, and that’s what the Microsoft newsgroups are for. As with most technology-related newsgroups, you might want to search the Google archives first to see if your question has been answered already; if you cannot find a satisfying answer, go ahead and post your question, and you are very likely to receive a quick and useful reply from other Entourage users. If you think that the particular feature you are looking for is crucial to an advanced email and PIM application such as Entourage, do not forget to send Microsoft your feedback; you can do so from inside Entourage by clicking on ‘Send Feedback on Entourage’ under the ‘Help’ menu, which will open your browser and direct you to a page where you can leave your comments. These comments are read by Microsoft employees, and the more feature requests there are for one particular feature, the more likely it is to be incorporated in a future update for Entourage.