go ahead, mac my day

a Macintosh girl in a Microsoft world

August, 2009

  • go ahead, mac my day

    user experience improvements without user interface improvements


    As we began the work on the next (and, as-yet-unnamed) version of Office:Mac, it quickly became apparent that the existing Entourage team would be split into two: one working on the release that came to be known as Entourage for Web Services, and one working on Outlook:Mac.

    We decided early on that Outlook was going to Cocoa. Outlook going all-Cocoa has a big impact on my user experience team. We're touching every single pixel, which gives my team an unprecedented opportunity to make user interface improvements. We've been working hard on this for months, and continue to do so. (I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that if you're in the San Francisco Bay Area and want to spend a couple of hours with my team providing feedback on the new user experience, you should sign up to participate in usability studies.)

    This put me into a bit of a rough spot with regards to Entourage for Web Services. Not only did my team have a lot of work bearing down on us for Outlook, but there wasn't really a lot to be gained in investing in user interface improvements in Entourage for Web Services when we know that Entourage has reached the end of its road. We tossed around some ideas for some user interface improvements for Entourage for Web Services, but ultimately decided to invest all of our user interface work into Outlook.

    That doesn't mean that I didn't do anything with Entourage for Web Services. There's a lot of user experience that isn't about the pixels on your screen. I decided to take some time away from my Outlook work and help the Entourage for Web Services team make improvements in one key area of user experience: perceived performance. A performance issue that we had in Entourage 2008 and earlier was in synchronising. Users thought that it was synching slow. In terms of throughput, it was syncing as fast as it possibly could. The problem wasn't really with the sync speed, but rather the sync order.

    When you open Entourage, you likely care the most about what's in your inbox. This is doubly true if you're like me and have a million rules set up to filter incoming mail into other folders. But Entourage 2008 didn't necessarily show you the newest mails in your inbox first. It updated other folders. This was especially painful on the Monday after you had returned from holiday, and watched other folders get populated with stuff before your inbox.

    Thus in Entourage for Web Services, one of the Exchange improvements that we made was to get the sync order right. Your inbox is updated first, and if you've got a lot of stuff waiting for you on the server (such as that Monday morning after your vacation), we get the most recent stuff first. We also prioritised other incoming folders highly: your calendar, your sent mail, and your deleted mail. The last two are important if you're super-connected and are using an iPhone or other mobile device to check and respond to mail.

    I've been watching reviews of Entourage for Web Services come in, and the improvements that we've made to performance have been noticed and appreciated. This is one area where my team was able to make a direct improvement to the user experience without touching a single pixel on the screen.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Q&A: I just bought OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard", how do I install Office:Mac 2008?


    I got this question via email:

    I got my copy of Snow Leopard this morning, backed up my data, and did an erase and install. Now it's time to reinstall my apps. Is there anything special that I need to do to install Office 2008?

    Get out your Office 2008 DVD. Put it into your drive, and start installing. :) Make sure you keep the DVD sleeve handy, since it's got your product key printed on the back of it. And make sure you read your product key carefully, since the B and 8 look too much alike for my tastes.

    Personally, I always do a custom installation, because it makes me feel better to know that I'm saving a few MB by not installing the proofing tools for various languages that I can't speak.

    At the end of the installation, Microsoft AutoUpdate will run. Check for updates. Depending on when you bought your copy of Office, you'll either need to install SP1, SP2, and then 12.2.1, or you might just need to install SP2 and then 12.2.1.

    After you've installed one update, and you find that the next update fails, reboot your system. This problem is rare, and rebooting usually clears everything up immediately.

    If you're using Entourage for Web Services, install it after you've completed updating Office 2008 to 12.2.1.

    If you use Messenger, then you can download the latest version (7.0.2) off of our website and drag it to your Applications folder.

    And voila! You're up and running. :) Office 2008 works perfectly fine on Snow Leopard (I've been using them together for months), and Spaces users will be especially pleased to know that Apple has made lots of improvements to their Spaces support that takes care of most of the issues there.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    charming, professional, friendly, passionate


    Over the weekend, I played around with the Personas project at the MIT Media Lab. Here's its final output:

    Okay, you can't tell this from the small version, so if you don't want to click to get the big one, I'll tell you that the blocks from left to right are: online, books, management, genealogy, medicine, education, news, illegal, politics, legal, social, religion, professional. This mostly makes sense, although I can't imagine why it thinks I care about genealogy, and I'm curious what illegal activities it thinks I take part in. I don't drive very much any more (I mostly bike or walk to work), so even speeding is out. I wonder if it knows that I don't always come to a complete stop at a stop sign if I'm on my bike and there's no traffic around?

