Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Entourage 2008 - Not Ready For Prime Time

Day three of MacBook Air ownership, day 0.01 of actually being able to use it. The effort to transfer is enormous - not just the email copying I wrote of in my last post.

First job is the "inevitable download" - bazillions of megabytes of patches and enhancements, not least Leopard 10.5.2. Second was software installation - Mac Office 2008, MarsEdit (to write this blog). Third was data file copying (all of my document folders). Fourth was "asset stripping" - getting rid of the things that just aren't needed (Garageband, iMovie etc. Haven't quite decided about iTunes so far - I might need it to sync my iPhone). Fifth and final was the great email conversion. Right there is a good 12 hours of effort.

But it was that last task that was a complete and utter bust, it turns out.

It had worked fine for all of about 60 minutes of use. Not even enough time to run down the battery (about 2 1/2 hours I think - forget all this 5 hour stuff).

I then got the Apple blue screen of death - a polite message in half a dozen languages saying that I'd need to press the power button to reboot. No problem I thought, I can do that. One crash in less than a day. Maybe I just had too much going on.

After the reboot, I tried to open Entourage. No can do said the unhappy programme. The database is kaboom. Or some technical equivalent. No problem it said, just rebuild it using this handy utility. 60 minutes later, the handy utility failed at step 4 of 5 of the rebuild. Reboot again. Rebuild again. Same failure, same place. Check the web. Dozens of instances of the same problem.

I imagine - and this is only me clutching at vague straws - that this is all to do with the size of my email inbox. I have 11,000 emails in my inbox. I don't use folders. That's what search is for. Why would I want to sort everything so that I could never find it again when search (especially in Windows Office 2008) works so well? Outlook handled the mail fine, why should Mac be any different? Sloppy code I assume.

I've now downloaded Thunderbird on the Mac (given I had to export from Outlook to Thunderbird to get to Entourage) and imported my email into that. Took about 20 minutes - far faster than the import into Entourage - and so far, doesn't seem to have a problem with the mailbox size.

It's a real shame. I thought Entourage, at least in the short time I'd been able to use it, was pretty good. I liked the "My Day" window a lot. Simple but effective.

So now I'm teaching another email programme what spam is, typing in my email account details again, setting up the preview pane the way I like it and learning some foibles.

There's another problem since that crash and reboot. Opening any file in word or powerpoint or excel brings up an error telling me that the Office database is corrupt and that I need to rebuild it (tried that dummy, don't you know that?). It doesn't stop it working, it just tells me it's bust and invites me to press "ok". Can you imagine the conversation with a heart surgeon in this scenario? "I'm sorry sir, your heart is corrupt. You have 3 days to live. Press OK to continue". Never mind cancel or reboot or "I can sort it", just press ok to die in 3 days. I figured a quick reinstall of Mac Office would sort out the database corruption problem. No joy. Same error, same time, same place.

I killed everything I could find that had the Office label on it, using AppZapper and then reinstalled again from afresh. Still get the database error, still can't rebuild it. I have no idea where this database is, how to delete it or how to resolve the problem. I'd even be prepared to use Entourage from scratch with a fresh and empty database if I could figure out how to get it to start.

The solution, at least I think it's the solution, is to kill your "main identity". Very Minority Report. Or is it 1984? I deleted the file - 3.5gb of it and restarted Entourage. A nice, shiny, empty, entirely blank email programme greeted me. What I thought I'd do now is copy just a few of my emails over, say the last 3 months. If I'm lucky, that will work and I'll never see this problem again. Or at least not for a year or so.

Technology of the 21st Century? Microsoft have to be kidding. This is version 3 of Office for Mac I think. Normally it's right by now. It obviously takes longer than it used to.

There are some famous last words about to be eaten sometime soon I fear. Linux might even start to look attractive at this rate.

4 comments:

  1. Wow, you are having some bad luck. I have had strange problems with Entourage as well but my issue is trying to make it work like gmail. Like you I just archive everything and if I need it later, search. Gmail is better at this than anything I have used.

    As far as the other office:mac programs, they seem to work better that the Windows version.

    You might try the native mac apps like Mail, Address book and iCal. They are rock solid.

    Mail even connects to my Exchange server:)

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  2. Thanks for the ideas James. Try as I might I haven't managed to click with Apple's own Mail programme. Maybe it's a dozen years of outlook, but Mail just doesn't work for me. Gmail I really ought to spend time with; but my new masterplan is an exchange server that will sync to my iphone and keep all my mail in the cloud. i live in hope.

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  3. robin9:30 am

    Change is never easy, but going Mac-wards is worth it in the end (I recently switched after 15 years of building & supporting Windows machines for a living).

    I desperately wanted to like Mail.app but finally gave in and went with Entourage 2008. It's still functionally inferior to the Outlook 2007 I was used to but I just found Mail.app way too simple. I did think of running Outlook 2007 on the Mac under VMWare Fusion but that would have been overkill ;-)

    In the end I found that a change of attitude got me through. Rather than try and migrate 5 years worth of accumulated mail to the Mac, I decided to start afresh. I archived my Outlook mail so it's there in Outlook/Fusion, but I figured I didn't really NEED all that baggage. Took a while to make that decision but I'm glad I did, and Entourage 2008 has been mostly fine (I say mostly because we all know Microsoft always build a few irritations into their software) ;-)

    I looked at it a bit like those people you always encounter when there's office moves. You know, the ones that must have their cupboards, old manuals, cuddly toys and pen holders in the new desk - exactly as they were in the old desk. I decided to abandon that approach, so now so long as I've got a chair, desk, a power outlet and a network port - I'm happy!

    Enjoy the Mac!

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  4. You're right Robin. you've got to use a mac as a mac, not as a pc. so outlook under vmware/parallels is a non starter for me. i also tried apple mail but couldn't get on with it. the good news is entourage is working fine now, as long as my mail db doesn't get too large - i'm no fan of folders or archiving (that's what search is for, and search in entourage is strong).

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