Wither Microsoft – Part II – Maybe Not

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Last time, we talked about why you might want to use some of the Microsoft software technologies on your Mac. This time, let’s talk about why you may want to avoid – or at least segregate – them.

Microsoft tools are not perfect, I think we can all admit that. In all fairness, the Apple tools have their own issues, so Microsoft is not alone, but we’re Mac users and therefore we’re hoping to look for more faults in other peoples’ software =) I do want to point out that I use Microsoft products myself, both on my Mac and elsewhere. I also do a large amount of work with Windows servers, and love the OS and everything I can do with it. I simply prefer Mac as my desktop platform, and therefore have found lots of opportunity to explore mixing and matching.

So, why might you not want to use Microsoft software on your Mac?

– Incompatibility: This is the top reason I’d have to list as to why Microsoft tools may not be the best choice for you. As an example, if your company uses Exchange Server 2003 or earlier (and I know quite a few that do), then Outlook 2011 won’t connect to your Exchange Server at all. You’ll have to run a compatible version of Microsoft Outlook for Windows in a Boot Camp partition or VM. Be aware, Mail.app won’t connect to Exchange 2003 or earlier either, so sometimes you just don’t have any choice.

– Less Mac-focused: A purely subjective argument, but one I can’t deny. With the Ribbon and other Windows-centric interfaces, the Microsoft apps for OS X are simply not the same in terms of look and feel as their Apple counterparts. For most folks, this isn’t a big thing, but if you’re totally in love with the interface of Pages, then Word for Mac probably won’t get you all that excited.

– The apps are slow and crash: Again, not bashing Microsoft here, but many of the Windows apps for OS X do tend to perform worse than the Apple apps that do the same thing. Outlook on Windows, for example, is in no way the most stable application I’ve ever worked with, but compared to its Mac counterpart (Outlook 2011), it’s a streamlined race car. Outlook on Mac is very slow to start up with a large mail database, freezes for several seconds at a time for no reason, has trouble regaining focus if you click on the wrong area of the screen, etc. The user groups are chock full of complaints on these and many other subjects. Word for Mac and other Office apps have similar issues, and Communicator for Mac (for those of us not on Lync Server yet) is a world of hurt all its own.

– The apps are not the same as their Windows counterparts: While Microsoft has taken great pains to try to make the OS X apps as feature-complete as the Windows versions, they didn’t manage to get everything in there. For example, Outlook 2011 has no support for Social Connectors, and just barely managed to get support for some more basic things like recurring tasks/reminders into a recent Service Pack update. If you happen to need features that are just not implemented in the Mac versions of these apps, then they won’t work for you.

As you can see, the arguments for not using the Microsoft tools for OS X are about equal to the reasons you should use them. Luckily, there are ways to get the best of both worlds. Next week we’ll talk about the different options for using Microsoft software on your Mac, including segregation using VM’s or Boot Camp.

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