PCs

Microsoft Office for the Mac 2008: The Right Tool for the Job?

Office productivity applications are critical business components. This is as true for Macintosh computer owners as it is for Windows users. Whether users are creating documents, spreadsheets or slide show presentations, they require a powerful office suite that is easy to use, creates attractive files and is widely compatible with other users. Erik Eckel checks out this year's version of Microsoft Office for the Mac.

The Job

Office productivity applications are critical business components. This is as true for Macintosh computer owners as it is for Windows users. Whether users are creating documents, spreadsheets or slide show presentations, they require a powerful office suite that is easy to use, creates attractive files and is widely compatible with other users.

The Tool

Microsoft Office for the Mac 2008

Microsoft Office 2008 For Mac (Full Version is $399.95 and requires a Mac with an Intel, PowerPC G4 or G5 processor, 512MB RAM, DVD drive, 1.5GB of free disk space and an HFS+ hard disk format) is Microsoft's newest productivity suite. In addition to including a new interface that makes it easier to create professional documents, spreadsheets and presentations, manipulate text and images, insert attractive graphics (including charts and tables) and apply numerous new styles and templates, Office 2008 provides Mac users with access to Office's new open XML file formats.

Microsoft Office 2008 boasts numerous advantages over free office productivity suites and older Microsoft Office platforms:

  • Widespread compatibility with other Microsoft Office users
  • New ribbon-like user interfaces
  • Powerful tools for easily adding professional graphics treatments to documents, spreadsheets and presentations
  • Simple upgrade paths from earlier versions of Microsoft Office (and the Entourage email program)
  • Universal application (works on Intel- and PowerPC-powered Macs)
  • Enhanced Entourage interaction with Exchange servers
  • PDF output options

Microsoft Office for the Mac 2008

There are a few minor disadvantages to Microsoft's latest office suite, but none that are unanticipated:

  • Users must become familiar with a new interface (just as is true with the new office platform for Windows users)
  • Cost; the full version (which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Messenger and Entourage) runs $399.95), while the upgrade version costs $239.95

Conclusion

Microsoft Office 2008 For Mac delivers important new office productivity features (including a smart new interface, time-saving contextual methods and graphical tools and compatibility with the new XML-based open file formats) at reasonable cost. Small businesses that rely upon Macintosh computers for fulfilling daily tasks and responsibilities will be well served using Microsoft's latest office suite tailored specifically to the Mac platform. This is especially true for Exchange server users that seek to better sync Entourage with corporate email systems.

View my screenshot gallery of Microsoft Office for the Mac 2008.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

47 comments
wjacomb
wjacomb

Watch out for the Student and Teacher Edition. This is commonly sold with new Macs. However, if you wish to use Entourage to connect to an Exchange Server, this version does not work

mlibrescu
mlibrescu

I haven't used this software, but based on user criticisms posted on Amazon.com, I'm wondering if the author has used or even researched this article.

ANARCHYMM
ANARCHYMM

finally MS office caught up and can save pdf! Can't remember how long this option existed in OpenOffice. Bad article Bad Bad

sb9
sb9

I tried the 08 version of Microsoft office for mac, and well, it was not syncing with a blackberry. Upon looking on-line it seems that this is a frequent issue with smartphone. As far as I understood, Microsoft never supported officially syncing with entourage, but they "removed" what manufecturere (and third party application) where using to sync. S.

alicia
alicia

The new interface is foolish, it does not improve anything and just makes the program harder to use until the new interface is learned. If the new interface made use of real UI design standards instead of what some software engineer though would be 'cool' then I might consider it an advantage. There is no interface that I have seen that is intuitive and works the way the average user wants to work.

alicia
alicia

Anybody who pays $400 odd for Microsoft Office when Open Office is available for free has serious problems. Open Office offers everything Microsoft Office does along with using ISO standard document format as its native format. Consequently, it is even more compatible with other products. Save your money and get Open Office at OpenOffice.org and put the Microsoft product in the trash.

lake
lake

Beg your pardon! I run Excel 2004 on the Mac, Excel 2007 on the Mac under Parallels Desktop, and ran Excel 2008 on the Mac before I sent it back to Microsoft for a refund. Excel 2008 is an unmitigated disaster! When I tried to Sort a row of data, I got the wrong answer! There is no VBA, so no Macros, so no re-use of analysis methods developed over the decades. I deal with large datasets, 400 columns and 200,000+ rows. Excel 2007 will read them, Excel 2008 would say "Not enough memory". On the same computer, eh! The developers must have been running without adult supervision ... not only doesn't it work, but it apparently was not tested with any discipline or rigor. RobLake

art
art

What a disappointing piece of nonsense. We are currently evaluating the cost of upgrade vs. switch to OpenOffice. I naively thought I was going to get some insight. Shame on me for allowing myself to think this wasn't an advert.

kurt
kurt

This article offers nothing but hype, and most of it misleading. Why is TechRepublic offering this tripe as 'journalism'? I only have a little time to read online tech articles. I cannot afford to fritter it away on Microsoft advertisements.

kurt
kurt

Why waste money on MS Office when Open Office is free, compatible, and performs just as well, if not better? If you are still paying for software, either you don't know about open source, or you have too much money.

