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.

Advertisements

Xobni for Mac OS X

XobniWhen I was a Windows user (over two years ago now), I used MS Outlook 2007 as my email client together with a great plug-in called Xobni. Xobni added features that allowed you to do all sorts of clever things, analysing your mail, showing you trends, info about your contacts, searching, etc., etc.

Now that I’m (mostly) a Mail.app user, Xobni is one of the few things I miss from my Windows days. In the early stages of the beta there was talk of Xobni being made available for other platforms like OS X but the emphasis was obviously on getting the Windows version cooked first. Two years on and sadly there’s still no hint of an OS X version ever emerging. I say sadly because Xobni has some great features, plus if figures are to be believed, Mac OS X represents something approaching 9% of the desktop OS market meaning there’s a LOT of Mac users and thus potential customers out there.

So if you’re a Mac OS X user and you’d be interested in a version of Xobni for the Mac then tell them, either here or by commenting on their blog, or by emailing them, or by commenting below.Who knows, with Office 2011 for Mac on the horizon, maybe a new version of ‘Outlook for Mac’ would be just the impetus they need for a Xobni plug-in?

PS, in case you’re wondering about the name – Xobni is ‘inbox’ spelled backwards.

Happy New Year!

Well the last three months got pretty hectic both in and out of work which didn’t leave much time for keeping Macbitz up to date. Nevertheless the Mac world moves on and there’s new Mac hardware and software that I’ve purchased and can bore you all to tears with! I will try and get around to writing up more detailed thoughts and reviews in the coming months, but here’s what I’ve been buying (or had bought for me)…

  • A new Panasonic TX-L32V10B 32″ TV. It’s full HD (1080p and 24fps), has an ethernet port in the back but more importantly has a PC socket on the back. What better than to plug my Mac Mini into it!
  • An Apple Airport Express which is daisy-chained off my Airport Extreme upstairs in the study so that I can extend the network downstairs.
  • A Sony PS3 Slim that can talk to my Mac Pro via a couple of bits of software.
  • A copy of Blue Harvest that helped me with a problem with a BMW 120d !? Yes that’s a BMW car/automobile (depending on where you live).
  • Socialite – a great client for pulling your social networks (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and other feeds together.
  • Busy Cal and Spanning Sync for lots of juicy calendar goodness. That’s seamless calendaring between the Mac, Google and my iPhone with a bit of Entourage thrown in for good measure.
  • Songbird is helping to remove some of the frustrations of iTunes. Plus BeaTunes and Song Sergeant have been doing sterling service.
  • I’m having fun with a Canon DMC FZ28 camera and a copy of PhotoShop Elements 8 for the Mac.
  • Yep is helping me organize all those paper documents I scanned using my ScanSnap S300M.
  • Some neat iPhone apps that I actually use.

There’s bound to be other stuff that I’ve forgotten for now, but will dig out and scribble about on MacBitz in the coming weeks and months. So a Happy New Year to everyone and may your ‘twenty ten’ be a good one.  PS – I didn’t even mention the rumoured Apple Tablet once…. doh, I just did!

Entourage 3-way sync with MobileMe

3-way, easy peasy

3-way, easy peasy

So someone asked – how about doing a 3-way sync between Entourage on a Macbook Pro, Entourage on an iMac and iCal on the iPhone? Well I’ll try anything once, though in may case it’s a Mac Pro, a Mac Mini and my iPhone. Sure I’d love a new unibody Macbook Pro 17″ but I just couldn’t justify the expense… oh and I can’t afford it right now!

2-way syncing was already working between my Mac Pro and the iPhone, so it was simply a case of adding the Mac Mini to the mix. At this point I wasn’t using iCal, Entourage or MobileMe on the Mac Mini as it’s currently my ‘server’ in the loft. Still, the joys of screen sharing under OS X make this an easy thing to set up without actually having to climb into the loft, so I did the following on the Mac Mini.

  1. Open System Preferences
  2. Open the MobileMe PrefPane
  3. Entered the same .mac account details I currently use on my iPhone and Mac Pro
  4. Selected ‘manual’ sync
  5. Selected just Calendar
  6. Clicked the Sync button

As this was the first time I’d synced the Mac Mini using MobileMe it popped up a warning, asking me if I wanted to merge events or replace them either on the Mac or on MobileMe. Obviously at this point I chose to ‘Replace data on computer‘ to make sure all the events I already had would be pushed on to the Mac Mini. That was it. After a couple of minutes I was looking at an exact replica of my calendar in iCal. Next I installed Office 2008 on the Mac Mini, and patched it up to the latest level (12.1.5). I then launched Entourage on the Mac Mini and in its Preferences I told it to sync via iCal. A couple more minutes and sure enough the Entourage calendar events from my picture-11Mac Pro/iPhone were showing on the Mac Mini. Having tested it works ok it would just be a case of setting the sync in MobileMe preferences to ‘automatic’.

