With the recent release of Office 2011 for the Mac, Outlook makes a welcome return, spearheading the way toward full feature parity between Outlook on Windows and Mac. Finally, will your Mac users will be able to do everything their Windows counterparts can? Is Outlook 2011 for Mac just an improvement on Entourage 2008 EWS edition, and will Mac users need something like VMware Fusion plus Outlook 2010 to gain all the features they need for full interoperability with Exchange?

And with OWA becoming truly cross-platform, does this provide enough features to by-pass the desktop install of Outlook completely on the Mac and provide email access to Mac users via the browser?

The answer to both those questions isn't a straightforward one and depends on what you actually need…

After a few weeks of usage, Outlook 2011 feels more like Entourage than than it does Outlook - it seems obvious what code it's based upon and it's certainly not inheriting anything from the Windows version. But as a mail client it feels more accomplished than older versions of Entourage did, and is easy to work with if you're used to Outlook on a Windows PC.

When it comes to OWA 2010 SP1 - There has been a lot of improvement over previous versions, but it seems that the OWA and Outlook teams don't work closely together, as UI inconsistencies are common both in the way features work and are named (e.g. Calendar sharing features). This is muddled further as OWA's Options / Exchange Control Panel is essential for Outlook 2010 operation, for example when configuring Unified Messaging features.

Getting down to the nitty gritty of the features however and it's a complex story. Outlook 2011 doesn't have feature parity with either Outlook 2010, OWA 2010 or even Outlook 2007. It's got a smattering of features from all three. OWA 2010 fairs a lot better when it comes to Exchange 2010 feature support (obviously), but misses out useful features like contacts importing that are present in competitor webmail applications like GMail.

To make comparisons a little easier, I've went through and checked/tested the features that are most important to me and compiled a short comparison table. It's definitely version 0.1, so if you think anything is missing or needs amendment, let me know in the comments.

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