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More on gluing stuff together in Entourage

The main reason I stick with Entourage for all my calendar, TODO list, and—to a certain extent—archival email needs, comes down to one word: glue.

As annoying as Entourage is in so many ways, I love that I can basically associate anything with anything via the “Link” functionality. This provides a handy little landing pad for any task, note, event, email, or contact onto which you can drop any other Entourage object as well as virtually any item from the Finder (for some reason it doesn’t easily handle URLs, which seems kind of dumb: use .weblocs as a workaround). Entourage then perpetually remembers that association in both the linking and linked items. Got it? Group like with like, and then get to anything from anything (Steal this idea, Apple; use Spotlight).

So, I can associate an email message with a TODO, attach a text file to a calendar event (see my article in June’s MacWorld), and even, apparently, attach Applications and folder paths to any Entourage object. Why is this last one so freaking handy? Lemme show you.

I love recurring tasks and use them all the time for repeating TODOs that I want to just forget about until they’re due again. One such task—ironically enough—is my monthly backup of Entourage’s glass-jawed database.

Now this isn’t terribly complicated, but here’s the steps I need in order to do this each month:

  1. Get a reminder about the need to backup
  2. Open the folder in which my Entourage identities (and databases) live
  3. Open up the Database Utility to run the "Compact Database" command needed to generate the backup
  4. Open the folder on my external drive where I keep my monthly backups
  5. Copy the backup to the external drive’s folder

The beauty part is that I can embed links to the Database Utility app and both folder paths right in the reminder. When I get pinged each month, I can just open the calendar event, select all my stuff in the Links section, and click “Open.” Boom: the utility launches and the two folders open right on my desktop. No hunting, no searching, and no janky alias maintenance.

Entourage to Finder Links

Think about applying this same process of linking in similar scenarios:

  • Keep all the running notes and Excel spreadsheets for a standing weekly meeting in one repeating calendar event (I’m looking at you, B-May)
  • Create a “job jacket” that contains the folders for all your design assets linked inside one event (like, maybe, the deadline)
  • Prepare for a retreat or other off-site meeting by keeping all the relevant folders, contacts, notes, URLs, and related events in one calendar item

Now if you’re already a long-suffering Entourage user, your eyes should be lighting up right about now, because this trick emulates several of the best features of the Project Center without the functional death march. No need to walk through the stupid wizard and tell it all the things you don’t need: just spark up a new task or calendar event, pop open the Links area, and start throwing your stuff at it. Super easy.

Now, I know nobody ever wants to admit to their dark existence on the Entourage downlow, but I must ask: Anybody else doing cool tricks with linking? Got a neat way you keep your stuff tidy in Entourage? Share.

Merlin's picture

Merlin, have you lost any...

Merlin, have you lost any data with the latest Entourage?

I’m happy to say I have not.

I do recall having had a number of unsavory experiences in a previous version, but not with this one. I do still backup neurotically. The reports I get from people—some anecdotal and probably just the same stuff you hear—has historically come down to three issues:

  1. Database gets HUGE pretty fast under certain circumstances (I have friends claiming theirs tops 2GB)
  2. Database crashes or gets corrupted easier than people would like, resulting in data loss
  3. The proprietary format makes people crazy (this very much includes me). “Why I can’t I touch my stuff? Why does ‘exporting’ mean ‘archiving? I just want to see my mail!…!”

These may seem inaccurate today, but I did learn my lesson a couple times on previous versions. If you have information you'd like to share, or suggestions for beating corruption problems, do it. Since I guess I’m resigned to this thread veering wildly off-topic, feel free to respond here or via email.

(And tell Mr. Ruff to bring me down there some day; I have a list of feature ideas longer than your arm. :-) )




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