Quickbitz – Outlook 2011 cost and Adobe shenanigans

How much is Outlook 2011 going to cost you?

Outlook Calendar

Outlook 2011 calendar on the Mac

As someone who has to use Microsoft Office extensively at work, I tend to take more than a passing interest in what’s on offer in the Mac version. Of course Office 2011 for Mac has been in beta for a while now and I have had a quick look at how its been shaping up, in particular Word and Outlook. First impressions are quite favourable and they’ve certainly done a lot of work. Word looks much more like its Windows counterpart with the ‘ribbon’ although functionally it’s still the poor relation. Whether or not some of the features I find useful in the Windows version (e.g. instant font preview) will make it into the Mac version who knows.

Outlook has also had a serious makeover, although the area that I’m really interested in, namely calendar synchronization, hasn’t yet made it into the beta builds (Contacts sync is there though). I for one will want to see how this shapes up as a lot of people, myself included, will be looking at ways to sync Outlook 2011 with Google Calendar, or even MobileMe and the iPhone. What has come as a bit of a shock though is the cost of Outlook 2011. Today Microsoft announced that Office 2011 will appear around the end of October 2010 and will cost $119 for the ‘Home & Student’ Edition. That’s Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Messenger.. but NO Outlook! If you want Outlook 2011 as well, then you’ll have to stump up another $80 to buy the $199 Office 2011 ‘Home & Business’ Edition (which will doubtless translate into something near £199 in the UK).

For anyone buying Office 2008 after August 1st, you’ll be able to get a free upgrade, but with the email client jumping ship from the ‘Home & Student’ Edition to the ‘Home & Business’ Edition, I wonder how that will work? I.e. Office 2008 Home & Student includes Entourage 2008, but Office 2011 Home & Student does NOT include Outlook 2011. All I can say is that for UK users of Entourage 2008 it looks like it’s gonna cost you a fair bit to get your hands on Outlook 2011. Also, there is no word on upgrade pricing for customers who bought Office 2008 prior to August 1st, and given that they’ve ditched upgrade pricing on the Windows platform, it doesn’t look good for the Microsoft faithful. I purchased Office 2008 Home & Student when I first got my Mac over two years ago, but if I was someone who’d bought Office 2008 just a month or two ago, I would be well miffed.

Will I be upgrading? Well Outlook 2011 would be my main reason for upgrading, but if it’s going to cost me nearly £200 to get it, then most probably not. If I can run a trial when it’s released so that I can explore all the synchronization features (and of course write about it), then I will, but I remain to be convinced that it would be a good use of £200 to upgrade.

Adobe, help yourself

Why is it that these big software companies feel they have some sort of right to take over your Mac? I have moaned in the past how installing Google Chrome allows a background process to run, checking for updates even when the main app you installed (in this case Chrome) isn’t even running? For most developers it’s enough to have a preference setting to check for an update when first launching the app.

Well I have to add Adobe to my list of companies who take the biscuit and try to litter your Mac with things you may not

Adobe Application Manager

Adobe Application Manager - never far away

necessarily want. Now there is no doubt that Adobe do make some great products. Photoshop Elements 8, Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5 to name a few, but one of the things that I’ve always had to do the hard way is to edit unwanted objects out of photos. You know how it goes – you take a picture of a beautiful landscape or architectural wonder only to find some person wandering around in the shot. Then it’s down to some deft use of copy/paste to try and remove the offender, which can be incredibly time consuming. So I was pretty excited to see the new ‘content aware fill‘ feature in Photoshop CS5 and decided to download the trial version… all 1.1Gb of it!

First up, Adobe made it pretty clear that I should download and install Akamai Download Manager first. You mean I’ve got to download and install an app just so I can download the app I’m really interested in? Well as it happens you can skip doing this and just download the trial directly, although it’s not so obvious at first glance. Then, having downloaded and installed Photoshop CS5, the first thing it tells me is that Adobe Air needs to be updated. What? Please don’t tell me installing CS5 has installed Adobe AIR?? That is something I don’t want on my Mac. Then it decides that the version of Adobe Bridge that I’ve got installed as part of Elements should be replaced with a new version, although once it’s done that the old version is still there (so I now have Bridge 4 and Bridge 5). Ok so all this I can live with if only to see how this intelligent new fill feature works.

Then as I wake my Mac up this morning, there it is… sitting in the menu bar. Adobe Application Manager! Yes even though I’m not actually running any Adobe apps at this point in time, there’s an Adobe app that’s checking for updates (and telling me that just 24 hours after installing CS5 and a bunch of updates, it needs to apply three more updates). There seems to be some sort of ‘attitude’ with these big companies that says, your Mac is there for us to use as we see fit. If we want to clutter it up with processes… we will. That may not bother many people, but if you’re interested in keeping your Mac running smoothly, then you probably want an idea of what tasks run on it and people like Google and Adobe who ‘do their own thing’ don’t help.

