update of Office for Macs does more than just translate Windows
by Alan Zisman (c) 2004 First published in Business in Vancouver
27-August 2, 2004; issue 770 High Tech Office column
Though they may grumble about Microsoft, most Mac users have a copy of
Microsoft Office on hand, using Word, Excel, and PowerPoint just like
most their Windows counterparts.
A decade ago, Microsoft tried to make Office look and feel the same on
both platforms. The result, Office 4.2, was a pretty good Windows
version but the Mac version was slow and bloated. Since then, while
letting Mac and Windows users share their work, Microsoft has set its
Macintosh Business Unit free.
Recent versions of MS Office for Windows have included new features
primarily of interest to corporate IT departments. While the previous
Mac version did little besides make the previous Mac Office 2001 work
under Apple's new OS X operating system, the newly released Mac-only
Office 2004 ($550, $350 upgrade) adds features aimed squarely at
individual users. Many of those features are not available in Office's
Entourage, like Outlook in the Windows version, started life as an
e-mail and calendar module. The new Entourage gains better spam
filtering, archiving of e-mail and schedules, and support for Microsoft
Exchange servers. A new Entourage feature, Project Center, can be
accessed from the other Office modules allowing users to build
projects, complete with deadlines and assigned tasks, linking relevant
notes, documents, e-mail, and contacts. Projects can be shared with
other Mac users of Office 2004, aiding collaboration.
While word processor users haven't seen many big new features since
real-time spell checking, Word 2004 in the new Mac suite of Office
programs gets a new notebook view, mimicking a lined page. Aiming at
making it easy to type in notes and organize an outline, it features a
simplified toolbar and an easy way to record audio clips and link them
to a Word document.
The new Excel gains a useful Page Layout view, making it possible to
work with a spreadsheet while seeing how it will look on the printed
PowerPoint, under pressure to compete with Apple's Keynote slick
presentation application gains a set of new templates and animations.
Perhaps more useful will be the new presenter tools, allowing
presenters to view speakers' notes and to reorganize slides on the fly
while the audience only sees the presentation.
Also handy are compatibility reports, noting whether saved documents
will appear properly to users running a range of both Mac and Windows
The new Office for Macs isn't too proud to borrow from good ideas that
originated in the Windows version. For example, like its Windows
cousin, Word for Macs now checks how to format pasted-in text, offering
to preserve the original formatting or to make it match the
destination. And it finally breaks with the previous version's refusal
to save long file names. Entourage gains a three-column view similar to
Both the Windows and Mac versions of Office come in several different
editions. On the Windows side, users of the higher-priced Professional
package get Microsoft's Access database; small business version users
get a copy of the Publisher page design program. There are no Macintosh
versions of either program; instead Mac Office 2004 Pro will bundle
Virtual PC, allowing Mac users to load a Windows operating system and
applications, and run them in a window on their Mac.
Office Professional 2004 has not yet been released, as Microsoft works
on making Virtual PC compatible with Apple's new G5-powered PowerMacs.
Mac Office 2004 also lacks the SharePoint collaboration tools built
into recent Windows versions, used in some large organizations.
As with the Windows version, the most affordable Mac Office 2004
version is the Student/Teacher edition (about $210). This version can
be legally purchased by anyone with a student or teacher in the family
and can be installed onto up to 3 home computers.
While lacking some corporate must-have features, Office 2004 sets a new
standard for elegance and ease of use for productivity software for
individual users. Only on a Mac? Pity!