This was going to be a series of tweets. In the old days (2008-2010) Twitter was kind of a wild and wooly place where you could write lots of off-topic stuff and nobody really minded, and conversations would ensue, &c. But these days we’re all Professional People Doing Important Things, and people treat their Twitter feeds like they’re controlled by the Standards and Ethics policy of the New York Times, where nothing can be deleted, except in the most egregious of circumstances, and only after said tweet author falls on his or her sword and makes a spectacle of what he or she is about to do. Over a tweet.
I think it is pretty stupid to take your Twitter account too seriously. My Twitter archive is as meticulously trimmed as a bonsai tree, and I don’t bother throwing myself before the mercy of the court when doing so. It’s my house and I’ll do what I please in it. I post far too many cute animal photos to give a damn what anyone thinks about my way of doing things. My entire literary career exists because of Twitter, so whatever I’m doing, I’m doing it right.
This post is about the new Microsoft Outlook for Mac (version 15.3). Access to this program requires an Office 365 subscription, which is far and away one of the best software purchases you’ll ever make.
Overall, the new Outlook is the single best email client in Mac’s history, and I’m going back quite a ways here—my first “real” home computer was the original 1984 Macintosh. Like OneNote, Microsoft’s other major foray in contemporary Macintosh software development (by which I mean it attempts to reconcile the differences between the Mac and PC versions of Office while retaining the authentic Office look-and feel using MacOS design cues), Outlook is in beta, and it has a few flaws, some of which are nontrivial.
Before I get there, I just want to say that in terms of stability, the program has been a rock-solid performer for me. The one time it crashed, it had saved my working draft in its entirety. It was a beautiful thing. Likewise, the organization of the program is smart and well-considered. Three-pane email isn’t exactly revolutionary (though I suspect Microsoft invented it long ago with a previous version of Outlook), but it’s nice that they didn’t change things just to change them. The ribbon presents everything I’d ever need to do in email in a clever fashion, and just in general, the program never gets in my way. That’s a huge deal. Software developers of late seem hellbent on proving their design prowess by over-designing the simplest task. Microsoft knows better than that, even with their recent and aggressive embrace of design.
Here is my wish list:
- Allow the Outlook calendar to use the iCloud-hosted calendar. If they can do this, Outlook will be the best productivity tool on the Macintosh platform, bar none. At present, though, it’s simply impossible for me to justify investing in an Exchange calendaring host, or moving my iCloud calendar over to a new server, especially considering the generally poor performance of Exchange calendars on iOS. (Events not showing up, &c.) Give me an iCloud Outlook calendar, and I’ll never need to touch an Apple productivity app again.
- Allow the search field to search all folders at once. (At present, it defaults to searching on the current folder.) If it’s possible to do this, the method is hidden.
- Until iCloud calendar support is added, allow dates, times, and phone numbers embedded in emails to automatically populate Apple’s standalone iCal app and address book. (This might be limited by Apple patents that reach back to the Hypercard days, but still, I hope Microsoft can work something out with Cupertino.)
- Fix the drafts folder. When I start an email in, say, the Gmail web app, and then try to later edit it in from the Outlook draft folders, it doesn’t allow me to do so. The draft is a static page—identical to, say, a received message form a correspondent. This defeats the purpose of drafts.
- Resolve whatever problems seem to exist between Microsoft Live for Domains and Outlook for Mac. You’d think this would be a nonissue, but it’s very much a problem. Fifty-percent of the time, emails that I try to send in Outlook from my Microsoft-hosted domain email, I get an error on send. (Generally an authentication error.) I never get this problem with Microsoft-hosted domain emails in Apple’s Mail.app. This is a showstopper bug.
- Integrate iCloud contacts with the address book. Likewise Gmail contacts. I mean, come on. You’ll never get new clients if we have to start from scratch on thousands of contacts.
- EMAIL ANNOTATION. Nobody does this (that I know of) but it’s such a no-brainer. I receive hundreds of emails a day. I generally sort them and flag them for follow-ups. Why not add a little field where I can add annotations to the emails I’ve received. Something like a sticky note, where I can say, “Check with National Archives about this when Dr. Smith returns from vacation” and then file the email away for later action. That way when I call it back up, I know right away what I need to do on this message.
- Integrate Tasks with iCloud’s Reminders.
- Work with the GPG Tools team to integrate email encryption into the client. This should be a trivial task and will garner tremendous goodwill in the security community.
I’m sure others will come to me as I continue working with Outlook. Again, I’m a fan and I think Outlook for Mac is (finally) the Macintosh email solution we’ve been waiting for. If some of these things are already possible, perhaps they should be better highlighted or more elegantly integrated. I shouldn’t need an MCSE to use my email client. Regardless, keep up the great work, Microsoft.