Being a Corporate Mac User

I'm not "a Mac" in the commercial persona paradigm, I'm more of a VMware cluster.

Starting in 2006, my primary home computer has been a Mac of one sort or another. It's become very familiar, even when I was a lifehacking Windows or Linux nerd at the office. It took a while, but I was able to convince the powers that be that I could be even more productive at work if I was using a Mac full-time. So far, this has been mostly true, with one major exception: Microsoft Office.

Most of the rest of the company use a PC with Windows 7/Office 2010. Last year the company moved from Exchange 2003 to 2010, and deployed an expansive OCS 2010 infrastructure. As a result, the overall corporate feel for messaging improved greatly. When I was using a PC full-time, I used Lync to talk to anybody / everybody in the company. I could pick sets of meeting rooms when creating a meeting request so that I was easily selecting an unbooked room that met my criteria without needing to hunt through the directory. It was a good place to be in terms of Messaging.

Then I got a Mac with Office 2011 and the first release of the Mac version of Lync. My productivity for everything else went way up, but my productivity for anything Office-related went way, way down. What I painfully discovered was that the Mac version of Outlook, though it looked/felt better than Entourage (Office 2008), wasn't anywhere near parity with Outlook 2010. (Or 2007. Or, really, 2003.) It lacks so much that makes its Windows (distant) cousin look like a Cadillac next to its Fiat.

For instance:

  • There is no HTML editor for composing messages.
  • There is no table support when composing messages.
  • Tabs get translated to new lines when used to separate text when sending an email.
  • There is no way to see the details of a meeting in a shared resource's calendar. If I want to ask someone to move a meeting, I have to go find a PC and use Outlook there to see who owns a meeting.
  • Lync crashes 50% of the time that someone sends me an IM.
  • There is no Mac-native version of WebEx tools, so booking a WebEx-based meeting ALWAYS takes 3x the effort.
  • The default reminder time is applied to any meeting invites you receive with "no reminder" set, so my phone reminds me about people's vacations at 11:45pm the day before.
  • All of the apps are slower than nearly any other native Mac app, and far slower than the equivalent Windows-based Office app. They're even slower than Office running on a Virtual Machine (more on that later)
  • Lync Audio/Video is flaky. Most of the time my video calls work, but my audio-only calls work about 50% of the time.
  • In Outlook 2010, I had this great trick to ensure I never sent an angry email: I set a client-side rule to hold all non-urgent outbound email for 1 minute. Outlook 2011 does not support rules on outgoing messages.

None of these are horrible, but they're all pesky. Each was capable of triggering a regular groan upon occurrence.

A couple of months ago I tried to move to Outlook 2010 running in Parallels, but kept stepping on my own fingers, so to speak, by not remembering the difference between Ctrl and Option/Alt and Command/Win when in each OS' apps. I'd delete entire paragraphs of text in Outlook and not remember immediately that I could Ctrl-Y to get it back (it's been a while!). Back in Office 2011, though, I was dying the death of a thousand cuts, and something had to be done. I even tried Mac Mail + iCal only to have it completely destroy my Outlook calendar and contacts list. The state of affairs is very poor for Exchange-hosted services with Mac clients.

After a particularly bad day with Mac Office, I decided to give the Parallels option a full day's try to see if I really could have my cake and eat it too. I haven't looked back. It's not perfect, of course, but it's ~90% of what I had before. Here are the hangups I've found so far:

  • The Command key is the Windows key, so remember which OS' app you're in. Ctrl-Y is your best friend when you accidentally Win-Bksp when you meant to Ctrl-Bksp.
  • The Mac "Delete" key is Backspace in Windows (and you want it to be most of the time) so on my MacBook Pro keyboard you have to use Ctrl-D to delete. This only bugs me when I'm not standing at my desk where I have a full-size keyboard with a non-backspacing delete key.
  • Growl For Windows doesn't seem to like publishing its messages to its own IP address so that the native Growl can intercept them. So, no Growl for Outlook. This just means I look at my email a smidge less frequently. I can live with that.
  • The only thing that Outlook 2011 had that Outlook 2010 doesn't have which I used frequently was a shortcut key to move a message (Cmd-Shift-M). Supposedly, I can use SimplyFile, but that's pricey. I have a SpeedFiler license, but the developer has gone AWOL and it only kinda sorta worked with Outlook 2010. I'm using the Quick Steps functionality and that covers me most of the time.
  • The default Parallels audio driver horribly distorts Lync's audio (and Skype, supposedly). If you follow these instructions to replace it with one from Windows Update, and crank up the gain in Windows, it's just fine.
  • I didn't want my VM to share Documents folders with my Mac, so saving/attaching files takes a few extra clicks. Not a big deal.
  • By default, the host OS "mailto" protocol is handled by the host OS. You can change that in the VM's configuration, which is fantastic.

All in all, this is a good place to me. I'll add more quirky notes as I find them.

Image courtesy of cybaBABE on DeviantArt