Freedom From Outlook in Corporate Lockdown [Redacted]

31 July, 2013 04:51PM · 4 minute read

In my quest to back away ever so gently from Microsoft’s ecosystem of office applications that run on Windows XP [redacted] freedom from Microsofts way. As a Mac user it’s hard to handle Windows at work on my “trusty” DELL Latitude god-knows-what-number with keys that fall off regularly that takes 10 minutes to boot and 3/4s of the time doesn’t wake from sleep. It’s an abomination but it’s a company provided abomination so most normal people would just use it and grumble but [redacted]. [redacted] Macbook Air [redacted] using native Mac apps [redacted].


Active Directory

This is a big problem. Macs support Active Directory but unfortunately you need an Administrator account in order to add your machine (Host or Virtual Machine) to the AD Domain. [redacted]

[redacted] After that everything should be straight-forward enough except for two gotchas [redacted]: Network-pooled printers and hard-drive based proxy configuration files.

In large companies it’s quite common to share a group of identical printers located throughout the building/floor with a common printer driver that is linked to your employee number. Everyone prints to the one print queue and can walk to any printer and after entering their identification they can then print it. The problem is that both systems that I’ve used are Windows only. [redacted] printing would have to happen from your Windows PC or your Virtual Machine.

In Lion Apple changed the Network preferences such that a .pac file on the hard drive could no longer be directly selected/referred to. Instead it had to be placed on a server. Since this isn’t practical for most people, the workaround is use the loopback address of your PC - and put the proxy.pac file in the /Library/Internet Plug-Ins directory (correct for v10.8.3 &v10.8.4 of Mountain Lion [redacted] but reportedly this works back as far as Lion). Mind you, that’s only an issue if you’re using Safari. Both Chrome and Firefox should work fine with a HDD file location specification for the .pac file.


Microsoft Office is the predominant office software suite in the world and fortunately there is a Mac version. Despite the drawbacks with Macros, toolbars and stability [redacted] use Office for Mac 2011 which reads and writes everything [redacted]. It works for everything except Microsoft Access and Visio but if you want free office tools there’s always Libre or Open Office. Recently a Visio editor for the Mac appeared [redacted]. However in a corporate environment the office software is only one part of the problem.


The issue is that Microsoft introduced Exchange Web Services in Exchange 2007 and Apple decided to run with that, abandoning ActiveSync from Exchange 2003 since Snow Leopard. The problem is that despite running Office 2007 or 2010 as their front-end software, many companies are still using Exchange 2003 as their email server. This renders all current OSX Applications for Calendar (formerly iCal), Address Book and Mac Mail useless as it does Outlook 2011 for Mac as it also doesn’t support ActiveSync.

[redacted] Office for Mac 2008 and specifically Entourage.  [redacted] the corporate edition [redacted] has Communicator for Mac. Being careful to install Office for Mac 2008 first, fully update it, then install Office for Mac 2011 over the top and then update it, and away we go. It would be nice to see ALL of our appointments, Family iCloud Calendars, Personal iCloud Calendar and Work Exchange Calendar in one view. In order to synchronise our Calendars on the desktop Entourage supports syncing Mac Calendar with an entry entitled “Entourage” and this gives us one place to see all of our appointments.

[redacted] Tracking down the public folders [redacted] is also important as this carries free/busy information for scheduling meetings. [redacted] It is not straight-forward and it’s very far from a one click setup. There’s no iCloud integration with Entourage and there are several Outlook features like “Propose a new meeting time” and more that aren’t supported [redacted].

Corporate IT Needs to Grow Up

I hear anecdotal evidence suggesting that corporations are increasingly allowing employees to bring their own laptops to work or to choose between a corporate supplied Mac or PC when they start at the company. This sounds great but it if that’s true it certainly hasn’t filtered down to any of the companies that I have worked for here in Australia, or worked with either for that matter. Until then geeks like me that can’t stand being told what IT equipment or software to use [redacted]. Some IT policies threaten instant dismissal and even fines for breaking the rules as ridiculous at it sounds.

The problem is that the world is moving on and people are starting to realise [redacted] that our computers are the tools of our trade and we need to be given the best tool for our job. IT departments follow policy mindlessly and accept the shortcomings of the hand they are dealt but the truth is that IT work for us - not the other way around. They need to remember who their customers really are and start being more flexible [redacted].