Entourage, The Drama

Entourage – the drama
Entourage is the name of a show on HBO, and also refers to “A group of attendants or associates; a retinue.”

It’s also the rough “equivalent” of Outlook for the Macintosh, present in Office 2004 as well as some other, previous versions of the program.

Well, my Entourage (not my show, or my posse) got messed up pretty badly the other day and had to be taken out and shot. Well, not really. More like it had to be put into the witness protection program. I’ve had to create a new identity for Entourage.

It’s my fault, really – in rushing to work on Tuesday morning, I pulled the laptop power cord without checking to see if it had a battery. (I typically pull the battery when its mostly charged so it doesn’t sit charging all night – Apple says this is a no-no), so, that hard-crashed the machine.

At the same time, I had set up iCal to Sync with Entourage. And, I had just installed SpanningSync.com’s new Google Calendar to iCal synchronization tool.
So, when the machine came up, Entourage refused to fully run. It’s splash screen would appear, and the menu would show up, and then it would take about 85% of the processor for an hour or so until I killed it.
I think there was some sort of sync loop that was bad going on. I’ve since read on the Spanning Sync site that they’re not ready for you to sync Entourage to iCal and iCal to Google – it’s beta. Of course, and I don’t blame Spanning Sync for the 2 days of really annoying difficulties I’ve had.

Now, Greenstein’s corollary to Godwin’s law states that in any technical argument as time progresses, the likelihood that someone will blame Microsoft approaches 1. However in this case, it’s a little justified. The support documentation about where Entourage keeps its files, its preferences, and how to fix it when it breaks is really almost non-existent on the Microsoft.com/support site. If you go to this page http://www.microsoft.com/mac/support.aspx and try to find a product by name, it links to a bunch of outdated content, IMHO.

Challenge: Search Support with the results limited to Entourage 2004 for the term “application not responding.” Pretty useless results. I bet the Outlook forum has a lot better results for hangs in Outlook (which, as an Outlook 2003 user, I can say are pretty few and far between, even with a bunch of plug ins running including the excellent “Constant Contact” .

I could have paid $35 to Microsoft support to help with this issue. As a shareholder in MSFT, I might have even been supporting the stock price a bit. But the derth of knowledge base articles made me nervous that they wouldn’t have given me any better answer than the numerous blogs and forums I found about Entourage.

First rule – Backup.
I had a backup from 2 nights prior to my crash. This, I believe was critical to my success.

Second rule – Backup.
I backed up all the preferences and current, crashed files.

Entourage keeps its preferences in /HardDisk/users/YourUserName/Library/Preferences for the most part. There’s com.Microsoft.Entourage.plist and Entourage.syncservices.plist. There’s also a Microsoft folder in which you’ll find com.Microsoft.Entourage.preference.plist.

However, Entourage’s Database, kept at /HardDisk/users/YourUserName/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Office 2004 Identities isn’t where all the data is kept. Oh no. /HardDisk/users/YourUserName/Library/Caches/Metadata/Microsoft/Entourage has a lot of stuff in it. Thanks to David Spector, Mac genius, for instructing me, when Entourage was freezing up, to run a terminal window, use the command “ lsof |grep –I entourage” to find out what files and handles Entourage was looking for.

After much wrangling, I restored my Cache files, my Entourage database, all the pref files from my original Backup. I then ran clicked to launch Entourage with the OPTION key on the keyboard held down. This brings up the Database utility. I rebuilt my database, and was able to get Entourage running. I immediately went to rule 3 – Backup. I exported my calendar, tasks, notes, and address book.
When I clicked on the Calendar, Entourage froze again. Aha.
Force quit, Re-run Entourage and kill the preference for syncing. Also killed the preference for allowing Spotlight to index Entourage items (for now) as I think it was trying to re-index everything. I also went into iCal and backed up everything and killed the linked Entourage sync calendar it had.

Re ran Entourage, probably had to kill the sync preference listed above and perhaps iCal prefs – at this point I lost track of documentation in the lateness of the evening.

Finally got everything going, then I created a new Identity for Entourage into which I imported my cal, tasks, notes, and address book.

I’m still resetting my mail, rules, and importing mail. Oh, yes – how do you get mail out of Entourage and back into another identity? Drag and drop a mail folder from the Entourage interface to the desktop or other folder, and it will create an .mbox file of that mail folder. You may then import it back into Entourage through the not-very-intuitive Import…text file from another program(!)…mbox file command.
This is all very clunky and time consuming. I hope this article can help another person, somewhere, get their stuff back.

And to the Mac Office team – yes, I’m sure you’re hard at work on Mac Office 2017 2007, but get someone over there to do some better KB articles on Entourage and files, or at least put in better search terms in the knowledge base so articles you’ve written can be found.

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One response to “Entourage, The Drama”

  1. Entourage, My Drama

    I am a computer powder puff, and would appreciate your pointing me in a useful direction.

    My Mac PowerBook G4 Entourage, My Drama

    I am a computer powder puff, and would appreciate your pointing me in a useful direction.

    My Mac PowerBook G4 <1yr old wouldn’t boot. My local Mac store was able to back it up fully on my LaCie before sending it to Texas for a major repair , and I was told that even if I needed a new hard drive, I could restart my computer from my LaCie.

    MONTHS later, I got my PowerBook back, with new hard drive as well as some super important snake-y thing.

    BUT it wasn’t good to go from the back-up drive–I was told I had to start it from its predecessor computer (which I luckily still had access to).

    For several months now I have been using my repair PowerBook, but I have never been able to figure out how to get my Entourage files off the LaCie drive. I can’t find any literature on how to import that way, and the Mac store guys scared me by saying importing from my backup might cause the backup info to take over and I would lose what’s on the computer now.

    My drama seems to share some scenes with yours. Any ideas for someone who’s got a couple years of her life on a hard drive she’s afraid to look into?

    Sorry if my lack of ability makes it impossible for me to describe the situation properly.