Project Online: How do I use my Apple Mac?

We have had a quite a few questions on the topic of using a Mac to run Project Online, so I took myself into uncharted territory (for me), acquired a MacBook Pro from our labs, running OS X 10.8.3 and set to work to see what it could do.  First I’ll set the scene – we support access to Project Web App (PWA) both for Project Server 2013 and Project Online using Safari on the Apple Mac, but we do not have a version of Project Professional 2013, or Project Pro for Office 365 that runs natively on OS X.  So I knew to be able to run everything I’d either have to load Windows 8 using Boot Camp (which wasn’t the point of the exercise) or find some virtualization software that runs on OS X and allows me to run Windows 8 and the Office 2013 programs.  After a quick search I found Parallels Desktop 8 and VMware Fusion 5.  I’m making no judgment on either product, and don’t expect a full review – and there are other products too (Oracle’s VirtualBox, is another one), but it didn’t take long to get the trial versions of both these products up and running with Windows 8, Office 2013 and Project Professional 2013 (I could have loaded Project Pro for Office 365 – same thing, virtually..).  I also wanted to use Excel on the Mac, and unfortunately the installed trial had expired.  No problem – I had a license for Office 365 Home Premium with some spare installs out of the 5, so I could load Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook!  Great that you can mix and match the installs of Home Premium across PC and Mac.

I soon mastered Command, Shift, 4 – so on with the blog!  PWA, was obviously no issue and felt just like using IE and my PC.

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.29.30 AM

The first expected issue was trying to open a Project in Project Professional:

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.40.00 AM

and as expected, this didn’t work.  I didn’t dig deeper, but if anyone knows of a way to re-direct the call to the VM that would be a nice feature.

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.40.30 AM


One interesting addition – which makes me think it should be possible to get Safari talking to Project Pro in the VM, courtesy of Parallels Desktop 8, was an additional icon in Safari, that allowed me to re-open my current session in IE, within the virtual Windows 8 environment.

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.31.13 AM

I hadn’t even opened Parallels Desktop 8 at this point, so it started the VM and took me to the very nice Santa Monica picture to log in to Project Online

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.46.39 AM

So I could open my Project in the copy of Project Professional 2013 within the virtual environment:

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.50.27 AM


Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.52.02 AM

Another nice feature was the ability to add my Windows 8 applications to the Launchpad, alongside the native Office applications..

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.52.49 AM

Next I tried the option in Project Center (within Internet Explorer in the Virtual Environment) of exporting to Excel.  What happened next surprised me, but pleasantly…

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.54.23 AM

I hadn’t used Excel within Parallels Desktop – and the file association was clever enough to export the Project Center in IE in the VM, to Excel running natively on the Mac.

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.55.29 AM

You can of course update the file associations and use the Excel 2013 version (next screen shot), and you might want to do this to have the best reporting options against OData, which isn’t supported from the Excel for Mac 2011 version – more later…

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.59.38 AM

The OData stuff worked just fine from Excel 2013 in the VM,

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 12.16.33 PM

From Excel 2011 on the Mac there isn’t the option for OData, and I’m not sure if there are any third party offerings to fill this gap.  Excel on the Mac does support ODBC, just not sure if any enterprising souls have developed an ODBC driver for OData.

All in all I was impressed with the Windows 8 experience on the Mac – and at this point switched over from my Parallels Desktop…

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 12.21.35 PM

to my VMware Fusion one, and tested a few of the same scenarios, with the same success.

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 1.01.44 PM

And then tried something else – SharePoint Designer 2013 to connect to Project Online for creating workflows.  Like Project, SharePoint Designer doesn’t have a Mac version – so this could be another scenario where the virtual environment on the Mac is useful for the SharePoint and Project Online user who prefers to keep with their Mac.

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 1.11.30 PM

Again, no problems running SharePoint Designer under the virtual environment.

So, to sum up:

  • We support Safari for PWA
  • We do not have Project Professional for the Mac, so use a virtual environment for Project Professional 2013 (Project Pro for Office 365), SharePoint Designer 2013 and Excel 2013 (if you want OData access)
  • Use the native Office for Mac Applications for the ‘Export to Excel’ options

If anyone has hit other issues when using a Mac or has any questions then I’d love to hear them!