Obviously the same limitations apply as I’ve mentioned in earlier articles, ie because you have to sync Entourage via iCal and MobileMe, you are limited to calendar features that they both understand, so ‘categories’ are out. Still, it works well enough.

I’m sure it would be pretty straightforward to add another Mac with either iCal or Entourage, or even a Windows PC running Outlook to this little arrangement (the key is in using the same MobileMe account). Trouble is, my life is complicated enough already!

iPhone app – Take A Note

Whenever I buy myself a bit of tech’ I always feel slightly guilty. After all, I obviously managed to survive before the gadget happened on the scene so why the indulgence? What’s more, if you’re going to indulge then there’s few more hedonistic gadgets around that Apple’s iPhone 3G, so anything that pushes it further into the ‘really useful’ side of my life rather than the ‘shiny shiny’ side is always welcome!

Now I know there’s people out there that hate Apple, there’s those that hate the iPhone, and there’s those that hate both, but whatever the criticisms are that people level at the iPhone (and I’d be the first to admit it’s not perfect), you have to admit that this little device is a wonderful enabler. The list of truly useful things I can do with it like:

  • Read and send email from pretty much wherever I am.
  • Find a route without asking if I happen to be lost (it’s a bloke thing!)
  • Check train timetables and even see if the train I want is running late
  • Look up viewing times at the local cinema

…goes on and on, and half the fun is discovering something new that pushes those little feelings of guilt a bit further away because you know it’ll make life just that bit easier.

Take A Note

Take A Note

Enter Readdle’s Take A Note application. Often when I’m out shopping I’ll see something and think what a nice gift it would be for someone. Or I might see an idea for the house, or perhaps something in a magazine in a waiting room, there’s no end of situations where a scatterbrain like myself wants to record a note for later use, and that’s where Take A Note gets my award for just plain useful!

In essence it lets you quickly create a note by typing on the iPhone’s virtual keyboard, drawing with your finger, speaking or using the iPhone camera. Each note can then be given a tittle and other comments, and can also be given a category for sorting. The resulting collection of notes can be viewed by type, category or searched, and even viewed on your Mac or PC via the iPhone’s WiFi connection. The interface is elegant and simple, showing you exactly what’s needed to get the job done, whether you want to create, view, edit or delete your notes and I’d challenge anyone to be unable to intuitively find their way around (well almost). The screenshots tell a much better story and you can guess what’s going on for the most part, in fact the only thing that caught me out was one aspect of the Mac/PC WiFi connectivity, which thinking back about it is actually quite logical.

In a wee bit more detail… Text notes are just that – stuff you save in a note using the iPhone keyboard. Audio notes are created by selecting New – Audio Note then pressing the record button, then the pause or stop button as necessary. For drawings you select pen or erase, choose your brush size and use your finger! Unfortunately you can only draw in one colour, but perhaps a later release will enhance that. Finally photo notes are just that, notes with photos in them that you either take with the camera or choose from your photo roll. The icing on the cake is that by touching the envelope icon at the bottom of any note, you can quickly email it as an attachment.

To view your notes on your Mac or PC you simply press the WiFi button in Take A Note and make a note of the number and port it shows you. In fact the port number will always be the same so it’s just the iPhone’s IP address you need. Then in the case of OS X, open Finder, select Connect To Server from the Go menu and type in http://nnn.nnn.nnn.nnn:8080 (where the n’s are the IP address the application tells you). Hey presto, you’re now browsing your iPhone notes which you can open in your favourite application. You can also add new notes by simply dragging them into the relevant Finder window. The gotcha? The Take A Note application must be open on your iPhone as you’re doing it. If it’s not running you’ll just get a message telling you the ‘server’ can’t be accessed. If your iPhone automatically locks, then the connection will be cut. Logical really seeing as the Take A Note software is acting as a server.

My only other minor complaint is over the voice notes recording feature. It’s simplicity itself to use, but there seems to be a lot of gain on the microphone, certainly in my case and when playing back recordings – while the voice or whatever else is recorded is clear, any silent bits (such as pauses when someone is speaking) are replaced by a loud hissing noise. Perhaps it’s my phone, who knows, however the voice notes facility is still perfectly usable.

