Wither Microsoft Part I – Why you may want it. 0

[Editor’s notes:
First, sorry for the hiatus in my postings. I’ve been swamped with work, and ran out of pre-written posts just before the holidays here in the US. But, now that I’m back on track, you can expect a return to regular, weekly posts from here on out.

Secondly, the title of today’s column has nothing to do with Microsoft losing marketing share. Those of us who are fans of Monty Python’s Flying Circus will quickly see I’m using the conjunction form of wither, meaning “where to or wherever to” instead of the more common meaning.]

While many of us in the Apple community may wish to believe that we can totally live without any Microsoft products, there are simply too many reasons why you might find you need them. This is especially true if you use your Mac for work, or a combination of work and home life. This first article of three will discuss the reasons you might want to include Microsoft technologies into your Mac life.

Those of us who use our Macs for corporate stuff often find that the business world is an inhospitable place. If you are lucky enough to work for either a company that mostly uses Macs, or one that has an IT group that uses and supports Macs; count your blessings. Most enterprises do not rely primarily on Apple technology and – aside from a few cases where iPad apps are officially sanctioned – don’t want anything to do with them. This makes actually using your Mac and native Mac apps to access company resources a challenge at best, and a nightmare at worst.

Using some of the Microsoft tools (both on OS X and in Windows on your Mac – more on that later) can make life easier for those of us who have to talk to corporate data systems regularly. Systems like Office 2011 can give you native Outlook, Word and Excel features, though generally with a feature set and file formats that are a few years old. However, even with these legacy formats, the native experience can be much easier to deal with when working on company documents and files that were built with the Office applications on Windows machines originally. Granted, Pages and other Apple apps can do these things, but may (and probably will) have formatting and function frustrations along the way.

Also keep in mind that if a native Microsoft app like Outlook 2011 is having problems, the corporate IT staff will have far less of a hard time troubleshooting it. These apps typically use the same connection systems and functions as their Windows counterparts, so especially if the problem is server-side, you’ll end up not taking the blame for something that isn’t your Mac’s problem in the first place.

There are some very non-technical reasons to use Microsoft apps or a Windows VM as well. These days, most companies have a very strict policy when it comes to data and security and information ownership. If a system holds company data, the company owns it, no exceptions. In these cases, even though you *could* use Mail.app to connect to your company’s Exchange Server, you probably don’t want to. Keeping your work email independent from your personal email means not having to worry about which account you’re sending from, what signatures are being used, and who owns the content of a particular email database. I find this method invaluable – all my work email is in Outlook, my other email is in Mail.app – no confusion and no mistakes.

Of course, the biggest reason you might want to consider using Microsoft apps on OS X is if you recently converted to Mac. I know that Outlook 2011 isn’t the same as Outlook 2010 or 2013, not by a long shot. However, it is much closer to its Windows counterpart than Mail.app combined with Address Book and iCal. If your entire user experience has been based on Windows versions of MS Office up until this point, then using the Office for Mac applications is going to make for a much easier transition.

Next week, we’ll talk about why you may NOT want to use Microsoft software on your Mac, and then we’ll finish up in the third column describing ways you can use Microsoft tools, either on your Mac in OS X or segregated into a VM or Boot Camp partition to keep them on their own.