Mail.app or Outlook 2011? 0

Email1

Recently, I had a conversation on Twitter with a friend who was considering what tools his end-users should be using to access Exchange-based email on their OS X clients. Apparently many of the employees of his firm are on – or are switching to – Macs at home, and wanted to know what to use to access the corporate mail systems.

After going back and forth with him, I decided to do a blog post here about what the two bigger tools, Mail.app and Outlook 2011, could offer in terms of strengths and weaknesses.

Mail.app

Only recently, with the advent of Exchange 2007 in the mainstream, the native email app for OS X started being able to connect to Exchange using native protocols (ActiveSync/Outlook Anywhere). That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work with earlier versions, but it did so over IMAP and POP protocols, which many organizations do not allow outside the corporate network. Now, however, it’s a real competitor to Outlook on the OS X platform, and so a lot of users are looking at it for corporate mail.

Pros:

– Native to OS X, so no need to install additional software or acquire additional end-user licensing (you still need CAL’s for Exchange, though)

– Familiar interface to users who mainly use Macs

– Single email client for home and office mail (both a pro and a con)

Cons:

– Requires three apps (Mail, Calendar, Address Book/Contacts) to accomplish the common business tasks that Exchange is used for

– Mixes all email accounts, signatures, etc. in one mail client (both a pro and a con)

– Less corporate control over end-user data. Organizations can still disconnect accounts, but many Outlook-only data control measures and archiving systems won’t work (It should be noted that many archiving tools don’t work in Outlook 2011 either, but some do)

Outlook 2011

The de-facto standard for Exchange Email, Outlook has always been the preferred client for corporate users on Windows. Until Office 2011, the only option on Mac was Entourage, which has not be a well-loved piece of software. In 2011, Microsoft released the latest version of Office for Mac, which included a full-feature version of Outlook specifically designed for the OS X world.

Pros:

– Comes as part of Office 2011, which is probably already installed due to wanting to work with native MSFT apps for Word Documents, Excel Spreadsheets, etc. (Yes, I know that Apple has apps for those too, but for Windows-based companies, using the Office Suite is likely)

– Allows for segregation of user personal email from work email

– Has mail, calendar and contact functions in one application

Cons:

– Requires licensing for Office 2011 for each end-user

– Requires Exchange 2007 and up (for native Exchange protocols)

– Looks/feels/acts differently than most Mac apps (uses the MSFT Ribbon and doesn’t sync to the Address Book/Contacts app by default, for example)

What both do:

– IMAP, POP and ActiveSync/Outlook Anywhere protocols with or without a VPN

– Can sync contacts, calendar events and email

So who wins?

This is a tough call. For those who refuse to have Office 2011 on their machines, then Mail.app is the preferred choice. For those who don’t mind a few MSFT apps on their OS X boxes, there are a lot of benefits to going with Outlook – especially if you keep both personal and corporate mail on your Mac.

For me, I went with Outlook for my corporate mail. I use Mail.app for my personal accounts, and didn’t want to have to worry about accidentally sending personal mail to corporate contacts or vice versa. I also have Office 2011 installed for some interop reasons in the work I do, and therefore already had Outlook installed on my Macs.

Take a look at the pros and cons, but for an off-the-cuff opinion, I recommend Outlook 2011 for Exchange Server, Mail.app for everything else.

Photo Credit: Tim Morgan