Summit 7 Team Blogs

OneNote for Mac and Other Happy Dreams

A few weeks ago I was browsing Reddit and came across an AMA that piqued my interest. If you’re not familiar with a Reddit AMA... AMA stands for “Ask Me Anything.” It’s a way to market your product to the social networking-savvy pockets of the Interwebs. This particular AMA was from none other than the OneNote team at Microsoft.

This isn’t the first time a Microsoft team did an AMA on Reddit. However this one had my attention. I’ve had a strained relationship with OneNote for a long time. I really like OneNote and appreciate what they’re doing, but I’m not going to devote significant resources on my Mac to run a single application in a virtual machine. It’s not going to happen. Sure, I have a complete Office 2013 installation there but there’s no reason to stress my fans that much when I only have to worry about OneNote. I also use a lot of mobile devices and an OS-agnostic application is pretty important to me. That means I have to go with Evernote.

My favorite feature of OneNote is the per-item tagging. I really like that feature a lot and when I’m in meetings and taking a heavy amount of notes I use keyboard shortcuts to tag items on a regular basis. It really helps with my overall workflow after I leave the office. The OS-agnosticism is more important to me, though, so I suffer through the lack of that functionality in Evernote.

Lately the OneNote situation has been a little better. At Summit 7 we use a combination of OneNote notebooks on SkyDrive, local hard drives and O365. The OneNote team put out a recent update of the OneNote client for iOS. This client is supposed to work with O365 but I can’t seem to get it to function. I assume that will be fixed in version 2.0.1 or whatever. Recent developments of the web apps in O365 has made it easier to use OneNote Web App.

I think you get the picture though. I want to use OneNote but can’t. I have a number of items in OneNote that I occasionally use but most of my data is wrapped up in Evernote. This has made me wonder what the status of Office for Mac has been. We’re stuck in the Office 2011 era of the suite. It’s not a very good piece of software. Some of the applications are fine, but at least two of them need a significant amount of attention (I’m looking at you, PowerPoint and Outlook).

Anyway, along comes this Reddit AMA from the OneNote team. One of the most popular questions is of course... “Will you ever do a Mac version?”  I was happy to see that they responded and I was quite happy with it.

I know this is likely another 6-8 months off, but it got me thinking about the other pieces of Office for Mac 2011. Not only did I want to alert you to this unannounced product, I thought maybe we should have a frank discussion about the other components that need improvements. Thus I present to you...

my Office for Mac wishlist

1. OneNote for Mac. I think we all agree this needs to happen. It needs to support per-item tagging, search that is equivalent to the Windows version and task linking to Outlook or Apple’s Reminders program.

2. Project for Mac. There’s absolutely no reason whatsoever that this doesn’t exist. The alternatives are the significantly overpriced OmniPlan from Omnigroup or a few other knock-offs in the Mac App Store. Unfortunately, most of us need seamless interaction with Windows users on Project. A web app version of this would also be quite nice though. (See: smartsheet.com for how this is done well).

3. Visio for Mac. Again... no reason this doesn’t exist. The alternative for this program is Omnigraffle for Mac. That’s another Omnigroup product. I use it quite a bit and I like it, but saving in Visio formats make my Windows coworkers curse my Mac-ness.

4. Outlook for Mac. Oh man, where do we begin on this one? I understand that Mac users do not want a Windows program to work on the Mac. However, Microsoft has built so many proprietary extensions on top of calendaring and email in Exchange and Outlook that you almost have to use their client to interact with it. A lot of it has to do with the protocol layer in Exchange but that has been converging of late. Most clients are down to either Exchange Web Services or ActiveSync, unless you’re using the fat client in Windows... which is still RPC over HTTPS... er, I mean, Outlook Anywhere. Outlook for Mac needs a lot of work. It needs to support calendaring from CalDAV servers, which means it would work with iCloud. It needs to not abuse email standards. It needs proper Applescript support. It needs QuickSteps like the Windows folks. It needs better task management (for that matter, so does Windows Outlook). It needs to stop siloing data (ever tried to archive your email from Outlook for Mac? Yeah, it’s a proprietary format). Outlook for Mac also needs to get rid of that database thing. I’ve never understood the Outlook/Exchange teams’ infatuation with storing all data in single files. In Outlook for Mac 2011 they store it as individual files, but those files are still useless without the database that indexed them. Okay, this is long enough, maybe I should write an entire blog about Outlook for Mac. I have a lot of history on that one. Moving on.

5. Word for Mac. This one’s not bad, actually, but it suffers from strange usability quirks that irritate me. I much prefer the simple, clean approach from Pages. Nevertheless there’s not a lot to change here.

6. Excel for Mac. I don’t use Excel much, but I understand that people who do use it are frustrated. They have reasons to be frustrated. Sharing Excel spreadsheets with our Windows counterparts is challenging.

7. PowerPoint for Mac. Just cancel it and assist Apple in making Keynote work with .pptx files.

8. Get rid of the Document Connection piece. It’s useless and buggy. Just make a unified Skydrive/Skydrive Pro client and call it a day.
All in all, I’m looking forward to a great update from the Microsoft folks. I think they’re finally starting to understand that it’s in their best interest to be cloud enabled and OS-agnostic. The more work they do in this direction the better off the overall Office ecosystem will become.

Any guesses on when the new version of Office for Mac will drop? I’m thinking we’ll hear something about it in the first quarter of 2014 and maybe a release in the second quarter. I’d put money on that... maybe $5.00. :)