Have to say though, the content aware fill in CS5 is pretty neat. It doesn’t always work as desired but in many cases it does a grand job. Check out the video.

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Early 2008 Mac Pro + Apple 27″ Cinema Display = Possible?

My Mac is an early 2008 Mac Pro – it’s the 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon model that came with the nVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT graphics card. I have since installed 12Gb of (800MHz) RAM in it, and it’s now equipped with 2 x 1Tb and 2 x 1.5Tb internal drives. It’s great. It rarely skips a beat and I haven’t really got any plans to replace it any time soon.

The monitors on the other hand are a different matter. My primary monitor is a Samsung SyncMaster 2493HM running at 1920 x 1200, while the secondary monitor (used mostly for work with VMware Fusion) is a BenQ G2420HDBL running at 1920 x 1080 – that wretched widescreen resolution that’s been lumped on to us unsuspecting consumers. The BenQ was not one of my better purchases, and while it looked good on paper, I have had a devil of a job getting the colour right on it and to be honest wouldn’t mind seeing the back of it.

Having seen a friends 27″ iMac in all it’s glory, I decided I ought to upgrade my main monitor to something larger and that can run higher resolutions, relegate the Samsung to be my secondary monitor and then a family member or friend can ‘inherit’ the BenQ. However the obvious choice of the Apple 30″ Cinema Display was quite simply too expensive. Likewise the few other 30″ monitors around are also hugely expensive, while anything sporting a 27″ or 28″ screen size seems to go back to the same 1920 x 1080 resolution that my current Samsung can already manage. So, when Apple announced the new 27″ Cinema Display, boasting a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels, I thought my prayers had been answered. With a US price of $999 it’s still a lot of money, and will no doubt translate to something over £800 when UK pricing is announced.

Cinema Display Connectors

Check those connections

Now the questions start. The 27″ Cinema Display will probably be only around £500 cheaper than the entry-level 27″ iMac. Would it be better to save the extra? Maybe, maybe not, but what if I want to go with the cheapest option and just buy the screen? This is when I started looking more closely at the tech specs, more specifically… the connectors.

Taking a good look at a picture at the rear of the screen, rather than do what most monitor manufacturers do, Apple provides a moulded cable that you have to use. Now the moulded cable they provide has three connections – USB 2.0, MagSafe and… Mini Displayport. Now I’m not too fussed about the first two. I have all the USB I need with the standard Mac Pro ports plus a 3-port PCIe USB card I fitted. MagSafe? Well I don’t have a MacBook so there’s nothing for it to do. That leaves the mini displayport connector. My Mac Pro has two (female) DVI sockets to drive two monitors or one monitor via dual-link. In order to be able to use the new 27″ Cinema Display with my Mac Pro I will need a cable that’s DVI (male) at one end,

DVI MDP

You need the exact opposite of this!

and mini displayport (female) at the other. A quick search of the Apple Store gave me three results, but all three cables were the exact opposite of what I need, i.e. they are mini displayport (male) to DVI (female). A quick search of the web didn’t reveal much either except for one ‘converter’ box priced at over $110. Time to go to the Apple site and click the chat button…

  • You are chatting with Danielle C, an Apple Expert
  • Hi, my name is Danielle C. Welcome to Apple!
  • Danielle C: Good evening.
  • Danielle C: How may I assist you today?
  • You: Hello Danielle C., I’m Robin. My question is about the new 27″ Cinema Display. I have a 2008 Mac Pro and want to know if I will be able to use the new 27″ Apple screen with it?
  • Danielle C: Let me check that for you.
  • You: Thankyou.
  • Danielle C: It has not been released yet but you would be able to connect it with an adapter.
  • You: Does Apple sell the necessary connector? I guess it would be a DVI (male) to mini displayport (female) connector?
  • Danielle C: Yes. However since the display has not been released yet, I recommend checking back once it is available to purchase.
  • You: Ok, many thanks Danielle C.
  • Danielle C: You’re welcome.

There you have it. The indication is that there may well be a suitable connector available so that Mac Pro owners like myself who only have DVI ports on their machines, will indeed have the option of being able to use the 27″ Cinema Display. If that is the case then that’s good news (why is it that whenever I type the words ‘good news’ I can hear it being spoken by Professor Farnsworth in Futurama?!). Anyway, all I have to do now is decide if I can afford it…

Professor Farnsworth

Professor Farnsworth