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Microsoft unveils email plans for new Mac Office

The new Mac version of the office suite will include "Entourage," an email and personal information client similar to Outlook.

    Microsoft has christened new email software for the next version of its Macintosh Office 2001 software suite with the name "Entourage."

    In April, Microsoft inadvertently leaked information about Entourage, then code-named Alpaca, through a posting on the Mactopia Web site.

    Office 2001 for the Mac is slated for release later this year.

    The largest single new addition in Office for the Macintosh, Entourage offers some of the features of Outlook 2000 without some of the baggage associated with the Windows software. Like Outlook, Entourage offers an address book, calendar and task manager that is integrated with an email program.

    Entourage is not dependent on Exchange Server for full use of its features, different from Outlook. With the personal information manager (PIM), Microsoft hopes to fill a void that has put Mac users at a productivity disadvantage compared with their Windows counterparts, Office 2001 lead project manager Glenn Meyers said.

    Until now, Microsoft's only PIM was a Mac version of Outlook that required Exchange Server 5.5, although Outlook Express 5.02 offers an address book. Given that only about 10 percent of Mac owners rely on Exchange, Microsoft wanted to offer improved scheduling and contact features with Outlook Express 5.02.

    The Redmond, Wash.-based software maker will continue to offer Outlook 8.2.1 and Outlook Express 5.02, but it expects many Office users will favor Entourage.

    The program allows a message to be edited in Word, can track the last 150 messages, and can link to other data, such as contacts, email, tasks and documents. The new address book features color-coded categories and access to contacts from any Office application.

    Aside from Entourage, other Office 2001 features include Project Gallery, a tool that can build documents for specific tasks and convert PowerPoint slide shows to Apple QuickTime format.

    With the release of its second beta version this week, Office 2001 is on track for release in the second half of the year.