go ahead, mac my day

a Macintosh girl in a Microsoft world

March, 2010

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Q&A: Will I be able to move from Entourage to Outlook:Mac?


    A question from my mail:

    I've heard that Outlook will support PSTs from Windows Outlook, but I haven't heard anything about Entourage. Will I be able to take my Entourage data and get it into Outlook for Mac?

    You're right, we've already announced that Outlook:Mac will import PSTs from Outlook for Windows. That doesn't mean that we've left our existing Entourage users high and dry. You'll be able to move all of your existing information from Entourage into Outlook:Mac.

    We'll be sharing more details about Outlook:Mac and the rest of the suite in the upcoming months. Watch here and in Mac Mojo as we start talking more about what's coming in Office:Mac 2011. We've got a lot to share with you, and I can't wait until I can finally start talking about it!

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Q&A: Why isn't OCS supported in the Messenger:Mac v8 beta?


    I got this one via Twitter while I was travelling last week:

    @nadyne I know it's a beta, but I was disappointed to see that it doesn't work w/ OCS yet. :-( That's all I use it for, so no beta for me.

    The Messenger:Mac v8 beta, which came out last week, is focused on audio/video chats for personal usage. That's been our biggest feature request, it's something that we've been working on for quite some time, and we want to get it out there so that our users can take it through its paces.

    For those of you in corporate environments using Office Communicator Server (OCS), you've already got audio/video chats. That was introduced in Messenger:Mac v7, so you've been able to video chat for nearly two years. Since your AV needs are already met, and since we want to make sure that AV for non-corporate usage gets a full workout, we're only supporting AV for personal users. It's not that OCS users are being left out of the beta, it's that OCS is ahead of the curve and you've been video chatting for ages already!

    If you haven't yet, you can download the public beta of Messenger:Mac v8 from Mactopia. The release notes (PDF) has a list of the known issues.

    Speaking of twitter, you can follow the @officeformac team, and you can also follow me here. If you're only interested in Office stuff, follow the former; my twitter feed is about whatever's going on for me, not limited to Office/MacBU.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Messenger:Mac v8 beta is here!


    Today's a big day for us here in MacBU: Messenger:Mac v8, which brings audio and video support to personal users of Messenger, is now in public beta. You can download it from Mactopia. One of my colleagues has written a blog post giving lots of details about it over on Mac Mojo, so head over there to learn more.

    Personally, I've been using internal builds of Messenger v8 for months, and it's been quite nice. I've got friends and family scattered all over the world, and being able to do video chats in Messenger helps keep us connected.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    usability testing is not beta testing


    Every time that I post that I'm doing usability testing, I always get a flood of email asking about beta testing. Beta testing and usability testing are all but completely unrelated.

    Usability testing is about just that: testing the usability of an application. Can you figure out how to do something specific? How long does it take you to do it? What do you do try along the way? What do you do when you can't do it? Beta testing, on the other hand, is about finding issues. Can Word open this .docx that I created a few months ago? Does Outlook play voicemails correctly?

    Usability testing is done in my lab, using my equipment (and, in the case of client/server software like Outlook or Messenger, using my server too). You might not even be looking at real honest-to-goodness code, but rather a prototype of some sort. I do usability testing on prototypes running the gamut from sketches on paper (and using stickies to simulate the interaction) to awesome-looking Flash prototypes. Beta testing, of course, is done in your home or business, and it's definitely real code. It's not finished code, but it's definitely the real thing.

    Usability testing is very focused on specific tasks. When you come in for a usability study, I have very specific questions to ask. For example, in my last Outlook usability study, one of the questions that I needed to answer was, "can users move a single instance of a recurring meeting to another time that is available for all attendees?" As such, I had a test account set up and pre-populated with a few users, and each of those users had a few appointments and meetings. The user had to open up a single instance of an event and find a new time for the meeting. Beta testing, on the other hand, is not focused at all. You're using it in real-world scenarios to try to find bugs, so you might (or might not!) do something similar to this. We don't give you specific directions like this during the beta.

    Usability testing is conducted over a small period of time, usually no more than a couple of hours. Beta testing is conducted over a much larger period of time, usually at least a few days but more often weeks in duration.  Beta testing gives us insight into plenty of other aspects of the application, such as security, load testing, performance, and cross-platform compatibility. All of these are aspects that I can't address effectively with usability testing.

