Mac Office SP2 Boosts Mac OS X Integration with Exchange Server

Office 2004 for Mac Service Pack 2 not only provides bug fixes for Office apps, but adds major enterprise-integration improvements to Entourage.

Microsoft Corp. has released Office 2004 for Mac Service Pack 2, a free update that focuses on improving Entourage as a collaboration client for Exchange Server 2000 and later.

Service Pack 2 provides minor fixes for the other Office applications but adds major enterprise-integration improvements to Entourage. These include improved support for Global Address Lists, full permission delegation, enhanced public folders and improved performance as an Exchange Server client.

"Service Pack 2 will solve the majority of [Entourage] issues that customers have been asking for," said a Microsoft spokesperson.

Service Pack 2 now allows Entourage 2004 users to search and browse the global address lists on Exchange Server to access the entire directory structure. In previous versions, users needed to know another users full name to find an e-mail address on the server-based directory.

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Entourage 2004 SP2 enables users to delegate calendar permissions to someone else, a useful feature for administrators. This allows administrators to set up user accounts entirely through Entourage without the use of Outlook for Windows.

Collaboration with public folders is expanded with the ability to browse and share e-mail, contacts and calendars, and to share files using the public folder. Enhanced communication with Exchange Server makes public folders a more viable option for Mac users. Public folders that took an hour to mount can now mount in 45 seconds, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

Before SP2, Entourage lagged behind the Windows Outlook client in terms of abilities, and did not have the collaboration features of Outlook 2001 for Mac OS 9. This caused some enterprise sites to continue using Outlook 2001 in Mac OS Xs Classic environment rather than rolling out Entourage.

A Microsoft spokesperson said that this disparity between Entourage and the Mac OS 9 Outlook client was due to the fact that the Macintosh Business Unit (Mac BU) first designed Entourage as a consumer application. Microsofts Exchange group, not Mac BU, designed Outlook 2001 as Microsofts enterprise client. Since the Exchange group stopped developing Outlook from Mac, Mac BU has gradually been improving Entourages enterprise capabilities. According to Microsoft, Service Pack 2 goes a long way toward equity with Outlook for Windows.

Microsoft is recommending Service Pack 2 for users of all of the Office applications because it provides bug fixes and security updates.

Microsoft said it is committed to improving Entourage and the other Office applications in the enterprise, and to further development of Office for Mac, including Virtual PC. It will continue to incorporate Apple Computer Inc. technology in the Office applications.

Microsoft has previously announced that it will provide converters that will enable Office X and Office 2004 for Mac to read the XML-based file formats of the upcoming Office 12 for Windows. A future Office 12 for Mac will support the XML file formats natively.

Office for Intel-base Macs is also in the cards, though Microsoft isnt providing details.

"Were working closely with Apple on an Intel version," said a Microsoft spokesperson. "Right now were trying to get a feel for Mac on Intel."

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