Microsoft Office for Mac: a best-in-class product
by Alan Zisman (c) 2002
First published in Business in
Issue #642 February 12-18, 2002, The High Tech Office column
Sometimes, Microsoft and Apple seem
like a dysfunctional
old married couple; they often fight and they've got the kids taking
But you know that down deep, each of them really needs the other.
Microsoft needs a strong Apple to show the world that
have a complete monopoly on desktop computing. And Apple often seems to
function as the research-and-development team for Microsoft and the
of the PC industry. Besides, it's long been suggested that Microsoft
more profit, on average, from each Mac owner than it does from each PC
Apple needs Microsoft to continue to develop and
market products for
the Mac. The availability of Mac versions of Microsoft Office in
lets Mac users exchange files with their PC counterparts, and lets the
Mac continue to appear to be a credible alternative in offices and
So with Apple touting its OS X operating system as its
future, the release
this fall of an OS X version of Microsoft Office was welcomed as a vote
of confidence by the software giant in Apple's new direction.
Office v. X ($699) required a year's effort by
Business Unit to "carbonize" Mac Office 2001: rewrite it to support the
new operating system. Along the way, they brushed up Office's
bringing it in line with OS X's Aqua look and feel, complete with new
colourful buttons, icons, and dialogue boxes. The result is the most
and most fun-to-use version of Office for any platform.
The programs are able to take advantage of Aqua
support for transparency,
not only for the eye candy of see-through menus and dialogue boxes, but
to add to charts and graphics in Excel, PowerPoint and Word.
Despite the attractive new look however, Office v. X
does not come with
an overwhelming number of new features compared with its predecessor,
2001. There are some nice improvements, though.
The new version of Word makes it easy, for example, to
format or spell-check
unconnected blocks of text, by selecting them using the Command key.
new Contact tool bar makes it easy to exchange addresses with Entourage
(Mac Office's e-mail and calendar application), even when Entourage
open. A "clear formatting" option nicely resets a selection to the
A long-time Word feature, the ability to edit keyboard
finally been added to Excel, as has the ability to import FileMaker
data. Unfortunately, Excel still can't import data from Microsoft's own
Windows Office database, Access, and there still isn't a Mac version of
PowerPoint can now save its files into a neat little
package, and does
a better job exporting presentations to Quicktime, but is otherwise
changed from the previous version.
Entourage, which premiered in Office 2001, gets a
and an all-new interface, making it easier to manoeuvre between e-mail,
calendar, and address list views. Microsoft is waiting for Palm's
of OS X-native software before making it possible to sync Entourage
with Palm PDAs.
Microsoft has done a great job of making Office v. X
look and work with
Apple's stylish OS X. The previous version, Office 2001, also gets the
job done in the new operating system, even though it only runs in that
OS's old-style Classic-mode. Users getting a new Mac and wanting to
in OS X will find the newest Office a must-have. But despite the new
classy appearance, there's little to make owners of Office 2001 feel
they need to rush out and upgrade.
- A note for users of PC office suites: Both
Microsoft and Corel
recently released service packs for Microsoft
XP and Word
2002 respectively. Each promises additional security,
stability and compatibility.