September 7, 2007 8:33 AM PDT

Microsoft boosts Office for Mac's business features

Microsoft's next release of Office for Mac, due in January, will include business features that PC users have taken for granted for years.

That will include the ability to set up out-of-office messages, according to a preview in Microsoft's Office for Mac team blog.

"With Entourage 2008, you now have the ability to configure your out-of-office settings," said Andy Ruff, program manager for Entourage, the counterpart of Outlook in the Macintosh version of Microsoft Office.

At present, Mac users can only use the out-of-office (OOF) feature by launching a Web browser and using Outlook Web Access. "Then, after every flight, and an in-box full of new messages demanding attention, you must remember to log back into Outlook Web Access and turn the autoreply off," Ruff said. "Personally, I forget to do this a lot, only realizing my OOF message is still on a week later, after a co-worker replies with, 'are you still on vacation?'"

OOF is one of several groupware features that have been missing from Entourage, the only component of Office for the Mac that does not take the name of its Windows sibling. Microsoft is using the 2008 release to bring it more into line, using the Web services interface to Exchange 2007.

When OOF arrives, Mac users will be able to set up specific out-of-office messages and decide who they will be sent to, as well as deciding the start and end of any absence, just as their Windows-based colleagues can.

Other planned improvements include better integration of the Mac version of Microsoft Messenger, according to an earlier blog post by Craig Eisler, general manager of the Macintosh Business Unit.

Eisler will be giving updates, designed to help business users prepare for the new version, every two weeks on the blog, from September 18 until the product is finalized in December. Other improvements will include changes in the Entourage calendar and database, new options for installing Office 2008, new security features and integration with Microsoft SharePoint.

Office 2008 for Mac has been dogged by delays, taking its release date back from late 2007 to January 2008.

Peter Judge of ZDNet UK reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
Entourage, Microsoft Outlook Web Access, Microsoft Office, Apple Macintosh, blog


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OOF: the spammer's friend
Out of Office replies are a great way to get more spam.

Spammers often fire randomly generated addresses at a server. When you send an OOF reply to one of these you verify to the spammer that he correctly guessed your email address.

The end result is he will be sending you more spam in the future, and he will sell your verified address to other spammers.

This is a "feature" that I always recommend my users avoid.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So what do you recommend your users do?
Leave their coworkers and business associates in the dark, or create a ton more work having to login to their email and send their own OOM messages or follow-up?

IMHO this is a great "feature" that I have used a lot when I travel. Any email program worth its weight will do a good job trapping spam so why in the world would I want to inconvenience myself?

I generally don't worry about it because Outlook 07 does a decent job with spam (and it's my work account so I don't care so much), but as the article notes you can setup rules as to who receives your OOM message if you're really worried about it, and it's really quite easy.
Posted by ncalishome (193 comments )
Link Flag
OOF is such a small part of the big glaring holes Microsoft
programmed into Entourage. What I want to know is if Entourage
will be able to use resources. That way I can reserve a meeting
room from Entourage for a change, or open a shared calendar,
contacts, etc...
As for OOF, me personally I could care less about this feature
because, even though it's a hassle to set it up from OWA, I can still
set it up. But you can't reserve a resource from neither Entourage
or OWA.
Posted by axsimulate (26 comments )
Reply Link Flag
resource reservations
If it is set up properly a resource is just another contact you would invite to a meeting. If you can invite a person, you can invite a projector.
Posted by tgrenier (256 comments )
Link Flag
What about Access?
I never understood why a Mac version of Access wasn't included in
"OOF." Microsoft Messenger for Mac is quite crippled compared to
its Windows sibling. I mean, no video or voice conferencing?
C'mon! I must say though, I don't miss the annoying ad bar at the
bottom of the friends list found in the Windows version.
Posted by gsmiller88 (624 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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