Software

Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac is bug ridden and missing parts

After a nearly four-year wait, Steve Jobs announced at Macworld that Office 2008 for Mac was ready to ship. For Mac users everywhere, this was a sigh of relief. However, Microsoft also announced that there was a bug in Excel that affects Excel 2004 for Mac, and no patch was forthcoming.

After a nearly four-year wait, Steve Jobs announced at Macworld that Office 2008 for Mac was ready to ship. For Mac users everywhere, this was a sigh of relief. However, Microsoft also announced that there was a bug in Excel that affects Excel 2004 for Mac, and no patch was forthcoming.

But wait, there’s more. Macworld reviewer Rob Griffiths reviewed Excel 2008 for Mac and found it wanting. Instead of increased functionality, he found that he was more limited in what he could do. Furthermore, there is little or no backward compatibility for things like macros created in Excel 2004. They simply don’t work.

From Macworld:

As the review of Word 2008 noted, Excel 2008 doesn’t support Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), which is the language used to create and record macros in prior versions of Excel. If you try to open a macro-enabled worksheet, you’ll have two choices: open and remove the macros, or open and leave the macros in place, though they won’t run. (You can also cancel the open request.)

This is the major failing in Excel 2008, and the primary reason many users—myself included—won’t be upgrading. Anyone with a collection of macro-enabled spreadsheets will be forced to replace those macros with AppleScript (where possible), or learn to do without. Users in companies with Windows machines will be affected as well, as Office 2007 still includes VBA, so they may receive worksheets that don’t function as they do on Windows machines.

As a replacement, Microsoft suggests using AppleScript and Automator—and Excel 2008 does include a large AppleScript dictionary. However, this version lacks any ability to record AppleScripts, as Excel 2004 could do with macros, so you’ll have to write everything from scratch.

According to a late-breaking article from MacFixIt, a number of users are also plagued by Word 2008 crashes. What's the major problem here? By default, Office 2008 deletes your prior installation of Office. Since it is not usable, your only text editor is Text Edit (native to the Mac).

From MacFixIt:

"I installed Microsoft Office:mac 2008 (upgrade) today. Not unexpectedly, by default it deletes the previous installation; in my case, Office 2004. After a standard installation, with no customization, I started Word successfully for the first, and it turned out only, time. I also successfully started Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage. A few moments later, needing to try Word with some real work, I started it up again -- no go, it crashed with a "Microsoft Word has encountered a problem and needs to close" message. There's a checkbox below the apology to ask Word to recover your work and restart. I tried that -- also, no go. The error reporting dialog box allows you to tell Microsoft about the problem, so I let it. The data it sends is inscrutable (to me), there were no obvious smoking gun issues I could see. I'm running Mac OS X 10.5.1 on a MacBook Pro Hi-Res with 4GB RAM."

But the real story is the lack of Exchange Server Support. Entourage, the e-mail client in the Office for Mac Suite, has always been a stand-alone e-mail client, difficult to maintain in mixed Windows/Mac environments with Exchange Server. The biggest advantage that Office 2008 was supposed to deliver was interoperability with Exchange.

From apc:

One of the few exceptions has been that Entourage 2008 now supports the long-overdue ability to send an automated ‘Out of Office' message (complete with HTML formatting and options for who receives the auto-reply) when used with Exchange 2007.

That's certainly welcome news, but the overall lack of Exchange-friendly features doesn't cut much ice with the many companies running an Exchange server, especially those with a large ‘mixed mode' population of Windows and Mac systems.

If you were looking for new functionality in the new Office, you might be in for a let down. Things have not improved with Mac Office in this release. Maybe this will change after the first SP, but the functionality that Mac users want doesn’t appear to be in the box at this time. However, all is not lost, because iWork is still available for $79.00. The Family Pack is $99.00

As a Mac user, I don’t see any compelling reason to upgrade to Office 2008 for Mac. What would you do?

18 comments
Spiritusindomit
Spiritusindomit

It's the rebellion reviewing the evil empire, I've never seen them utter one nice word. Why don't you just stick with iworkz and stop whining?

itla66
itla66

It is not true that the Office 2008 installer automatically deletes Office 2004. I received the package as an upgrade a few days ago, and it gives you the choice to delete Office 2004 or leave it untouched. But I agree with everything else. The lack of VBA in this release is horrifying for me since I have tons of macros on which my business relies. I just got Office 2008 to make sure that it is indeed VBA-less. And it is. - Erich

GreenPirogue
GreenPirogue

I have MS Office for Mac (2004), and really, there seems to be no good reason to upgrade to 2008. Trouble is, now that a new version is out there, MS will probably stop supporting upgrades to 2004. I was always perturbed that the Mac version did not have MS Access. My work computer is a PC - and I still get along fine with Office 2003. Everyone else in the office has switched to 2007 except me. I don't feel left out - but I may have to bite the bullet and change at work. More and more, people are sending me 2007 files.

alieninvader
alieninvader

That would be the only possible explanation for Microsoft releasing a crippled, buggy product - in hopes that users would dump the Mac and go to Windows. And we know where Karl Rove has gotten us...

evenprime
evenprime

They are getting rid of VBA for PC's too in Office 2009 for something called Visual Studio Tools for applications, so mac users shouldn't feel to bad - Not only will it be incompatible with the Mac version, older VBA macros' won't work on it either. Win Win for IT, in a way. Not only will their be lots of reprogramming of VBA apps needed, but OpenOffice will start to turn heads, since not only is it backwards compatible with it's older versions, it's cross platform too. I showed it to one of the accountants who budgeted for the Office 2007 upgrade and he couldn't believe it was free. OpenOffice runs great on a Mac, though the separate install of X11 is a hassle. The Aqua version of OpenOffice has made great strides, but is still considered in alpha stage, stability wise. Both can be found here: http://porting.openoffice.org/mac/download/index.html Also, I hear good things about http://www.neooffice.org for OSX too. Oh yeah, Entourage :-/ I hear some people have gotten Evolution to work in X11 also. I tried Evolution long ago on Linux as the only exchange client available, but it was pretty unstable. Their were Mac binaries for Evolution floating around about a year ago on Novells site, but all the links are dead now. However, their is a sourceforge project keeping hope alive. http://evolution-osx.sourceforge.net/

Tig2
Tig2

As a Mac user, I have been waiting on this release. Especially after the announcement by Microsoft that there is a hole in Excel for Mac that isn't getting a patch. But reading the reviews doesn't inspire me to run out for the upgrade. What would you do? If you are a Mac user, were you planning to upgrade?

Tig2
Tig2

I'm a Mac user but also an Office user. I haven't decided what I am going to do beyond being very careful about malformed Excel workbooks. Might interest you to note that I was an MCSE before I bought a Mac. I built and supported Windows environments for a number of years. I bought a Mac for the graphics capacity and the Unix core. I personally think that the day of the fanboy is long over. With the variety and capacity of computing environments available these days, it is no longer necessary to pledge allegiance to one or the other. The flexibility is such that we can now recommend the best tool for the business need. I think that is progress.

Tig2
Tig2

Consider using the readers that are available for Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. I haven't heard how cross functionality is managed in Access so I don't know if a bridge tool is available. I will hold on to my Office for Mac like grim death... and probably move to iWork or Open Office when I absolutely have to. The advantage to Open Office is that it will save and open documents with .doc, .xls, and .ppt extensions. Inter-operability is good!

Spiritusindomit
Spiritusindomit

Conspiracy theory is a symptom of schizophrenia you know.

Spiritusindomit
Spiritusindomit

VB is an antiquated language that needs to go. It's a fully compiled language that has long outlived its usefulness. VS tools for applications is a feature that allows you to write and execute C# functionality as you did with VB, with the full support of the .NET framework 3.0 and 3.5, and will soon including direct interfacing with WCF and WPF. Now, the reason that you can't use it on mac is twofold. Apple will not allow a release of Visual Studio on their system, as any development tool for OS X doesn't even come close. Apple will also not allow a direct release from microsoft of the .NET framework on OS X, leaving it instead to projects like MONO and ROTOR, MONO being the source code that MS handed the developers, and funded by novell, and ROTOR being microsoft funded. As for open office conversion, look at my other response on it. It gave me more trouble than upgrading the macs to leopard and seeing the previously well running network disappear. And yes, entourage is a flaming pile of crap.

Tig2
Tig2

The X11 is a pain but well worth the time. I have Open Office on a Win box and really like it. My partner uses it almost exclusively- the Base app needs work to get it to the level he needs. The kicker in all this is that, like so many of the MS products that the Mac community hears hyped, they didn't deliver on the promises. I don't think that anyone is surprised by the news. I do know that I will not be going down the upgrade path for this product. The people I feel really sorry for are the admins in blended systems. It makes it hard to schedule a meeting in that environment when you simply cannot do it. That's sad.

kzin
kzin

I purchased the upgrade, i also purchased a quad core MAC Pro (amazing). Excel crashes my mac when i open heavily formatted excel 2003 (windows) format workbook. Entourage crashes when attaching pictures with the Insert drop down. Entourage lost email on the upgrade! Frankly its a disaster, and many behind the scenes menus are straight lift from 2004 iike rules for example. I'm still trying to find out how to open calendar in a new window. Then there is the sync issue, if you have sync on entourage and on address book preferences you will end in duplicating hell, Sync messages constantly asking you to confirm which system wins.. so is it better? It looks nice, my day is nice ""Outlook Today Widget" but bugs galore just too many to mention.

disGUIse
disGUIse

I'm sticking with Office for Mac 2004 and iWork - and as soon as I learn to use iWork competently and thoroughly, I'm ditching Office. I've used Office for about 10 years on PCs and Macs and from what I can see so far, iWorks is a more than adequate replacement for it.

john3347
john3347

Look at how Office 2007 is screwed up from 2003. They have just had an additional year to screw 2008 up from 2004 even worse. What did anyone expect?? Microsoft doesn't have the sharpest programmers going, but they have the sharpest marketing managers in the world. The company spends more resources figuring how to sell ice to Eskimo's than how to build a better Eskimo heater.

Spiritusindomit
Spiritusindomit

I've had massive issues with open office. I did a migration to them for my entire organization. It was fantastic, until they released an inopportune code update, and all of the sudden, open office would terminate randomly, rendering the application unusable. No help in sight, save forums of people who didn't know anything about it, and it apparently took them 2 months to release a patch. In the end it cost 3 months of reconversion to office, and wasted a large amount of money. I don't like office much, but at least it always at the very least works for me. Open office will also not open/write the new docx format. There is a bridge tool available for Access, it's called Biztalk. Problem is, if you're advanced enough to know how to configure and run biztalk, you might as well be doing your database work in SQL.

Spiritusindomit
Spiritusindomit

Considering apple has 'apple v pc' ads and MS has Anders Hejlsberg, Erik Meijer, and Scott Tucker. But seeing as how you aren't a developer, you probably don't know who ANY of those people are, do you?

evenprime
evenprime

good point. No pay'd support for OpenOffice like a lot of other OS titles offer - Sun has StarOffice, which is based on it's stable OpenOffice code + extras, and isn't bad at $95 bucks a pop - about the same as the student version of MS Office. In the Asia market, they are offering a subscription type service for it, but haven't tried it in the U.S./Europe yet. A good example of OpenSource software with a good paid support model is JBoss (http://jboss.com) and Snort (http://www.sourcefire.com). Sun isn't there yet. (egad! and they just bought MySQL...)

Tig2
Tig2

Sorry that you had such a horrible experience with Open Office. I applaud that you were willing to take it to the corporate environment- I don't know that I am quite so trusting yet. You're right though, there is a risk when you move to open source. No SLAs on immediate fix needs, for one. I didn't realize that OO can't wrangle the new format. I thought it could. But I don't have anything here that requires the new format so I haven't had an opportunity to test.

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