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Outlook for Mac 15.3 review: Almost as good as the Windows version

Dan Rosenbaum | Nov. 10, 2014
A surprise update approaches parity with Windows, but doesn’t yet play well with other ecosystems.

A nice touch: In Calendar view, there's a new Weather Bar on the right side of the screen, above the calendar. It shows the forecast for today and the next two days, either for your current location or any other place of your choosing.

Performance is quite quick, even on older machines. I tested Outlook 15.3 on a three-year-old MacBook Pro running OS X 10.10 (Yosemite, the most recent release). The app was more than acceptably responsive -- better even than Apple's native Mail app.

Still work to be done
But, as the first app from this version of Office to be released out of the chute, there are some signs that Outlook 15.3 is not quite finished. For example, it can't import Entourage or .mbox files, so if you haven't updated Outlook since 2000, you'll have a problem bringing in your old email. In addition, there's no way to import contacts from a delimited file. And it doesn't play nicely with Gmail -- because of Gmail's tagging protocols, if you try to receive your Gmail messages in Outlook, you may end up with several copies of the same message.

Want more? Large attachments may fail to transmit and an automated interface with a cloud service such as Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox -- which would solve that problem -- is missing.

Perhaps more problematic is Outlook 15.3's inability to play well with much of anything outside the Exchange ecosystem. Although IMAP support appears solid (and you can finally have multiple IMAP accounts and an Exchange account running at the same time), there's no support for CalDAV or CardDAV; you won't be able to sync calendars or contacts with any other program or ecosystem, including Outlook.com.

And there's no export facility. None. Zero. Not even to .pst (Office for Windows archive) files. What happens in Outlook for Mac stays in Outlook for Mac.

Also, although there's substantial parity with Outlook 2013, it's not quite perfect parity. You can't propose a new time for a meeting on the Mac. You can't create a table in an email, although you can copy one from Word. You can't request a read receipt or recall a message. The Ignore, CleanUp and voting functions aren't supported. You still can't manage a distribution list or sync a personal list with Outlook for Windows. Quota information isn't available and you can't display calendars side by side.

Even the help system feels not quite ready for production. Rather than being built out, it consists mostly of ReadMeFirst.txt type information: How to import from older versions, known issues and the like.

Bottom line
Electronic software distribution has changed the game. Without the need to press DVDs and deal with a hard distribution channel, developers can release product when it's "good enough" -- but maybe not perfect. Whether the timing of this release may or may not have been Microsoft's choice, Outlook 15.3 is undoubtedly good enough -- and it can be considered a hint of announced and rumored things to come for the rest of Office. It's not buggy, but neither are all the features solidly in place.

 

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