Entourage 2004, by Microsoft
Posted: 2-Feb-2005

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Microsoft Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Scott Bender Class: INTERNET

Overview
Microsoft Entourage 2004 is the Macintosh version of Microsoft Outlook. Entourage is a personal information manager, incorporating mail, an address book, a calendar, and a task manager all into one application. Entourage 2004 comes as part of the Office 2004 package. The latest version has improvements to viewing, adds a new Project Manager, and now supports Microsoft Exchange accounts.


System Requirements

  • G3 Mac or better
  • OS 10.2.8 or later
  • 256MB RAM

Entourage was reviewed on a 533Mhz G4 with 384MB of RAM.

Installation and Setup
Entourage 2004 Mac, V 11.0, installed as a simple drag-and-drop from the CD. When running, Entourage used a minimum of 35MB of RAM.

In Use
The initial setup of Entourage was easy and painless. Under the Entourage menu was an Account Settings option. Selecting this opened up an Accounts window. I selected the "new" icon, and the Account Setup Assistant stepped me through the setup process. Setting up for access to my personal email at home, I entered my POP mail server, username and password.


Entourage 2004 - Three pane display

Entourage opens in the three-paned Mail window (see picture above). The upper left-hand portion of the window allows the user to toggle between Mail, Address Book, Calendar, Notes, Tasks and the new Project Center. With a click of the Send/Receive icon, Entourage connected up, and began downloading my mail.

If you have an Exchange account, Entourage 2004 now has full support for Exchange accounts. Rather than accessing your Exchange account as a POP server, you may now specify your Exchange account settings just like you would on the PC under Outlook, and your Exchange email is immediately available. This is a long overdue feature, and it's great to see it implemented and working.

To put the folder/filing to the test, I decided to import my Apple Mail into Entourage. Importing is found under the File Menu. The process was very easy. Select "Import from a program", then "Apple Mail", then the type of messages (messages, accounts, rules or signatures). Entourage copied the files over very cleanly, even activating my rules.

The next step was to copy my Apple address book. I didn't have as much luck with this task as I did with my mail messages. There was no straightforward way to import the data. Entourage's Help shed no light on the subject. I finally found a couple third-party scripts that would synchronize the data from both applications (located at
Sync Entourage Address Book and Sync Entourage iCal). At first glance, the iCal data transferred over without any problems. With the address book data, I wasn't as lucky. The script bombed out about mid-way through the sync. In the end, I resorted to syncing my Palm Pilot to my Apple address book, then syncing the Palm again to Entourage. Finally, my data was moved to Entourage.

The main window for Entourage is a general 3-zone window. The upper left-hand corner has six icons (mail, address book, calendar, notes, tasks, and project center). Along the left side is a folder list. The largest part of the window is the main display for whichever function is active. The left-side portion of the window can be hidden. The resulting view has smaller versions of the 6 function icons vertically located along the left side of the window.

I liked the Address Book. Entourage defaults with the toolbar Icons active, displaying the icons and their function names. Creating entries was extremely easy. Entourage's address book has many more fields than Apple's address book. Personal information (children names, anniversaries, astrology signs, and more) can be stored for contacts. The address book card is tabbed, with choices of a summary, name and email, home info, work info, personal info, and the ever-helpful "other" category. One thing I found missing was that important dates such as my own anniversary and birthday were not linked to the Calendar.

Another feature I found useful is while viewing an address card, an icon next to the address (home or work) can be selected, giving the option of displaying maps and/or driving directions.

In Mail, the main window pane can be made to display the mail message on the side (displaying an entire page), or on the bottom (splitting the screen in half). The side-pane view has a very comfortable appeal (folders on the left, messages in the middle, and preview on the right). I liked the ability to view a multiple paged email without having to open it up.

While I could find no way to customize Entourage by splitting the window into smaller windows, there were view options available. I could place the preview pane on the right-hand side, or on the bottom of the window. I could also turn the toolbar on or off, as well as hide the folder list.

An alert box pops up on-screen to tell you (along with an audible alert) when new mail arrives. New messages can be created in Word, allowing messages to be formatted in a familiar word processor. Likewise, calendar reminders pop up when they're due in a scrollable window list. This made it easy to select and view events as desired.

Creating new mail messages is easy. A new window opens with the "to" portion opened up. If an address is in the address book, Entourage will pop up a menu of address choices after typing a couple letters. I found this useful, as I'm a fairly clumsy typist. A weakness in this feature is that while a hierarchical choice menu is open, using the keyboard arrows will scroll up and down the list, but will not go sideways to jump to the hierarchy. I had to switch to the mouse in order to make a selection.

I didn't find the new Project Manager very useful. Project Manager allows you to keep track of an entire project from start to finish. While not as robust as Microsoft Project, small projects can be managed. But I did not find added advantage to using it. Creating milestone events in the calendar, assigning tasks and tracking status could all be accomplished via calendar, tasking, and mail.

Summary
Microsoft Entourage 2004 is a useful personal information manager containing email, calendar, address book and more. It is easy to install, and for users of Outlook, it comes with an already familiar user interface. The Mac version is more polished than the Windows counterpart, and finally supports Exchange servers. I especially like the email preview panes of Entourage, as well as the vast amount of information the Entourage address book supports. I did have some problems getting my Apple address book imported into Entourage, and importing calendar events as well as integration of calendar events with my address book could be improved. Overall, I enjoy using Entourage. It is a reliable and powerful email client, and Entourage 2004 offers an even better user experience than its predecessors.


Pros

  • Easy drag-and-drop installation
  • Entire email message preview
  • Supports authoring emails in Word
  • Supports a lot of personal information in Address Book entries
  • Supports Exchange Server accounts

Cons

  • Does not support importing Calendar events
  • Unable to import my Apple Address Book
  • Address Book dates (anniversaries, birthdays, etc.) did not propagate to the calendar


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice