If you haven’t heard yet, it’s here! Office for Mac 2011, which now includes Outlook for Mac, is finally available. It’s been great to see all the interest in Outlook since the announcement and the team will be here showing off some cool things we’ve built in the coming weeks. To get things started, let’s take a look at new tools that will help you manage your Calendar in Outlook for Mac.
Talking with customers, we frequently hear about the pain of managing personal and work calendars. It’s important to be able think of your Calendar as a single schedule that details all the stuff you have going on, without resorting to awkwardly merging your personal and work data. On the other hand, it’s useful to be able to slice and dice all the different types of things you have planned, whether it’s school, work, sports, personal, etc…and look at them in their unique context. For Exchange customers, it’s also critical that core folder considerations like sharing, delegation, public folders, and data integrity remain intact.
To address these diverse and sometimes competing workflow goals, we looked at the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of approaches and worked through a string of iterations, incorporating feedback from usability testing to hone the design. I think we landed on the right approach, one that will support both intuitively managing your schedule as a single Calendar and breaking apart its distinct parts, without sacrificing fundamental Exchange folder expectations.
With Outlook for Mac, you’ll find a new take on the navigation pane (aka Folder List). You can instantly toggle the visibility of specific parts of your calendars or look at the whole thing in one shot. You can also expand or constrict at the account or folder level to take a more traditional look at your calendars. With these simple controls, modifier keys for power users, and touches like focusing and dimming the event tiles as you switch contexts, we think you have the right tools to get creative and take control of your schedule.
A large part of my day is spent attending meetings. When I’m not in a meeting, I find myself working through invites for even more meetings. I live in my inbox and when invites arrive, it’s always annoying to having to stop down, switch to my Calendar, just to take a peek at my day to see if the time works. I might not necessarily have a direct conflict, but it helps to look at the context of the day before deciding to attend. Hearing similar stories from customers, I know I’m not unique in this frustration. Our friends on the Outlook 2010 team came up with a smart solution for this inefficiency. We liked the approach and made some tweaks we thought made sense from a Mac perspective, like moving the preview side by side with the content. In Outlook 2011, you’ll now be able to instantly check your schedule right from the invite:
I’d like to conclude with something we don’t yet have in the Outlook for Mac, Sync Services support for Calendar. If you’re interested in hearing more about why this is the case, head over to my last post on the Mac Mojo blog.
Program Manager, MacBU