Category Archives: Clients

Lync for Mac 2011 has gone RTM

So, speak of the devil. Just saw a tweet (thanks @akipekka and @JohnACook) linking to the Office to Mac blog announcing that the Lync for Mac client has released to manufacturing. Excited much?

There’s a video in the link above, and it looks like the UI has been polished up a fair bit. It looks much less like Mac Messenger and a lot more like the Lync client on Windows. From the screenshot below, all the conferencing and content sharing features of the unified client are there. It’ll work both with Lync Server 2010 on premises and Office 365. Can’t wait to get my hands on it in October.

Lync for Mac -Sharing-Window

Image credit: Office for Mac blog.

More info here on the official Office for Mac site also.

From the UC Product Group – What devices have been certified for Mac?

On Friday, Microsoft published a post on the UCG Team Blog about Lync and Communicator for Mac. If you’ve read a few of my posts, you’ll know that I use a MacBook Air and that this is a subject I’ve been vocal about in the past, so this post piqued my interest.

There’s a few things in the post written by Maura Hameroff that I think deserve to be highlighted:

  • That the Lync for Mac 2011 client is “upcoming” (hopefully H1 2012 (am I being too optimistic to say Q1?)).
  • That there are shortcomings in the user experience with the device when used with Communicator for Mac, specifically around using the call control buttons on the device.
  • A lot of detail is provided to explain how to use the qualified devices today on Mac.
  • It’s suggested that an alternative solution is to use an IP phone with your Mac. It should be known that the phone can’t be tethered to the machine using the USB cable for click-to-call functionality with Communicator for Mac.

Great to see some information coming direct from Microsoft regarding the Mac experience. This kind of authoritative content enables organisations to make better decisions for their Mac users.
Hope to see some more news and improvements in the experience on Macs once Lync for Mac 2011 is released. Make sure you read the rest of the article over here.

Communicator for Mac 2011 13.1.2 Update Available

As a follow up to my last blog post about issues with OSX Lion, I’m happy to bring news that Microsoft have now come out with a 13.1.2 update for Communicator for Mac 2011 to resolve the issues (and give you desktop sharing back!).

If you’re running the RTM version (13.0.0.) to get around the issues with OSX Lion, you’ll need to update to at least 13.1.0 to install this update. Otherwise the 13.1.2 update will not install. You can do this by following these steps:

  1. With Communicator open, click Help and then Check for Updates from the menu bar.
  2. When prompted, click Check for Updates.
  3. Once AutoUpdate has checked for updates, click Install when prompted to install the 13.1.1 update.
  4. Follow the Install Wizard to install the update.
Next, download the package for the update from Microsoft and you’ll be able to successfully install the update.

Workaround: Communicator for Mac crashes on OSX Lion

Apple released Mac OSX Lion on Wednesday, their successor to Snow Leopard. I use a MacBook Air (late 2010) for work and play, so eagerly downloaded the 3 and something GB of new operating system overnight, ready to upgrade on Thursday morning before work.

I kicked it off and all was fine and dandy until I noticed two things. One, my Windows 7 VM wouldn’t fire up and I had to reinstall Parallels Desktop, and two, Communicator for Mac wouldn’t work properly. It would sign in ok, but would crash as soon you tried to initiate any kind of session – IM, audio/video, desktop sharing etc. You could open an IM with someone, but as soon as you entered text and pressed enter, it would crash.


Thankfully, there’s a fix to this. My only option would have been to use Lync in my Windows 7 VM if I didn’t work it out. The culprit here is the Communicator for Mac 2011 13.1.1 update (that enabled desktop sharing). A simple reinstall of Office for Mac 2011 over the top won’t fix it because the update is still installed.

You’ll have to go to your Applications folder and trash Communicator for Mac 2011 completely like so:

Communicator for Mac OSX Lion

This way, Communicator is completely removed from your system. Now if you do the Office for Mac 2011 reinstall, it’ll install the RTM version (13.0.0), which works fine with OSX Lion. Only problem is you’ll have no desktop sharing.

Hopefully we’ll see a patch from Microsoft in the (very) near future to fix this incompatibility up.

Demystifying Photos in Lync

I came across a post on the TechNet forums recently where someone was asking a lot of questions about how photos are implemented and managed in Lync. Given that there aren’t many examples around of the behaviour, I thought it was worthwhile writing this up and including some screenshots.