So there you have it – £2.99 and you’ve got a really useful addition to your iPhone apps. Now that I can capture all those snippets of the world going on around me, I’ll become a master of keeping on top of my information overload. Then again, I’ll lose one more excuse for forgetting the things I need to forget.

iCal and Google Calendar getting snug… again

Mail, calendars and ToDo lists on the Mac seem to be becoming a hobby of mine, and thanks to the latest release of Calaboration (their spelling not mine!), there’s yet another way for Mac users to spread around some calendar goodness. Calaboration is the latest way for iCal users to view and edit one or more of their Google calendars from within iCal itself. Unfortunately Entourage is left whimpering outside in the cold in this episode (but for that there are other solutions).

Downloading and installing Calaboration is a simple affair, just go to the Google website, download it, unzip it and drag it into your Applications or Applications/Utilities folder. Something you’ll notice is that every time you run Calaboration you’ll be prompted for your Google username and password because unlike other utilities such as Google’s Gmail Notifier, Calaboration doesn’t seem to cache your credentials. Not really a problem as this is pretty much a ‘set it & forget it’ application anyway.

picture-12Once you’ve entered your details you’ll be presented with a list of your Google calandars and it’s simply a matter of ticking the ones you want to be accessible in iCal. Given that I’ve already been using Calgoo Connect to sync iCal with Google calendar I decided it was safest to create a new calendar in Google specifically for the purposes of trying this out. So I created a Google calendar called ‘Google Only’ and selected it in Calaboration as the calendar I was to access from iCal. One final step you need to do is to open Calaboration’s Preferences and tick the box that says Enable read-only calendars. It’s a way of getting round the permissions set in gCal thereby allowing you to add, edit and delete gCal entries in iCal. If you don’t tick the box then any changes made in iCal will generate an error.

Creating an event in Google calendar

When is a meeting not a meeting?

When is a meeting not a meeting?

So let’s try it out… I’ve run Calaboration and told iCal which Google calendar I want access to and now I have a Google heading in the iCal sidebar with ‘Google Only’ in it. I pop over to Google and create a new all day event in my ‘Google Only’ calendar. Going back to iCal I right-click on the ‘Google Only’ calendar heading and select Refresh and sure enough the new event is visible in iCal. So far so good. Next test is to edit the event in iCal and see what Google makes of it so I select the all day Google calendar event and decide to give it a start and finish time then save it. That goes off without a hitch but on syncing the event back to Google, it now decides that it’s a meeting invitation, putting a little question mark icon to the left of the event heading. It’s simple enough to get rid of this by opening the event in iCal and where it says ‘Are you coming‘ over on the right, just click Yes and save the event.

Creating a new gCal event in iCal
Creating a new event in iCal to go in your Google calendar is again pretty straightforward except you need select your Google calendar first in iCal’s sidebar before creating the event. This is because your Google calendar won’t show up in the pick-list of calendars when actually editing the event – that’s just the way it works. Again, once you’ve created the event in iCal and have let it sync, the event pops up in Google complete with the correct start time if you specified one. If you edit the event in iCal and change it from an all day event to one with a start time, then the quirk of it turning into a meeting invite happens again. The work around is the same as before, open the event in gCal and edit it to say you’re attending.

I tried creating, editing and deleting events in either iCal or gCal and apart from the quirk mentioned above, it all seemed to work well. If for example you add text to the Notes field in iCal, this will appear in the description field in Google. It also looks like you could add a location to the event in iCal and have it appear in Google Maps when you open it in Google calendar, although I didn’t investigate this option fully. One thing that doesn’t seem to get carried across is alarms. Despite setting a reminder in Google, or setting an alarm in iCal, that feature wouldn’t make it through to the other platform. Not a showstopper but a pain if like me you’re incredibly forgetful!

So, does Calaboration replace what Calgoo Connect does? Well no not really. You see Calaboration is a way of pulling one or more of your Google calendars through in to iCal and allowing you to edit those calendars on either platform. This means that your Google calendars appear in iCal in addition to any existing iCal calendars you might already have. So if all you have when you start is your default iCal calendar and your default Google calendar, then after setting up Calaboration you’ll still only see your default calendar in Google, but you’ll see both calendars in iCal.

Calgoo Connect on the other hand is about pairing calendars between iCal and Google, so in the same scenario you would choose to pair your default calendar on each platform meaning you have just one intergrated calendar that you can update in either location.

Which option is better? Well both are free and it’s horses for courses really, so it depends on whether you want multiple calendars or not. You might for example already use Google calendar for work and have iCal at home keeping track of your social life. If you want to keep these as two discrete calendars and to be able to see and edit your work calendar at home, then Calaboration will do that for you. If however you wanted just one combined work/social calendar that you update using either Google at work or iCal at home, then Calgoo Connect would be the way to go. Similarly, if you’re an Entourage user then Calaboration isn’t going to be much help because the Google calendars you add to iCal with it aren’t visible in Entourage – for that we need a patch from Microsoft that allows syncing of more than one calendar between Entourage and iCal. Another downside of Calaboration is that calendars it adds to iCal aren’t visible on the iPhone if you’re using MobileMe.