    If you want to get Outlook:Mac to take home and use against your own Exchange server, signing up for my usability studies won't get you towards that goal. But participating in one of my studies will give you the chance to get the undivided attention of several MacBU employees for the two hours that you're in my lab, and your feedback is an important part of our decision-making process for deciding what Outlook will be. You can sign up to participate in our usability studies. Our beta programme for Office:Mac is a private beta; more details about how to get into a private beta can be found in this older blog post of mine: Q&A: How do I get into a MacBU private beta?

  • go ahead, mac my day

    the expert vs newbie fallacy


    The idea of the MacRibbon causes consteration amongst some people. The latest example is from the Apple Core blog on ZDNet, which a blog post with the link-bait title Oh the horror! Why is Microsoft pushing the hated Windows Ribbon for Office:Mac? He quotes from my blog post why is Office:Mac getting the Ribbon?

    There are several fallacies in this article (including the perplexing one that Mac users who want the Ribbon have somehow migrated to Redmond and Mountain View), but the sentence that I find the most striking is this one:

    Office:Mac, like a number of other recent Mac OS X programs and especially Web-based apps, are making trade-offs in their application interfaces that ding power users and kowtow to the entry-level part of the market.

    The most basic fallacy is that one can meaningfully define "entry-level users" and "power users". With applications as deep as the Office apps, defining entry-level versus power is all but impossible. Do you determine it simply in terms of number of hours that they use the app in a week? Or do you define it in terms of features used? If a Word user does tables of contents and footnotes all the time, but has never updated their Normal template, are they a power user? If a PowerPoint user regularly creates decks that are 100+ slides but they only contain bullet points and pictures, are they a power user? Do we simply rely on their own self-selection as a power user? And let's not forget that, even if we agree that someone is a power user for one app, that doesn't necessarily make them a power user for the other apps. Being able to make awesome pivot tables in Excel doesn't mean that you know how to make animations in PowerPoint.

    Another fallacy is that something done for the benefit of "entry-level users" must be detrimental to "power users". Why is there an assumption that power users are so fragile that they can't cope with a change? There was certainly some cases for Windows Office where long-time users complained because they had trouble finding things, but the vast majority of users were able to adapt and use the new UI at least as well as they had been using the previous UI. For example, research conducted by the Windows Office team shows that Office 2003 users regularly access 23 core features. With the Ribbon in Office 2007, that number climbs to 60-70 [1]. That's three times more features used, and that's not just from entry-level users. Being able to make a threefold improvement in what users regularly use when left to their own devices is unprecedented.

    The final fallacy in this statement is that the MacRibbon "kowtows" to entry-level users. In the research that my team has done, we have brought in a broad spectrum of Mac users at varying levels of ability with our applications. Looking over the participants for one of the PowerPoint studies that my team has conducted conducted, one guy has been using PowerPoint since Version 3. Another user said that she spent at least 20 hours per week using the application to create or update presentations. If you were to try to define "power PowerPoint user", your definition would have to be able to encompass both of these people.

    The MacRibbon is a change. Change in and of itself is neither inherently good nor bad, it's just change. We'll be sharing more about it in the coming months. I hope that you'll find, as we've seen so far, that the MacRibbon is a positive change that drastically improves productivity.

    [1] That information was published in an article in Wired Magazine: Blue Ribbon Debut for Office 2007.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Office:Mac installation questions


    I just got two back-to-back installation questions via email, so let's take them in turn:

    My hard drive is almost full. What can I do to Office to save space?

    The questioner didn't ask about third-party applications like Monolingual or Xslimmer, so I'm not sure if those are under consideration. If you're not familiar with these apps, they remove code to applications like mine that they somehow think is unneeded. I can't state this strongly enough: do not use those applications against your Office directory. My colleague Schwieb wrote a blog post about this some time ago: leave those bits alone! in which he details the issues that those applications introduce. In short, the issue is that these unapproved applications remove code without warning, and we don't know what they're doing.

    So how can you save space? Uninstall, and reinstall. When you reinstall, do a custom installation. Then you can pick what goes into your Office install. Personally, my custom installation only includes the proofing tools for English. That saves me a few MB, which probably doesn't make a difference in the grand scheme of things, but I still do it.

    The biggest thing that I do myself to manage my hard drive space is to format the hard drive and reinstall the OS so that I can do a custom installation of it. At home, I don't have a printer, so simply not installing all of the printer drivers saves a surprising amount of hard drive space. There's other OS things that I don't bother to install either, but what you install is up to you. If hard drive space is a concern, I recommend doing a custom installation of everything and deciding exactly what goes on your drive. Or you can just be picky like I am. My hard drives are big enough, but I don't see the point of installing stuff that I'm never going to use.