How are photos controlled?

All control over how photos are displayed in Lync is done via a client policy. You can control this part of a policy either by modifying the default global client policy or by creating a new client policy and assigning this to the users you want the control of pictures to apply to.

Determining what is currently configured

To find out what control of photos a policy is applying, you can run Get-CsClientPolicy to retrieve all the current configuration of a client policy. The configuration item you’re looking for is DisplayPhoto.

How do we implement this?

For this post, I’ll assume we have an existing policy called PhotosControl that we’re going to modify to achieve this. You could either modify the existing Global client policy, or create a new one using the New-CsClientPolicy cmdlet.

We’ll be using the following Lync Server Management Shell cmdlets to demonstrate this:

Set-CsClientPolicy – This will allow us to change the configuration of the client policy.
Grant-CsClientPolicy – This will allow us to assign the client policy to a user or group of users.

There are three configurable options in a Lync client policy that control how photos are displayed, and these are defined as variables of the -DisplayPhoto switch.

Allowing any photo to be shown in Lync

This setting will allow the user to either specify a URL, use the AD or SharePoint stored photo, or turn off photos altogether as illustrated below.

Set-CsClientPolicy -Identity PhotosControl -DisplayPhoto AllPhotos

This configures the client policy called PhotosControl to allow the user to display any photo in Lync (by specifying a URL, using the corporate photo, or displaying no photo at all).

To assign this to a user, we run Grant-CsClientPolicy -Identity -PolicyName PhotosControl

The results on the client endpoint are shown below.

When we open up Options in Lync, this is what we see. The user has the option to show a picture from a web address they input, the default corporate picture from AD/SharePoint, or no picture at all.

Showing photos from Active Directory only in Lync

This setting will display the AD or SharePoint stored photo, but will also give the user the option to turn off photos altogether as illustrated below.

The cmdlet syntax for this as as follows:

Set-CsClientPolicy -Identity PhotosControl -DisplayPhoto PhotosFromADOnly

Now, we already assigned the policy to a user in the last section, so all we need to do is sign out and sign back into Lync to see what the resultative behaviour is.

When we open up Options on Lync, here’s what we see. The user only has the option to show the default corporate picture from AD/SharePoint or no picture at all.

And this is reflected on the main UI of Lync accordingly.

Disabling photos completely in Lync

This setting will display no photo at all and Lync will drop back to only displaying the small, square presence icons. To other users, they will see no photo of you on their contact list.

The cmdlet syntax for this as as follows:

Set-CsClientPolicy -Identity PhotosControl -DisplayPhoto NoPhoto

Now, we already assigned the policy to a user in the last section, so all we need to do is sign out and sign back into Lync to see what the resultative behaviour is.

The results in the main Lync client UI look like this:

Very similar to what things looked like in Office Communicator 2007 R2. Great for when you want to deploy Lync but don’t want the UI look and feel to disrupt users too much.

And if we open up Options, we see that the My Picture tab is completely gone and we can’t change anything.


As you can see, there is a very granular level of control over how photos are presented in Lync. Using the cmdlets above you can mix and match as to which users can and can’t display photos and whether they can display any photo they like or only what you’ve imported into AD/SharePoint.

Hope this helps you determine how you’ll deploy photos and as always, any questions/comments below.

The latest on Lync from TechEd 2011 North America

A presentation went up this afternoon (GMT+1) from TechEd 2011 NA by Kirk Gregersen titled Lync 2010 & the Future of Productivity. It’s about an hour long and covers a lot of content. It is somewhat high level, but there are a few things covered in this video that are well worth the watch (I’ve highlighted the super important ones in bold):