    I also plugged in my shiny new post-marriage name [1], which mostly seems to pick up from my twitter feed, as well as a bit from online forums like the MacRumours forums and Get Satisfacation. This adds military, fashion, and education to my little chart. I'm completely perplexed at this. I mean, I did once post a picture of my orange shoes to Twitter, but does that really mean that I'm a fashion blogger now?

    Aside from being a fashion blogger, I noticed a quote scrolling by as the site was doing its thing. I had to search on that quote to find the source. The source was a Macworld 2009 wrap-up from About This Particular Macintosh, where they not only called me "utterly charming, but also "friendly, professional, [and] passionate". Guys, that was really sweet, but there was obviously someone else in the MacBU booth handing out my business cards. John thinks that I'm more evil than he is, and one person really can't be both utterly charming and more evil than 1/3 of the Angry Mac Bastards.

    [1] So shiny and new that it's not even in the Microsoft system yet because I don't have a new Social Security card. Which is to say: if you have my @microsoft.com email address, you don't need to be worried about it not working any time soon.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    a short film in PowerPoint:Mac


    One of our testers, who is infinitely more talented than I am, created a video using PowerPoint. It's really quite cool, and there are some good tips in there for extending your PowerPoint-fu to make better presentations. You can see his video in his Mac Mojo post A Dog's Day: A PowerPoint Short Film, which has the video itself and some screenshots along the way.

    He's also uploaded his presentation to Art of Office. His presentation makes use of motion paths, which we introduced in Office 2008 SP2, so make sure that you're updated before you try to play around with his presentation.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Q&A: How do I set up an out-of-office message in Entourage?


    I got this question via email:

    How do I set up an out-of-office message in Entourage?

    The questioner didn't give a valid email address, so I don't have any context for this question. My answer is going to be long.

    An out-of-office (OOF) message is one that is automatically sent by your mail server when you're gone. While I know that some people hate them (hi, John), lots of people find them handy. Usually, an out-of-office message tells whoever sent you mail that you're gone, how long you'll be out, and who they can contact in your stead. When I'm travelling, I often set my OOF to say that I'm travelling and to tell people that they can call or text me on my cell if they can't wait until I next check my mail. If you do set an OOF, make sure that you either don't send them to certain addresses like mailing lists (or John), or unsubscribe yourself from mailing lists.

    If you're using Entourage 2008 with Exchange 2003 or later, or if you're using Entourage for Web Services with Exchange 2007 or later, it's easy. In Entourage, go to the Tools menu, and select "Out of Office...". Choose your settings, and you're done. Support for OOF is one of the first Office 2008 features we announced. If you're using Entourage 2004 or earlier with any version of Exchange, you don't get this handy feature.

    If you're using any version of Entourage with POP or IMAP accounts, this also isn't something that is supported. POP and IMAP don't expose that kind of server functionality to clients. Some servers will allow you to go to their website and set an OOF.

    If you really want to set an OOF, and you can't do it on your server, then there is one option for you. This requires you to leave your computer running at home (don't let it sleep!), to leave it hooked up to the Internet, and to leave Entourage running the whole time. If you want to do that, then you can simply set up a rule to automatically respond to any incoming message. The Entourage MVPs have complete instructions for setting up that rule.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Q&A: Can I use Entourage for Web Services with Exchange 2003?


    I've seen a few variations of this question lately:

    Is EWS Exchange 2007 only? Will it work with 2003 just with no benefits or does it simply not integrate?

    Here's the short answer: Entourage for Web Services will only work with Exchange 2007 or later. If you're using Exchange 2003, Entourage for Web Services will not work. If you're only using Entourage to connect to a POP (such as Hotmail) or IMAP (such as MobileMe) account and you're not connecting to an Exchange account at all, you can use either version of Entourage, but there's no compelling reason to use Entourage for Web Services. And if you don't care about gory technical details, you can skip the rest of this post.

    Through Entourage 2008, WebDAV has been our primary method to communicate with your Exchange server. Exchange 2007 introduced a new API: Exchange Web Services. In Entourage 2008, we added some features using Exchange Web Services instead of using WebDAV. Our out-of-office (OOF) assistant uses Exchange Web Services if you're on an Exchange 2007 server, for example. In Exchange 2010, which is in public beta now, WebDAV isn't included at all.

