I am the IT Director of a company, and I extensively tested moderate-to-advanced features on Office 2011.
We are not zealot on any OS/app credo. We have a mixed environment of Linux/Mac OS X/Windows, according to user familiarity with the platform and availability of tools.
That said, we have a preference for the Mac on the users for its capabilities and simplified maintenance.
We have iWork, OpenOffice and Microsoft Office on the Macs. We tried using OpenOffice mostly, but there are interoperability issues - mostly formatting loss. We use it where it makes sense e.g. to export documents as PDF, or for internal uses only.
Our main goal on trying Office 2011 was to evaluate whether it could completely replace the Windows desktops/notebooks, so that we could simplify our environment.
Sadly, we found roadblocks in the most important app: Outlook.
I will detail it out a bit later in this comment. Let me talk about excel first.ExcelThe Good
The best thing in Excel for moderate/advanced uses is Visual Basic support. This allow files to be useable in a truly cross-platform fashion, as long as the programmer avoids using ActiveX (on Windows) on Forms.The Bad
The are maximization issues on Excel. If I maximize one file, the other open files are de-maximized. It's odd, and certainly seems like a bug to be quashed on a future patch.The Ugly
Excel has a single history for all open files. That is, if I have file A and File B open, and delete a line on FileA, then delete a line on FileB, then add a cell contant on FileB, I cannot undo the FileA line deletion without first undoing the cell insert on FileB. The history of all open files is entangled, and it is an incomprehensible design decision.Outlook
We speak from the perspective o users which *must* work with mailboxes several GB big. It's not lazyness, it's the sheer size of the work we do, plus the need to quickly access information which may have been sent last year, or the other, or the one before that... It's also about the fact that people shouldn 't have to micromanage their mailboxes with constant cleanups, and likewise should avoid creating offline archives as much as possible, because an offline archive is way more fragile to data loss than a synchronized folder in an IMAP or Exchange server.
Outlook is one of our most important (and hated) pieces of software, and we really want to see it get better.The Good
Outlook 2010 for windows has so little changed, it's apalling. It may have a bit of multitaskng under the hood, but with big mailboxes it still stays unresponsive for long times - though the duration has reduced. Outlook 2011 for Mac has major improvements over Outlook for Windows, Entourage and Apple Mail.
First, it can actually work offline, unlike Apple Mail. Try working offline, you will see you really can't get completely offline, or you suddenly can't see your folders contents. Apple Mail is decent - as long as you are online.
Entourage has the 'database file nightmare' and does not play nice with Time Machine. that alone is reason to burn it on the stake. Outlook for Mac made the sensible choice and has each email as an individual file on your disk. It also handles big mailboxes much more gracefully than Outlook for Windows.The Bad
Lack of configuration options. Users with vast mailboxes soon realized that they need the software to do one thing:Do not mark my email as read. It is only read when I say so.
Power users with loads of email coming in want to read it but leave it as unread as a way to be reminded that the subject needs attention. In Outlook for windows I can simply select the option 'do not mark as read'. In outlook for Mac, the best I can do is to tell it to mark as read only when opened in a separate window. It sort of works, but is sub-optimal. People want to open several emails in separate windows to be able to alt-tab between them, but still having them as unread. It's a perfectly valid workflow, and works in windows.
Unified mailboxes are an all-or-nothing game. The problem is: most people use their machines around the clock. They don't have separate machines for personal/business. I would kill for 'groups' in unified mailboxes. If I had 'Groupified Mailboxes' I would be able to unify all my work-related email in one, and all my personal email in the other.
I though I would be able to use smart folders to emulate it, but I was soooo wrong...The Ugly, ugly, ugly
Smart Folders are broken. As in, programmed by an infinite amount of monkeys with typewriters.
Searching works like a treat - if you only need to a simple search with one or two words - but the moment you want to save the search as a Smart Folder, you've opened the pandora's box upon yourself.
A Smart Folder is supposed to work like a folder, but if you type anything inside a smart folder, whenever you try to navigate away from it you are prompted 'do you want to save your changes?' Translating: If you click yes, the beloved search criteria which compose your smart folder will be changed. And it happens every time. and you can't disable it. Seriously?
Smart folders should behave like folders and not change until I click on 'Edit'. simple as that.
Constructing searches is also utterly broken. First: you can't use boolean searches unless you go on the arcane 'Raw Query'mode. It's always an 'AND' search, there is no way to change the multiple criteria to an 'OR' search. Want to get email from either firstname.lastname@example.org
? Good luck with raw searches. They are not a problem for me, but the average user will not grok them. And they shouldn't have to, for certain trivial cases.
But wait, there's more. do you think you can group two folders in a single advanced search? Well, I found a way, but not without much hair-pulling and head-banging on the keyboard. are you still following me? Let me elaborate.
First, folders inside Outlook aren't folders in a tangible sense, like folders inside your disk. Surely, Outlook arranges the files in folders on disk, but it's for it's internal organization only, and the structure means nothing for the average user. It's just a bunch of folders and subfolders named as two-character hexcodes.
Outlook folders are there only to represent the mailbox structure, and there is no 'folder tree' exposed in any way to the searches. So, if you want to do a smart search picking up only the files inside a specific folder and its subfolders, you are out of luck. There is no way to do it, period.
You can concatenate one or more folders though, like I found out, in an extra-convoluted way.
First you must locate a file in your first folder which is there and only there. The easiest way is to create a draft with a unique word like 'rumpelstiltskin' or 'mytzoplyk' and move the draft there.
Then you must locate the real file on-disk using the Terminal, with the command-line version of spotlight, mdfind. This file will be in an obscure folder in the not-intended-for-humans structure created by Outlook. Still using the Terminal, you must locate the 'so-and-so-FolderID' file attribute, which you do using 'mdls', another command-line program which lists all attributes useable to perform searches using Spotlight. If you are still with me, you are brave.
With this valuable information, you can then start to write your Raw Query: so-and-so-folderID = (number) || so-and-so-folderID = (other number) . You must search for a unique file on each folder to get its ID using the command line. Simple, don't you think?
Only, it may not work, because Raw Queries are not as Raw as you may think. On the Search ribbon, there is a group of four buttons to the left, which set a super attribute to your search. If you left it on the 'folder' option, your 'Raw Query' will have an invisible restriction and will take place only in the current folder. You must click on 'All Folders' to be able to concatenate folders using the above excessively-arcane way.
And, for some reason, the Smart folders are at the BOTTOM on the left pane. It's like they knew it was so broken they wanted to hide it. Outlook for Windows has 'Favorite Folders' on the TOP of the left panel. Apple Mail has its smart folders (which work as advertised) at the top too, it's where it makes sense. Outlook for Mac's Smart Folders don't work, but if they did, they should be placed where it makes sense: at the top of the left panel (or let the users decide).
So, if you come from windows, and especially if you are a power email user, don't delude yourself thinking that Outlook for Mac will solve all your problems.
If you are willing to give up a bunch of functionality to ditch windows and go all-mac though, feel free to give it a try. But buyers beware, this Outlook is still in its infancy, and its immaturity shows up on its lack of options, polish and ill-advised interface decisions.