  • How the user experience is the key focus of the product group. It remains pretty high level for the first 10 minutes and includes a demo of Lync (focusing on contact card pervasiveness in Outlook, SharePoint etc).
  • Live demonstrations of:
    • The language translation app running on Silverlight.
    • The meeting schedule and join experience.
    • PowerPoint controls in a meeting, allowing a user to jump back and forth through slides.
    • The meeting recording experience.
  • Mobile client demos (32 minutes in) of Windows Phone 7 and iPhone.
  • Case study videos from LA Fitness, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Herrenknecht.
  • More demos of application development and client extensibility:
    • IM and Expert including how questions are asked, how an expert provides data on their knowledge and the interaction that takes place between the question asker and the answerer via the bot on Lync.
  • A demo of Polycom multi-party video conference.
  • A brief overview of the Lync Roadmap for 2011.
    • US and UK pilot around online voice later in the year.
    • WP7, iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Nokia clients coming by end of calendar year.
  • A few words on the Skype purchase and what this means for Lync. “We (the Lync Product Group?) have been working on this as far back as January”.
    • Compares Lync to Skype, and how there is an interesting opportunity to marry the two via networks/federation.
    • The first public comments from the Lync team on the Skype integration.

You can view the presentation here. Some really exciting developments today, mostly around seeing the iPhone mobile client in action for the first time. Let’s hope we see Lync showcased some as TechEd NA rolls on.

Office Communicator 2005 and Lync 2010 Client Coexistence

What if you have a supported back-end server version (e.g. OCS 2007 R1) to coexist with Lync, but you’re running Office Communicator 2005 out on the desktop? What happens when you want to migrate?
It’s going to be pretty rare that you might encounter this kind of scenario, but I did recently and it’s worth documenting the behaviour we observed.
Unfortunately there’s no pretty screenshots in this post, so use your imagination. 🙂

The Environment

The situation I encountered was an OCS 2007 R1 backend with all clients running Office Communicator 2005. We deployed a new Lync 2010 Front End pool in the same forest and the two pools happily talked to each other (as OCS 2007 R1 and Lync Server 2010 coexistence is supported).
It was only until we begin running client testing that we started to notice weird things happening.

The Behaviour

If you have one user using Office Communicator 2005 and another user using Lync 2010, you will see strange behaviour if the session is initiated from the Lync user to the OC 2005 user.
If the Lync 2010 user polls for presence of the OC 2005 user in any way, whether this is by searching the address book for a user, expanding a distribution group or exposing their name in Outlook, the OC 2005 user will get a Add to Contact List notification. This detracts from the way things usually work, where you can get presence of a user without first adding them to your contact list.
When I tested this same scenario using OC 2007 R1 and Lync 2010, I couldn’t reproduce the issue.

My only guess is that there is a difference between the SIP INFO packets Lync 2010 and OC 2007 R1/R2 send to get presence information, and the way OC 2005 interprets them.

Obviously this is not ideal, and will most likely pose an unacceptable issue during a period of coexistence whilst migrations are occurring. Given that hundreds of these interactions could occur a day per user in a large environment, this presents a massive support issue for your internal IT helpdesk.

The Solution

In the end, you have two options depending on how long your period of coexistence will be and how complicated/large your environment is. These are:

  1. Migrate from OC 2005 to OC 2007 R1 on your existing OCS 2007 R1 backend, then migrate your users to the Lync 2010 backend and upgrade your clients to Lync 2010.
  2. Migrate your users to the Lync 2010 backend and upgrade your clients to Lync 2010 all in one go, effectively having no period of coexistence.

In conclusion, TechNet documentation defines that this kind of coexistence is “only supported if Communicator 2005 is on a federated network” and now we know why. I’d say this has something to do with what the Edge Server does to the SIP packets on their way in and out of the network.

Communicator for Mac 2011 compared to Lync 2010

This is a pretty hotly discussed and contentious topic, the experience on the Apple Mac for users connecting to OCS 2007 R2/Lync. In the past, you’ve been able to connect using the Mac Messenger client, but now we’ve got Communicator for Mac 2011. In this post, I’ll give you a rundown of the client from what I’ve experienced with daily usage, and also draw some comparisons to the Lync 2010 that runs on Windows.

The Rundown

It’s not as pretty or as full featured as Lync is, but it gets the job (75% of the way) done. To summarise this nicely, I’ve written up a list of pros and cons compared to Lync.


  • Comparable IM/Presence experience.
  • Enterprise Voice Capable.
  • Full Outlook Persona Menu Integration.
  • Peer to Peer (P2P) audio and video calling.
  • Desktop Sharing.