    Support of Exchange Web Services brings us a lot of goodness. It's blazingly fast, and it gives us access to Exchange features that we couldn't support earlier. Synchronising categories, notes, and tasks have all been highly-requested features, and moving to Exchange Web Services made it possible for us to fulfill those requests.

    In Entourage for Web Services, we pulled out all of our old WebDAV code and replaced it all with shiny new Exchange Web Services code. Since that old WebDAV code is gone, Entourage for Web Services can't talk to an Exchange 2003 server at all. The future is Exchange Web Services, and we're already there.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Outlook: Coming soon to a Mac near you


    Last week was a big one for us here in MacBU. Entourage for Web Services was released, of course, but the bigger news was something that I've been keeping under my hat for ages: we're bringing Outlook back to the Mac.

    Of course, we haven't told you everything that is coming in Outlook:Mac, but what we've said so far is quite big.

    First of all, and nearest to my heart, Outlook is going to be all Cocoa. If you've been wondering why I've been doing so much research on Entourage lately, now you know. Going all-Cocoa means that my User Experience team has an unparalleled opportunity to touch everything in the interface. I've been compiling my list of things I've wanted to fix in the Entourage UI for some time, and now I get to do just that. For those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area who want to see what Outlook might look like, sign up to participate in my usability studies.

    We've also announced two of Outlook:Mac's features that are coming. The database is getting a makeover to make it faster and (oh yes!) work better with Time Machine. For those of you in Exchange environments, Outlook:Mac will support Information Rights Management.

    Outlook:Mac is coming in the next version of Office, which we'll release in time for the holiday shopping season of 2010. We'll be sharing more about Outlook:Mac, as well as the rest of Office:Mac, in the upcoming months as we get closer to launch. You can, if you wish, post comments like "will Outlook:Mac support X?" or "how about adding Y to PowerPoint:Mac?", but I can't answer that kind of question yet. I can only say that this is the very tip of the iceberg, and there's a lot of goodness coming.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Entourage for Web Services released today


    Today's a big day for MacBU! Today, we released Entourage for Web Services. EWS was in public beta earlier this year. Thanks to your help, we made plenty of improvements, and now you can get the final bits. Go forth and download!

    For those of you who participated in the EWS beta, the best way for you to proceed is to uninstall EWS and Office 2008, and then reinstall. You were using early code, so reinstalling is the cleanest method to ensure that there are no problems. Then reinstall Office 2008, update to SP2, and finally install EWS.

    EWS wasn't included in SP2 to avoid confusion for our users. EWS will not work with Exchange 2003 or earlier. Additionally, for users who aren't Exchange users, there aren't pressing reasons to use EWS. EWS was focused on changing our backend from using WebDAV to using Exchange Web Services, so there aren't changes if you're on a POP or IMAP account. If you're an Exchange user and weren't using the EWS beta, you should check with your IT guys to ensure which version of Exchange you're using. If you're using Exchange 2007 or later, EWS is for you. If you're using Exchange 2003 or earlier, Entourage 2008 is your tried and true friend.

    There are some UX improvements that are in EWS (even though there weren't any UI changes), which I'll talk about in a future blog post. Today was a very big day (I still have to post about Outlook! :D ), so I'm not going to try to stuff everything into a single post. Stay tuned!

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Macworld: five favourite PowerPoint tips


    Tom Negrino wrote a great article for Macworld about five favourite PowerPoint tips. Here's Tom's top five tips (and you really must read the whole article, he's got some great details in there):

    1. write an outline of your presentation in Word
    2. make objects fly using motion paths
    3. turn your bullet points into diagrams
    4. command your stage
    5. always be ready to present

    For the twitter-enabled amongst you (which is what reminded me about Tom's article), you can find Tom here, Macworld here, and you can always follow me on twitter here.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Remote Desktop Connection for Mac 2.0.1 available today


    It's Update Tuesday [1], and we've got an update to Remote Desktop Connection for Mac for you today. RDC 2.0.1 has security fixes. For more details, you can read the knowledge base article, and you can always go forth and download.

    [1] Well, it's late on Update Tuesday. I got up at 4am, got on the 7am flight up to SEA, and have been in meetings pretty much solid since I landed. I hope you'll forgive me for not posting about this update earlier. :)

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