Accessing Exchange 2007 from your Apple Macintosh (Part 2)

by Nathan Winters [Published on 16 Oct. 2007 / Last Updated on 16 Oct. 2007]

A look at the various methods of accessing Exchange 2007 from Apple Mac OS X; Configuration and Pros/Cons.

If you missed the first part in this article series please read Accessing Exchange 2007 from your Apple Macintosh (Part 1).

In the concluding part of this two part article I will show how to configure Entourage 2004 for Exchange access and will then conclude with a discussion of some of the pros and cons of each solution. I will assess each client based on the following criteria
  • Basic Email Functionality
  • Email message flagging
  • Folder access other than inbox
  • Public Folder access
  • Calendaring – inc. Free/Busy
  • Set Out of Office Message
  • Personal mailbox contacts access
  • GAL Search
  • Offline Access
  • PST Import/Export
  • Junk Mail Filtering
  • SSL Security

Configuring the Clients (continued)

In part one of this article, I showed the configuration required to set up Mac Mail for Exchange access and also briefly mentioned a couple of possible setup changes needed for OWA access from the Apple Safari browser. In this section, I will continue by describing the steps needed to set up Entourage 2004.

Before opening Entourage there is an important setting to change on your Client Access Server (CAS). As you may know, Entourage uses WebDAV to access Exchange in the same way that Outlook Web Access 2003 worked. This means that it accesses the /Exchange and /Public virtual directories. By default WebDAV is not enabled on an Exchange 2007 CAS machine so this must be changed to allow Entourage to work. To change the setting, open Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager, select "Web Services Extensions" and highlight the WebDAV option as shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1:
The IIS Manager WebDAV extension

Click "Allow" to enable WebDAV and ensure that the status now shows "Allowed" as in Figure 2. Having made this configuration change you can run Entourage.


Figure 2:
The IIS Manager after enabling WebDAV

When you run Entourage for the first time, the "Entourage Setup Assistant" will start and can guide you through importing mail from other clients and then setting up accounts. The first page is shown in Figure 3.


Figure 3: 
The import options in the Entourage Setup Assistant

In my case I cancelled the assistant because before starting to set up accounts it is important to have all the latest updates for Entourage 2004. To do this, go to the "Help" menu and select "Check for Updates". Once I had all the latest updates, at time of writing 11.3.7, I progressed to setting up an account.

Select the "Entourage" menu and click Account Settings. On the "Accounts" window which opens as shown in Figure 4, click the drop down next to New and select Exchange.


Figure 4: 
The Accounts Page

This will bring up the window shown in Figure 5, which is the start of the account creation wizard.


Figure 5: 
The first page of the Account Setup Assistant

The first thing to note when using Entourage with Exchange 2007 is that the auto-configure function doesn't work, so to progress, click "Configure account manually". On the page that opens enter the details as demonstrated in Figure 6.


Figure 6: 
The main account settings page

The most important thing to note is the format in which to enter the Exchange server details. As mentioned, Entourage uses WebDAV to access Exchange as was the case with OWA 2003. Therefore the path set will need to include the legacy OWA virtual directory /exchange. It is finished off with the user's email address.

Having completed these steps move to the "Advanced" tab at setup as shown in Figure 7. Obviously replace specific values with your own server names. Note that I have made sure to enable SSL for the public folder access. In the LDAP section I have configured Entourage to point to one of my Global Catalog servers and set it to log-on. To finish, click "OK". At this point I suggest exiting and re-opening Entourage to ensure the new settings are acted upon.


Figure 7: 
The advanced account settings page showing public folders and LDAP settings

On restarting Entourage you are prompted to enter the user details, in particular the password as shown in Figure 8. Having done that, click "OK" and wait for Entourage to synchronize with Exchange.


Figure 8: 
Entering username/password details

Having completed the configuration above Entourage should be fully functional and as demonstrated in Figures 9, 10 and 11, you will have access to features such as GAL lookups, Public Folder access, Message flagging and calendaring.


Figure 9: 
Entourage Public folder UI and a view of additional folders under the Inbox


Figure 10: 
Message flagging and a view of meeting acceptance


Figure 11: 
Address book lookup

Before I move on to discuss the pros and cons of each client you may realise that I haven’t covered configuration of Outlook Web Access other than a brief mention in Part 1 about root certificate setup. The reason for that is that there is no additional configuration required other than the normal OWA setup which is done for all clients and which has been covered extensively elsewhere. I will however, present Figures 12, 13 and 14 to give an idea of the interface.


Figure 12: 
The log-on page showing that the only option is Outlook Web Access Light


Figure 13:
The OWA Light interface


Figure 14: 
OWA Address book lookup

The Clients - Pros and Cons

To begin this section I will present Table 1 showing the results of testing the different client features.

Mac Mail 2.1.1

Entourage 2004 SP2

Outlook Web Access in Safari Browser

Basic Email Functionality

Yes

Yes

Yes

Email message flagging

Partial

Yes

Yes

Folder access other than inbox

Partial

Yes

Yes

Public Folder access

Yes

Yes

No (until SP1)

Calendaring – inc. Free/Busy

No

Yes

Yes

Set Out of Office Message

No

No

Yes

Personal mailbox contacts access

No

Yes

Yes

GAL Search

Yes

Yes

Yes

Offline Access

Yes

Yes

No

PST Import/Export

3rd Party

Partial & 3rd Party

No

Junk Mail Filtering

Yes

Yes

Yes

SSL Security

Yes

Yes

Yes

Table 1: The features available in different clients

Mac Mail

I found Mac Mail to be a relatively simple client that contained reasonable functionality but not much more! Sending and receiving mail was simple and worked well and drafts are stored on the server. Access to subfolders was possible to some extent as discussed in Part 1. However, in doing so, you lost access to Exchange filtered junk mail. Another quirk was the ability to flag mail messages for follow up. Although this was possible, flagging seems independent between Mac Mail and Exchange. For example, flagging on another client other than Mac Mail (OWA) seems to make mail disappear on Mac Mail and then it comes back after you switch Mac Mail offline to online.

Mac Mail does allow Directory access although it seems slightly limited in the main client by being only available in the auto-complete address area. In the separate address book application it was possible to search.

Calendaring did not work in that meeting requests did not present any active content which could be placed in a calendar. Equally it didn’t appear to be possible to perform free-busy lookups or to send meeting requests.

PST export is not possible whilst neither is PST import except by using a third party piece of software.

Outlook Web Access

In general, I found the OWA client to be very capable, although compared to the full OWA client it is perhaps not as intuitive to use. All mail folders were easily accessible as was the address book. It was also possible to use the new Exchange search features.

The full range of Exchange calendaring features are available. In particular, OWA is the only method currently available to set your out of office message until the release of Entourage 2008.

The main limitations of the OWA client are clear in that as a web access method there is no offline access and equally no method for PST file import or export.

One other thing that is missing from OWA as we currently stand is public folder access. This will be added when Exchange 2007 SP1 releases.

Entourage 2004

My previous experiences of Entourage gave me a slightly negative opinion of the client, however, after carrying out this testing I have completely changed my view. Entourage 2004 SP2 with all the patches is a great client for Exchange access. All the mail functions work well including Public Folder and Inbox sub-folder access. One quirk I did find was that a restart after adding new public folders was often necessary so they showed up. Message flagging is available as is GAL search and offline access.

The calendaring features of Entourage are excellent with Free/Busy searches available and meeting acceptance possible. Also available is delegate access and access to other people's folders.

Entourage does best for PST import with an MS tool being available to move from Outlook 2001 for Mac to Entourage. However, to import Windows PST files a third party tool is still required.

Conclusion

I will leave it up to you to decide which client you like best! In my opinion, the Entourage 2004 client gives most flexibility and ease of use, although there are still a few features like Out of Office message configuration waiting to come in Entourage 2008. On the other hand if all you want is a simple/free mail client to access Exchange, Mac Mail is perfectly usable.

Summary

I hope this has given a good overview of what methods are possible and what some of the benefits are of each type of access. One thing to look out for in the near future will be the release of Office 2008 for Mac which will hopefully bring an even better user experience for Exchange access on the Mac.

If you missed the first part in this article series please read Accessing Exchange 2007 from your Apple Macintosh (Part 1).

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