Today Microsoft announced that it was releasing Service Pack 2 (SP2) for the Macintosh version of Microsoft Office. Apart from the usual bug fixes to all of the Office apps, the big news here is that SP2 makes some major– and welcome– changes to Entourage’s Exchange support.
There’s a long list of tasty new Exchange goodness in the SP2 release, including:
- A new model for calendaring and address books. Previous versions couldn’t support calendar or contact public folders; this release does. In order to enable that support, the dev team changed the way calendar data is stored and managed. Now you’ll have a calendar on your local machine, plus a calendar for each Exchange account, plus any calendar public folders you have. For most Exchange users, this will be a huge improvement. For the small number of users who’d defined multiple Exchange accounts in the same Entourage identity, you’ll notice that now Entourage doesn’t automatically sync events from every calendar to every other calendar.
- Much, much better sync performance with Exchange accounts. (They also fixed that annoying bug where the Progress window would pop up even when you’d previously closed it.) Public folder browse performance is greatly improved too.
- Support for setting permissions on Exchange items. That’s right– you can now grant permissions on any folders in your mailbox, just like you can in Outlook. You can also open other users’ shared folders, provided you have permission to do so.
- You can create private calendar and contact items.
- There’s much better support for delegation, including the ability to assign other users as delegates.
There are also some less obvious, but perhaps more welcome, changes. For example, Entourage now honors the Thread-Index and Thread-Topic headers that Outlook uses. That means that conversations with Outlook users will be properly threaded. Entourage also includes a new Conversation view type that properly threads mail messages– a feature that’s long overdue (though you could simulate it by creating your own custom view). You can also do a “get info” on any folder to see how much space it’s taking up on the Exchange server– something I use all the time, given the mailbox limits applied to some of my accounts.
SP2 is available for download from Microsoft’s Mac website; as far as I know, it will update either the RTM or SP1 versions of the Office suite, and you’ll need to install it separately on each machine unless you’re using a software distribution system. Microsoft has also promised to make it available through their automatic update mechanism for Mac Office, but it doesn’t seem to have shown up there yet.
Update: John Welch has tons of screen shots in his article on SP2.