Cross-Platform Wish List: 5 Windows Applications Microsoft Should Port (or Port Better) for Macs

Microsoft has made great strides over the years in bringing its software to the Apple platform, but there are a few applications that still need to make the move -- or need some work before they can really hum on a Mac.

Over the years, Microsoft has come up with a slew of applications that work extremely well on the PC but have no port for the Mac. This is unfortunate for those of us who use both platforms -- we're left in the cold because we get used to one program on the PC and there's nothing for the Mac that even comes close.

So my goal for this article is to look at some of the pieces of Microsoft software that I would love to see on a Mac. I'll start with the one I use the most, which is Microsoft OneNote.

Microsoft OneNote
In my opinion, this is single-handedly the best application in the Microsoft Office suite. It provides constant note-taking and zero need to save. PC users who have dabbled with OneNote understand that it's like an electronic version of a five-subject notebook, the type we carried in high school. It saves automatically, so there's no reason to worry about losing your work. OneNote not only takes good typed notes, it also handles audio and video notes as needed. Sure, there's something of an equivalent to OneNote in the notebook view in Word for the Mac, which has been around since Office 2008, but it's not the same. For instance, it still requires the user to save his or her work. Notebook view in Word looks like a notebook, but that's as close as it gets. OneNote does a much better job of replicating the true notebook experience.

I've also tried third-party applications like MobileNoter for iPad, and while that application does allow a user to sync notes between OneNote and an iPad, it doesn't provide the native OneNote experience I had hoped for. The same can be said for the iPhone version of OneNote. On the iPhone or iPod Touch, OneNote works very well. But the version for iPad just leaves me wondering when a native OneNote app for iPad will hit the app store. Given the Bing team at Microsoft got its application into the app store for both the iPhone and the iPad (and both are superb on those platforms), I wonder why other teams within Microsoft with applications that could serve users on alternate OSes haven't started trying to do the same thing. Yes, Office team and Mac business unit, I'm looking at you. I'm hopeful that someone will see this and decide to get OneNote on the Mac and the iPad. It never hurts to hope, right?

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OneNote, the best application in Office, should be available for the Mac and the iPad.

SharePoint Workspace 2010
I realize that SharePoint Workspace 2010 is sort of like a P2P Dropbox; however, for enterprise environments or even for freelancers dealing directly with a client company, exchanging documents in a more closed environment in addition to or instead of using e-mail could be very useful. This way, the parties on both ends have a collaboration environment that works for specific projects. Another way that I've used Workspace in the past is as an alternative to Dropbox. When I need to get a file from my work desktop to my laptop, or to my Mac, or to some other environment, I just chuck the document in Workspace. When I connect to the Internet, there's my file.

When Microsoft released SharePoint Workspace 2010, I didn't really understand how the software worked. I wasn't a big fan of Groove because it didn't make sense to me, but then I start playing around with Workspace. It turned out that being able to trade files on different devices was a really good idea. There's no cloud involved, where you have to put documents out somewhere and hope for the best. Workspace just involves my computers being connected to the Internet.

Once I discovered sync services such as Dropbox and Live Mesh, I was on board on the Mac almost immediately -- but I had some worries about security. I didn't like the idea of trusting private or privileged information to a third party that had no interest in the items I stored. SharePoint Workspace 2010 could definitely be an option for the Mac in this case, if it worked with both the PC and the Mac (and maybe the iPad).

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SharePoint Workspace 2010 would enhance document sharing on the Mac.

As an aside, I moved a good portion of my working files into SharePoint Workspace 2010 while working on this article. I'm hoping that by offloading some of these files, none of which I can send to my Mac yet, I'll reduce the need to purchase more space on Dropbox -- for at least a little while.

Remote Desktop
I know there's a Microsoft-supplied RDP client for the Mac, but it really isn't up to the standard I've come to expect from Microsoft. It seems that every time I need to connect into another system and I'm using a Mac, the session almost always freezes past the point of force quit and requires a restart. Yes, I did say that I've needed to reboot my MacBook -- and it's happened on several occasions. This is one area where I think the functionality needs to be merely improved rather than completely reintroduced.

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Microsoft RDP Client for the Mac isn't up to snuff; full Remote Desktop would be a better option.

Here, too, there are third-party utilities that work better (albeit somewhat differently) than the Microsoft-provided or standard-issue applications. Remote Desktop or Terminal Services is comfortable for most remote work on Windows. I had hoped the RDP experience on the MacBook would've been on par with the same experience in Windows. Maybe the product needs a new revision or bugs worked out or something, but for now, I'll continue to use third-party utilities or just get the PC out.

Microsoft Outlook
The Outlook experience between the PC and the Mac is quite different. I'm the first to say that PC and Mac should be different experiences in general, but for an established application such as Outlook, shouldn't the experience be identical regardless of platform? I must admit that when I loaded Office 2011 on my MacBook, the Outlook experience there felt somewhat askew. Maybe the differences between Entourage and Outlook 2011 were small enough that most users were OK with Outlook on the Mac, but I found it to be less than intuitive when coming over from the PC.

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Outlook 2010 works well on a PC but is hard to use on a Mac.

Outlook 2010 on the PC works wonderfully, but using it on the Mac is not so easy. Not to mention that it only works with Exchange 2007 and later. The idea of unification across the OSes is a sound one, but the experience should be the same. I'm not saying this to encourage anyone to abandon the PC for a Mac, as most business environments won't support such a move, anyway. I'm merely trying to present an identical experience within one title for both Mac and PC users. Because I'm still a PC user, and Outlook for PC has been around for a few years more than Outlook for Mac, it wins. It should be the default. In my experience with Outlook 2011 for the Mac, there are a few things that are just off. Tasks, for instance, are not handled the same way; neither are flagged e-mails. The configuration would be much better and easier to use if everything transferred from one OS to the other.

One More App for Fun
Being a PC holdover, there's one other application I'd like to see on the Mac. No, it's not Microsoft Bob, but it has a similar reputation. It's actually the Zune application. You know, for that "other" (recently discontinued) MP3 player, or for Windows Phone 7 management. I'm sure the folks at Apple might have issues with the dying Zune coming to the Mac, and even a lot of PC people are iPod people. So, it's highly unlikely that the Zune app will show up on a Mac anytime soon. However, the Zune is actually pretty amazing when you look at cost. I'm fairly sure the odds that anything but the phone-management piece of the software would end up on the Mac are very remote, but a non-iPod user can hope, right? I guess the thing I like most about the Zune is the fact that I can fill it up for a monthly pass rather than pay a dollar per song. Call me nuts, but Digital Rights Management is cheaper than buying everything at a buck apiece.

I'm sure there are other Microsoft applications that should make their way to the Mac, and some that have, but still need work. Which applications would you like to see added to the Mac Business Unit "List of Things to Play With"? What areas aren't quite finished? I wonder what Microsoft is actually working on for both the Mac and the iPad. I know I'll be watching to see what comes next.

About the Author

Derek Schauland has worked in technology for 15 years in everything from a help desk role to Windows systems administration. He has also worked as a freelance writer for the past 10 years. He can be reached at [email protected].


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