  • No pictures.
  • No dialling from the Search field. PSTN number must be dialled from dedicated snap-out dial pad.
  • No visual voicemail (or voicemail controls at all for that matter).
  • No control of call forwarding/simultaneous ringing.
  • No location information services.
  • No tagging for status change alerts.
  • No changing of privacy levels.
  • Audio device experience is complete rubbish compared to Lync.  A bit more about this below.
  • Conversation history is not saved to the Exchange mailbox. Rather it is saved in flat-file format in Communicator itself.
  • Complete experience is basically the same as Mac Messenger. Just the branding/titles have been changed really.

To expand on this, I’ve included some more details and screenshots below on certain areas to give a better insight into how things look in the UI.

Contact List

I’ve sanitised a few of these images, and the text and fonts look weird, but that’s just my dodgy skills in Paint. 🙂 You get the general idea of what goes where.

Obviously we have presence here as expected, and any group you’ve created in Lync is reflected in the client. No pictures here unfortunately. I can search the GAL like I can in Lync and return corporate users.

Communicator Contact List

Conversation Window

In terms of what things look like, you get the general conversation experience, but it’s not as polished and natural as the Lync client. It does however feel very “Mac”, but this is because it’s basically Mac Messenger anyway.

Conversation window

Outlook Integration

Full integration with Outlook 2011 is available from Communicator for Mac. Presence icons light up next to user’s names in emails, both for corporate and federated contacts.

Persona menu

When I hover over a presence icon I get the above persona menu, which looks markedly different to the persona menu in Outlook 2010 on the PC and more “Mac-like”. I can initiate an email, IM, audio or video call or add the contact to my contact list in Communicator from here.


Conferencing is pretty straightforward, and you invite users using the Invite button in the top of the window. I can send IMs like I normally would in Lync and I can also escalate this to an audio and/or video conference.

communicator for mac im conference

Delivered in a recent update, we now have desktop sharing, which wasn’t delivered in the original 2011 release. The Share Desktop button is exposed both in the main UI window and in a conversation window and works as you’d expect, popping out to the right hand side to view the users desktop.

Communicator for Mac Desktop Sharing

Enterprise Voice

The Enterprise Voice experience is very disjoined compared to Lync. Rather than being able to dial a PSTN number directly from the search field like you can in Lync, you have to first click the Call button in the main Communicator window, illustrated below.

EV Step 1

After you do this, a side panel pops out the left hand side of the main Communicator window with a dial pad, a field to enter a phone number and a drop down list to select a contact from your contact list to dial. Note that a number you put into the field does honour Lync normalisation rules.

Communicator for Mac Dial Pad

So you go ahead, enter your number and hit Call and you get the following things happening. First, Communicator starts dialling the number and you get a ringback sound in your speakers (the “ring ring” sound):

Ev calling

Then, when the other end picks up, the call becomes active and you talk like you normally would:

Ev call in progress

Pretty intuitive, straightforward and does like it says on the tin.

As mentioned above, there is absolutely NO control over call forwarding. When you receive an incoming call, there is no way to forward it to another number or to voicemail. It just goes unanswered. Bad.

Audio Device Experience

As mentioned above, this doesn’t even compare to Lync. I can select the preferred audio device to use in Lync easily in the main window and this is very clear for users with illustrative icons.

There is absolutely no such experience in Communicator for Mac, and I have to manually change audio devices in System Preferences, which is a global change for audio output.

Audio output OSX

Audio input osx

This could be an OSX limitation though, as I don’t think it can differentiate between different devices to use for audio and communications purposes.

In conclusion, Communicator for Mac 2011 is essentially a “there is a Mac client” answer for Microsoft Lync, ported from another application. It’s targeted at filling the holes where an organisation may have a team of creative/alternative users on Macs that need a client other than Lync Web App to deliver most UC workloads to. It works well for basic IM, presence, desktop sharing and some conferencing, but there are many holes that broaden the gap between it and Lync.

The official statement is that Communicator for Mac 2011 is an “R2 Experience”, with the biggest difference I think, is there’s no unified meeting experience. You still need to join meetings created on a Lync Server using Lync Web App. Finally in terms of minimum system requirements, you need to be running Mac OS X v10.5.8 to run Communicator, and you need to be using Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 to get the integration benefits with Outlook. Hope this has helped you understand the Mac client a bit better, and enables you make an informed decision around your organisation’s requirements. For more hardcore details, download the Communicator for Mac 2011 Deployment Guide here. Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions.