ISSUE 596: Zisman- March 27 2001
The high-tech office
Microsoft has learned
to value its Mac audience
Apple users have a love-hate relationship with Microsoft.
On the one hand, for many Microsoft is the Great Satan, the company
that, they believe, made a fortune by copying the look and feel of the
Mac and turning it into the uglier, clumsier, but commercially
On the other hand, Microsoft Office is a best-selling
Mac application. They may hate the company, but they continue to buy
A few years ago, the relationship almost turned to
pure hate. Mac Office version 4.2 (Word 6 and the rest) was designed to
look and act just like the Windows version. The result was a product
that was slow and clunky and, well... looked and acted just like the
Windows version. It did not endear itself to the Mac user community.
Microsoft learned its lesson. Since then, it has
created its Mac products independently from the Windows versions. More
than 2.5 million copies of Office 98 for the Mac have been sold. And
the latest, Office 2001 for the Mac is a real Mac application with some
nice features that aren't included in the Windows Office 2000.
First there's the sleeker look. No more multiple rows
of toolbars. The formatting toolbar is gone, replaced by a floating
palette, leaving more room for your document while keeping the
frequently used controls at hand.
Word now lets you click anywhere on a page to add text
-- no more needing to press the Return key a dozen or more times to
move down the page. Similarly, tables can be moved around the page,
with text flowing around them. Mail merges are less painful. And if
word counts are important to you (they are to me and my editor!), the
number of words typed appears at the bottom of the screen.
While designing the new version of the Excel
spreadsheet, Microsoft made a startling discovery. While spreadsheets
have always been designed to do complex calculations, much of the time
they're used to make lists. So rather than focus on the high-end
features (though Excel still has lots of those), they've added a List
Wizard and List Manager to simplify the jobs of creating and sorting
lists. About time!
Excel's Calculator lets you build a complex formula by
clicking on calculator buttons. And new Filemaker Pro compatibility
features make it easier to use Excel to analyze database information.
Powerpoint adds a three-paned view, showing the
outline, the current slide and the speaker's notes all at once. This is
a big improvement, making it easier to work in the outline while seeing
how the resulting slide will look and encouraging the user to make
speaker's notes at the same time. Powerpoint users can now make tables
directly, rather than having to import them from Word or Excel. An
Autofit feature adjusts the size of your text so that it all fits in a
cell. And when your presentation is done, it can be exported as a
Quicktime video, so it can be played on Macs or PCs that don't have
While the last Windows versions added Outlook, a
personal information manager, this hasn't been available to Mac users.
Instead, Office 2001 gives them a similar, but incompatible program:
Entourage. Like Outlook, it builds on the free Outlook Express e-mail
program, turning the address book into a useable contact manager and
adding a calendar, to-do list and notes. It can be synchronized with Palm
handhelds and it's well-integrated into the other Office applications.
It lacks the network features of Outlook and other more powerful
information managers, however. You can't use it to share your calendar
and contacts with your co-workers.
All in all, an elegant upgrade. Not enough new to make
it a must for Office 98 users, but if you're still using Office 4.2 and
have a new enough Mac, you'll want this one.