Now if only Apple would update iCal with some of Entourage’s features (categories in calendars, a decent ToDo List function… that syncs with the iPhone) then I’d be a happy man.

Entourage and Google Calendar, all sync’ed up

UPDATE 25/May/10 – Unfortunately since I wrote this article, Calgoo no longer offer the Calgoo Connect utility. I have now written a new article on how to use Spanning Sync to keep Entourage and Google in sync. You can find the new article HERE.

UPDATE 19/Oct/09 – To all the people who have upgraded to Snow Leopard, which causes Calgoo Connect to break. The problem appears to relate to a difference between the version of Java that ships with Snow Leopard and the version of Java that Calgoo Connect expects. Calgoo have not yet responded with a Snow Leopard compatible version of Connect, but there does appear to be a workaround which is to install an earlier version of Java. I will investigate this and post a ‘how to’ in a separate article (if I can make it work!)

In the meantime, there’s a very good article here that tells you how to install the Leopard version of Java if you want to give it a try.

– – – – – – –

The following is a short walkthrough I’ve made in response to a question someone raised about being able to sync Entourage with Google calendar, the idea being that if you use Entourage at work you can post a calendar entry there and then view it on gCal when you get home (and vice versa).

The short answer is ‘yes’ and all you need is Calgoo Connect (currently v2.1.3) which you can download from the Calgoo website (you’ll need to register for the download, but it’s FREE). The long and boring answer is as follows…

Ok, we’ll assume you’ve already downloaded and installed Calgoo Connect on the Mac where you’ve got Entourage installed. Now the thing to remember here is that you’ll actually be using iCal on the same Mac as a ‘conduit’ for getting Entourage and gCal to talk with each other. Doesn’t mean you need to be an iCal user, just so long as it’s in the background doing it’s thing. This is what you need to do.

  1. Open Entourage and go to Preferences. From the preferences list choose Sync Services and make sure you have the option to ‘Synchronize events and tasks with iCal and .Mac‘ ticked. This will automatically create an Entourage calendar inside iCal. You can easily test this bit by creating a calendar entry in Entourage then opening iCal and checking that your new entry appears in the Entourage calendar under iCal. (Don’t worry if you don’t have a .Mac account, that bit is ignored if you don’t have one).
  2. Next, you need to decide which of your gCal calendars you want to sync Entourage with (that’s if you have more than one gCal calendar). For the purposes of making this article clearer, I created a gCal calendar called Entourage, alongside my default calendar.
  3. Ok, launch CalGoo Connect and click on the little icon bottom left that looks like a purple and an orange arrow on top of a calendar.
  4. Chose what sort of connector you want to create, in this case it’ll be ‘Sync an Apple iCal Calendar with a Google Calendar‘.
  5. Give your new connector a name. I called mine ‘iCal <-> gCal’ but beware that special characters like ‘<‘ aren’t actually a good idea as they get mangled when Calgoo displays them back to you. (Bug?). A better name might be ‘iCal – gCal’.
  6. Now you’ll be prompted for which iCal calendar you want to sync. This is where you’ll want to specify your Entourage calendar in iCal.
  7. Then you’re asked to supply your Google Mail credentials so that Calgoo Connect can access your calendar(s) to see what’s there (and do the sync’ing).
  8. Once you’ve done that you should see a window asking you which Google calendar you want to sync with. Again in my case I chose the calendar in Google that I’d specially created for sync’ing with Entourage, but you could just as easily use your default Google calendar for example.
  9. Now you’ll get a confirmation window that summarizes what you’ve chosen. If you’re happy just click the ‘Next’ button.
  10. The last step lets you do a sync straight away or just save the connector for later use (or modify the connector).

And that is pretty much that. As you’ll see from the gallery below, I tested this out by creating a new calendar entry in Entourage which, after sync’ing using Calgoo Connect, appeared in Google calendar – and it works both ways so you can create something in gCal and it’ll sync across to Entourage. Of course you can set Calgoo Connect to sync automatically at a particular interval, e.g. every hour.

So next time you need to need to type something into Entourage and see it appear in gCal, this will do the trick. Alternatively, if the other half nags you to book a day off so you can go shopping for shoes with her, you can create a reminder for yourself in gCal at home and it’ll pop up in your Entourage calendar at work (or wherever) so that you can then plead with your boss for some time off… or not, as the case may be! 😉