Mail 4.0 clear winner over Entourage 13.0 with Exchange on Snow Leopard

OK, so now I'm straying into a topic that is getting quite far removed by information technology as applied to the practice of medicine by a glaucoma subspecialist. However, it is something that I have experienced this past week and about which there does not seem to be too much information written yet on other discussion forums. I have an Exchange Server (2007) service for my e-mail and recently upgrading my Mac OS to Snow Leopard (10.6) from Leopard. One of the main reasons for doing the upgrade was the fact that Snow Leopard promised full support for Exchange with the Mac's native Mail 4.0 rather than having to use a 3rd party app. Up until mid august 2009, that 3rd party app was Microsoft's Entourage. Now that I have been using both Mail and Entourage, it is worth writing about the experience in case this information proves to be helpful to others.

Prior to mid-august 2009, although this is hard to believe since it is a Microsoft product, Entourage 2008 did not have any native support for Microsoft Exchange - it was using the WebDAV protocol. This method tended to corrupt the email and calendar entries on a regular basis. Frequently messages would disappear from folders and calendar entries would either disappear or appear in duplicate or triplicate. Without fanfare, Microsoft released a new version of Entourage by way of a plug-in called the 'Web Service Edition' which upgrades Entourage to version 13.0 from 12.x. This upgrade is hidden in that running the Office for Mac update does not find the update; you need to go to Microsoft's Mactopia site. A possible reason for this is that this plug-in really completely updates Entourage and wipes out any existing email account you have already configured. Entourage finally offers native support for Exchange but is this too little too late?

Snow Leopard's Mail 4.0 setup for an Exchange works instantly. This is a far cry from Entourage's set up which seems to have a lot of trouble and configuring required to find the Exchange account (need the correct url for the exchange server and LDAP server and is very picky about this.) With Mail 4.0, you enter your username and password and it just works. For setting up with ease, Mail 4.0 is the clear winner, even over the new Web Service Edition of Entourage.

Entourage integrates mail, calendar, and address book functions in one application whereas Mail, iCal and Address Book are all separate apps connected to Exchange. Despite three separate apps, they all easily interact, allowing you to just drop a contact onto an appointment in iCal to invite them to an appointment. It is actually to Mail's advantage that you can open separate Mail, iCal and address book windows instead of having to toggle between windows in Entourage. This allows the drag and drop functions that are absent in Entourage.

Despite Microsoft's last minute attempt to update Entourage with its Web Service Edition, Microsoft, with version 13.0 of Entourage can't do as good a job with connecting to their own Exchange mail server as Apple has done with their first attempt. Also, Mail is free as part of Snow Leopard whereas Entourage has to be purchased as part of their Office 2008. In late 2010 or early 2011, Microsoft is expected to ditch Entourage altogether in favour of a Mac version of the corporate standard Outlook. However, Apple has made a huge leap ahead of Microsoft with their current native support of Exchange and it is hard to imagine that Microsoft can catch up.

This is a very positive move for Apple to show that the Mac does belong as part of the corporate world in which Exchange is the standard. With native support for Exchange on both the iPhone and Snow Leopard, there is no reason for the business world to not embrace the Mac OS now when it comes to mail, calendar and contact management.