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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QuickBitz – Windows, Minis, iDefrag & Adobe

I’m not usually one for an outpouring of comments about the way of the world, probably because the internet is already rich with folk who can express their opinions much better than I. Nevertheless, I do encounter ‘oddities’ on my computing travels, and have assembled a few quickies below for posterity.

Aperture 3 – What, no Windows version?!

I was idly browsing through PC Magazine the other day, a magazine that often covers Mac hardware and Aperture 3software. Within its pages I found a review of Apple’s latest and greatest photo offering – Aperture 3. The reviewer was very complimentary about the product, but in the final reckoning marked it down because… there is no Windows version. No Windows version of a Mac  OS X product? Shock horror. Of course the magazine often hands out five star ratings to Windows software without knocking off a point because “there’s no Mac OS X version”. Good to know that double standards are alive and well, and talking of double standards…

New ‘Mid-2010’ Mac Mini pricing in the UK

Mac mini 2010The svelte new all aluminium (that’s ‘aluminum’ for my US friends) Mac Mini can be yours for just $699 plus sales tax (on average 5%). Here in the UK that translates to a base price of £475 , which with good old Value Added Tax (VAT) at 17.5% would come to £558 . But check that price in the UK Apple Store… £649. Ouch, I hope the extra £91 is going to a good cause.

iDefrag – Great but… unneccessary?

My early 2008 Mac Pro that shipped with Leopard 10.5 has only ever been rebuilt once and that was to do a clean install of Snow Leopard 10.6. So for however long I have been messing with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of files on my four internal 1.5Tb drives. So how badly fragmented do you suppose my boot drive was when I asked iDefrag to take a look? Well the Volume Contents showed 0.2% fragmentation, and the Volume Catalogue showed 0.0% fragmentation! So then… not an awful lot for iDefrag to actually do?

iDefrag showing my boot partition

iDefrag showing my boot partition

Adobe, Apple and that whole Flash thing

I watched the Steve Jobs interview on D8 and I read various commentaries (from both sides) about Apple’s decision to exclude Flash from the supported technologies on the iPad/iPhone. You can probably see where my sentiments lie if I give you this analogy…

A large motor manufacturer in the US decides to launch a new model of car, and they choose to make it an electric car. The largest oil company in the US then publicly complains that the car manufacturer won’t support the use of their fossil fuel in this new car. They argue that fossil fuel allows car users to enjoy seeing a great many parts of the world, and that there’s a huge infrastructure supporting the use of fossil fuel, so really this is unfair. The car manufacturer on the other hand says that it’s their choice to make an electric car, and that they’re just trying to make the best car experience they can for those that want to buy it.

Well that’s my way of looking at it…  😉