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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.

sps's picture

This is definitely not an...

This is definitely not an Entourage-bashing comment - more a comment/question. The biggest thing that moved me out of Entourage and keeps me from going back, despite knowing and wanting the linking possibilities, is as far as I can tell Entourage is not worth it's weight in stock paper for searching. In Mail.app I can global search for anything at all. I can also use spotlight to search for emails and such related to each other. In Entourage, I have to go through EVERY SINGLE folder to find one email...this to me is a SERIOUS drawback because it adds a lot of time onto such a simple task.

On the 43folders group I posted a thread about bringing Mail, iCal, Add.Bk., and Stickies all together using MessageLaser, Spotlight comments (via an automator contextual plugin that I found) and smart folders. This is more useful in the search arena of things.

Of course, this is all very unsticky glue. There's no way to drag and drop a Mail message into iCal, or a thousand other more GUI friendly and more efficient ways to connect all of those programs...they're a mess as far as I'm concerned, and Spotlight is really only the tip of the iceberg in bringing them together.

This is why I think Entourage has a leg up...if only it would open that database, or at the very least, make the program allow global searches.

There are two scripts - EntourageSynciCal and EntourageSyncAddressBook (I think that's the name) - that would be of service, plus allow mail to download and filter into Mail and Entourage. This would be a backup and a search help...but I'm thinking it's way too much effort and too many programs involved to really be of any practical use.

I like the previous poster's idea - my post is similar - but I'm not a programmer or a UNIX guy or whatever. I'm the person who follows those people, tries to make sense out of it and then tells everyone I know about cool things you can do. But it would take some time to totally understand what jrk is talking about.

Do you have any suggestions Merlin? I'm only beginning my foray into GTD, from a state of total disarray and information overload (i.e., no real organization system), and I haven't used Entourage in months. I'm interested in moving back to it, but I'm just wary of a few things.




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