Today, we’re excited to share a blog post from technology blogger, social media pundit and avid Office for Mac user, Michael Sheehan. Otherwise known throughout the inter-webs as “HighTechDad,” he has personally blogged about technology for many years, providing product reviews of hardware and software, as well as writing fixes, tutorials and other tips and tricks. Read on as Michael discusses his favorite Office for Mac 2011 features and how improvements to the suite’s compatibility and Exchange connection allow him to be more productive in the workplace…
Owning the Office with Office for Mac 2011
Working in the technology industry, it’s important that the documents I create and share with my teammates are compatible. Compatibility with my workflow allows me to integrate with the services my company uses like MS Exchange and for my colleagues to open and read the docs the way I created them. I’m happy to say, for me Office for Mac 2011 gives me the Office experience I’ve needed without compromise.
When I started using Office for Mac 2011, the first thing that got my attention was the fact that Entourage was no longer part of the mix and had been replaced with Outlook. Outlook has been in the PC side of the Office Suite for years and Mac users either had to use some sort of a virtualization solution to use Outlook for the PC or some other type of client to hook in to Microsoft Exchange server. And those “hooks” frequently were more like “hacks” and didn’t give you true Exchange integration. You couldn’t look up schedules, do full calendaring or address book lookups and in many cases, your IT administrator had to enable IMAP so that you could do a kludgy folder mapping. It was not a good integration. That was pre-Office for Mac 2011. Now with Outlook, which was built from the ground up for the Mac, you don’t have to worry about not being able to manage your calendar for starters, and the integration is pretty extensive. And there are a lot of other nifty features to make Office for Mac 2011 very compelling in the workplace.
One feature in Outlook that I particularly like is the conversation threading of email messages. While I tend to leave many of my emails in my inbox, sometimes, when I’m really inspired, I actually do file some emails in folders, especially if they are related to a big project. In the past, it was quite difficult to truly follow the conversation threads. That is to say, you may have some auto-filtering and filing rules that move some messages to particular folders based on their sender or subject or the content of the message (e.g., I have all emails from my boss automatically go into a folder with his name on it). Well, if there is a particular thread or conversation that has emails filed in a variety of folders across your email environment, in the past, it was very difficult to find all of those related emails. Now with Office for Mac 2011 and Outlook, you simply set up your view to have Conversations enabled and when you click on a particular conversation, you see ALL emails related to that conversation, regardless of the folder it may be in (e.g., SENT folder, INBOX, named folder, etc.). Essentially, Outlook does the organization for you. This is such a great feature for me as I sometimes organize my emails when I’m so inspired and other times, when I’m lazy, I simply leave them in the Inbox.
So, for me, the completely “created from the ground up” version of Outlook is a huge reason for doing an upgrade. But my reasons don’t stop there. Next to Outlook, Microsoft Word is my second most used application within the Office suite. And it too has gotten a pretty good rework. One thing that I particularly like is the new visual styles. With this feature turned on, I can quickly look through a document to see all of the sections that have similar styles or formatting applied. Frequently I am the guy at work who receives documents to make them look “nicer”. Visual styles lets me get consistency in the document much faster, quickly creating professional looking documents.
Another feature of Office for Mac 2011 that made some heads turn in my workplace was the full screen view in Word. When I click a button, all of the potentially distracting toolbars and menu bars just fade into the background and the full focus of your attention is the content of your Word document. This is something that many Mac users will feel much more comfortable with as it is becoming more popular in many applications that are on the Mac. Otherwise known as the “lightbox effect”, your focus is intentionally set on the work at hand and not at the distracting peripheral items that frequently get in the way when you are working. Allowing for a clutter-free environment helps you focus on your work and not on getting distracted by other times.
Also, when I use Excel now, I can enjoy many of the features that are currently available in its sibling, Office 2010 for the PC. Conditional formatting, Sparklines and an enhanced charting feature bring all of my Excel documents up to par with my PC counterparts. Creating budget graphs, for example, now really leap out on the page as those happy green areas bounce out at you while the red ones (e.g., when the numbers are negative), unfortunately shout out as well. And if you don’t want to create a full-fledged chart, that is where Sparklines come into play, allowing you to create mini-graphs in-line with your data sets.
Lastly, PowerPoint’s make-over allows me to create even more compelling presentations. While content is king, you always have to have a way to keep your audience attentive and listening to what you are presenting. Animations and transitions within the Mac version of PowerPoint allow me to get my points across in style, and I really couldn’t live without the revamped presenter practice function which lets me set my timing and practice my delivery to truly fine-tune my pitches.
There are some other great features of Office for Mac 2011 that I discuss in this post as well. Office for Mac 2011 has allowed me to increase my productivity through its solid integration with Microsoft Services and overall performance updates. I realize I’m preaching a little, but when you find something that helps with your daily tasks, you can’t help but talk about it!
-Michael Sheehan, technology blogger, HighTechDad.com