    And now, the second installation question:

    Why does Office automatically put icons in my dock?

    The standard installation installs everything. If you don't want the dock icons, do a custom install. The last checkbox in the installation list is to for the dock icons. Uncheck that box, and you won't get dock icons. The vast majority of people who do a standard install want to have the dock icons installed, so they're there. Getting rid of the dock icons is easy (just drag 'em out), and not putting them in the dock in the first place is also easy.

    Here's an admission: I don't install the dock icons for Office. I don't install the dock icons for anything. Some people put everything in their dock. I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum: my dock is almost completely empty. The left side of my dock only has the Finder and Safari. The left side of my dock has two Office folders in it (today's dogfood version of Office 2011, and the latest shipping version of Office 2008 on the off-chance that I need it). I'm a dock minimalist, and I mostly use Spotlight to launch my apps.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Office:Mac 2008 12.2.4 and Office:Mac 2004 11.5.8 now available


    Update Tuesday was yesterday, and it brought a couple of Office:Mac updates. (Sorry I didn't post yesterday, I was at the mothership in meetings all day.)

    Office:Mac 2008 12.2.4 has some Excel updates for security, stability, and performance. To install 12.2.4, you must first install update 12.2.3. For full details about the update, the knowledge base article has it all.

    Office:Mac 2004 11.5.8 has security updates across the suite. To install 11.5.8, you m ust first install 11.5.7. For full details about the update, there's a knowledge base article for that one too.

    To update Office 2008 or Office 2004 to the latest and greatest, you can either download it from Mactopia or you can run update from within any of the Office apps. To update from within an Office app, go to its help menu and select "check for updates". We've got a lot of servers, and sometimes it takes some time for updates to propagate out to all of our servers, so don't worry if the update doesn't appear immediately.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Q&A: Why is it Office:Mac 2011 if it's coming out this year?


    I got this one via email, and I've seen variants of it elsewhere:

    i thought office was coming out this year, why is the name of it office 2011?

    Our naming is like that of cars: if it comes out in the first half of the year, it gets that year; if it comes out in the second half of the year, it's the next year. The next version of Office:Mac is coming out for the holidays this year, so that's Office:Mac 2011.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    usability participants needed for Outlook:Mac study in March


    As we have announced, Outlook is coming to your Mac later this year. My team is working hard on getting everything ready for you. To that end, we're conducting another usability study of Outlook:Mac.

    The study will be conducted at my lab in Mountain View, California, during the week of March 22. For this study, we need participants who meet the following criteria:

    • use a Mac for work purposes
    • connect your Mac to an Exchange server
    • use mail and calendar on your Exchange server several times per week

    It would be nice to get a few people who use both their Mac and Outlook on Windows to connect to Exchange, too!

    If you meet these criteria, please contact me with the following information:

    • your name
    • email address
    • daytime phone number

    You'll get a call or email from someone at Microsoft who will ask you some additional questions and hopefully get you signed up to come in.

    If you're not in the Bay Area, or you're not available that week, or you don't meet these criteria, my team will continue to conduct usability studies for Office:Mac 2011 (and future versions of Office!), so don't lose heart. You can sign up to participate in future usability studies here. We've done hundreds of hours of usability testing for Office 2011 so far, and we have additional studies planned, so there are more opportunities coming soon.

    Please feel free to forward this along to anyone who know who might meet these criteria and be interested in participating in this study!

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Q&A: is Visual Basic returning to Office:Mac?


    My post about questions we got at Macworld 2010 raised some questions, one of which was this one:

    The biggest question in my mind is: will Office 2011 support visual basic for excel?

    Yes. We announced in 2008 that Visual Basic for Applications will return to the next version of Office (you can read the blog post about it here: saying hello (again) to Visual Basic). And it's still true: Office:Mac 2011 will support VBA.

    We're bringing the latest and greatest version of VBA to the Mac, which is 6.5. We'll still continue to support AppleScript and Automator for your Mac-only scripting needs, and we'll also support VBA for your cross-platform scripting needs.

    For those of you who are interested in getting started with writing Office scripts with AppleScript, I have to recommend Mactech magazine's VBA to AppleScript transition guide. It's 150+ pages of AppleScript goodness, and I've only heard awesome things about it.

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