While I’ve been busy working on my Mac all week, SharePoint Joel has posted two really good posts that pertain to SharePoint on a Mac; namely ActiveX. You can see his browser support post HERE and his latest post about ActiveX HERE.
Overall there are some subtle, and not so subtle differences when viewing SharePoint on a Mac. From a user perspective the experience is the same, for the most part.
Let’s start with the optimal configuration:
- Office for Mac 2011
- Safari (with username and password stored in Keychain) – I outline how to accomplish this HERE
Quite often Admins will tell you that FireFox is the ideal browser on Macs, and while I tend to agree, you’ll get an authentication prompt upon your first open of the site, something most users find insanely annoying. Safari (at least in my environment) does not prompt you when you have successfully saved your password to the keychain. Of course, your mileage may vary.
Issues with known workarounds
- Rich Text Editor – user must upgrade column type to Enhanced Text in order to customize content; however, user may have ability to drop in html tags (have yet to test this).
- Open with Explorer, Upload Multiple Documents – Office for Mac comes shipped with “Document Connection.” This little add-in will accomodate Explorer views (to some degree) and multiple uploads. I was a huge fan of this all week.
- OneNote – There is no native support for OneNote on a Mac; however, you can edit OneNote’s in the Office Web App. Some may find this difficult to use long-term but I thought it was sufficient.
Known Limitations without workarounds
- Connect to Outlook, Connect to Office, and Sync to SharePoint Workspace– Outlook for Mac does not connect to SharePoint, at all; Office does not connect to SharePoint, with a few slight exceptions; SharePoint Workspace is not offered on Macs.
- Datasheet View – requires an ActiveX control, which Macs do not support.
- Drag and Drop Web Parts – Cannot be moved by using drag and drop on Web Part pages. Users must click Edit on the Web Part, select Modify Web Part, and then select the zone from the Layout section of the Web Part properties page. Web Parts can be moved using drag and drop on Pages.
- Explorer View – not available on Macs.
- File upload and copy, New Document, Slide Libraries – requires ActiveX control.
- Editing PowerPivots – now while this may not be a SharePoint thing per se, it’s incredibly frustrating that I can’t edit PowerPivot workbooks. I can’t even edit it in the Office Web App. Throw me a bone here Microsoft. This one bullet point will be a non-issue for a good majority of you out there.
Overall the experience was pretty good. I now have a better understanding of the challenges Mac users have to deal with when viewing SharePoint. Microsoft has tried to make accommodations for Mac users. I have a great appreciation for Document Connection, and personally I think it’s better than SharePoint Workspace since it’s so scaled down.
Ultimately, I found the amount of ActiveX in SharePoint to be overwhelming. I have almost a decade of SharePoint experience. I know the workarounds and the tips and tricks to get the job done. The average user, not so much. For me, I found little things like the lack of Windows Explorer, PowerPivot support, and no support for dragging and dropping web parts to be mildly annoying. I’d be interested to hear what the hard-core Mac user’s opinion is and see if they would find these items to be small nuisances or major roadblocks to full-on adoption. Annoyances/possible roadblocks aside, I still feel from a document and web content mgmt standpoint that there aren’t many tools that equal (or surpass) SharePoint’s power, but we have a long way to go before the Apple faithful jump-in head first. With the Mac users at Trek we’re going to start small and work our way out.
Next steps for me will to do an even more comprehensive write-up specific to Trek and put on a SharePoint for Mac Lunch ‘N Learn. Stay tuned.