Jim-MN
Jim-MN

"Better" means more detail, include at least some pros (_real_ pros, not stuff e.g. PDF output that can be done perfectly, easily, and for free without the subject tool) and cons, and consider the whole environment, i.e. all reasons someone may want to install (and even buy) the tool. In those reasons, for an office productivity suite, must be included e-mail interface, must it not? And to fail to even mention far-from-reliable (or even attempting to support the complete feature list) exchange of files (e.g. document, spreadsheets) with other users outside of the owning organization, 90% or so of which use M$ Office on Windows, is inexcusable. TR, if you don't maintain integrity, credibility, quality, relevance etc. then what are your editors getting paid for, where are your Author's Submission Criteria, and what service are you providing for your readership (now apparently dwindling even more rapidly than before)? Please reply. Jim

jimb01
jimb01

This was not a review. High cost for low value is the mark of a monopoly that is too comfortable. "The right tool..." basically means that if you must have it, get it; otherwise save your money. JB

Paco_CT
Paco_CT

Glaring omission - Entourage. Right. Why? If you are going to touch on office productivity then you have to include SMTP abilities. If not, don't write about combined functionality. I was forced to use a Mac with a new job. I adapted and over come,but still do not like the MS Mac SMTP client w/O2004 and don't see many changed in MS Mac O2008.

GreenPirogue
GreenPirogue

I have worked both in the Mac and PC environment for most of my career, and I remember when I first purchased MS Office for Mac. My biggest disappointment was that there was no MS Access (not a great tool, but it would have been nice to do some work at home). The exclusion of macros is huge, especially for MS Excel. I have never been able to switch from certain documents (mostly MS Excel files) to the Mac because complicated documents are not handled the same way. If the review would have read "limited compatibility with other Microsoft Office users", I don't think I would have had a problem with the review. At least I learned about NeoOffice (and was reminded about Open Office). I have used Open Office for the PC years ago, and it seemed fairly stable. I just did not like the names of their applications, something I could get over for the difference in price.

davishipps
davishipps

Every time I read these "Right Tool for the Job" blogs, I'm amazed at the comments. Everyone always goes on and on about how there's some other product that does the job much better, and how this has just been an ad for the reviewed product. Maybe they should change the title, but it seems to me the structure of the blog is: here's a job, here's the tool, will the tool do the job? If the answer is, "Yes," everyone starts crying about it being an ad. This blog is just a very brief review of a product, and I often wonder if it's not intended to spark these discussions (although they could probably do without the snide remarks). With this last sentence in mind, what does everyone think of NeoOffice?

jhecht
jhecht

Oh please! Is Micro$oft paying off TR to run advertisements disguised as "reviews"? In my opinion, 95% of the end users would be better served by Open Office, Abiword, Gnumeric, and the host of other excellent shareware and freeware apps available. Most of them have a high degree of compatibility with MS Office files - although admittedly not perfect. $400 is a lot of money for most people - the cost of a new computer... Add to that M'$oft's charming habit of changing things for the sake of change, not to improve them, the bloated size of Office 2008, the sluggish performance of the programs, and there are a LOT of reasons to not buy Office 2008, unless your company is paying for it. Send $100 to Sun for Open Office as a donation, and then figure out what to do with the other $300 you saved by not buying Office...

Greg.Spitzer
Greg.Spitzer

Wow, now I know why I've been meeting to unsubscribe from the TechRepublic emails. Having just purchased a new MacBook Pro and at the same time trying to decide if the upgrade to 2008 would be worth it for myself and the rest of my company I thought what a timely email to receive! However, after reading the "article" I am thoroughly disgusted that such an insightful worthless piece of marketing material which isn't even accurate would be allowed to be posted. Just a few of the many issues: 1) Compatibility? Simple Upgrade Path? Luckily I'm not one to make extensive use of macros or 3rd party apps like EndNote which is why I'm still considering the upgrade, but try and tell my colleagues in the scientific research arena that 2008 provides compatibility or a simple upgrade path. 2) PDF output? So what, any program on the Mac that can print offers PDF output. Anyway, this just reaffirms my decision to drop the TechRepublic emails from my inbox.

richardlaing
richardlaing

is this an advert for Office? Not exactly incisive criticism and comparison here! :-)

steven.janssens
steven.janssens

Works fine, but a big problem is the fact of a "bug by design". If you type your mails in html format and send it to outlook users you will notice that your font size will keep on growing. It looks like you are shouting in your mails. Only solution is to work in plain text.

loss4words
loss4words

These 'right tool' articles used to be interesting, unbiased and useful. Congratulations, you can read the advertising material.

Tig2
Tig2

I have Office 2004 for Mac and I won't be upgrading to Office 2008. I'm looking at iWork but am just as likely to go to Open Office to retain compatibility. I started watching Office for Mac last month and frankly, it is way too buggy and has caused too many people too many problems. And for me, that is a deal breaker. Lack of macro support is one of the reasons, failure to provide all of the Entourage features promised is another and frankly the list goes on. I am not willing to allow Microsoft to blatantly ignore ODF or support them in doing it. Backward compatibility is still too important to me.

charlesjudd
charlesjudd

no macro support ?!!? i am a switcher. but there is no macro support in office 2008

Jim-MN
Jim-MN

Please give soe more details. For example, a link or 2 to the Amazon pages you refer to, and what do you mean, exactly? Are you saying that it appears to you that the author of the article in this thread has not used the product? Why do you say this? What (other) research should he have done, and how does it relate to the Amazon info? Etc. Thanks. Jim

emxgarcia
emxgarcia

If you want to learn the good (and the bads) of Office 2008 mac, you should head to MacTopia. Incredibly, the discussions at Microsoft's MacBU website is much more informative than this review. For me (Microsoft Gold Certified partner, Small Business Specialist and Business Solutions Competency Dynamics GP & CRM) the most important issues (good and bad) are: 1) Bad. Lack of VBA. A crime for multi-platform compatibility in corporate environments, probably not that bad on Mac-centric or SOHOs 2) Good. Much better Exchange support, near perfect considering that it's al done thru WebDAV - OWA. 3) Bad. Not a native Outlook client. 4) Good. Interface, a matured, clean interface that takes good stuff from Office 2004 and 2007. 5) Bad. Pricey. 6) Good. Better performance overall.

jdclyde
jdclyde

would be to not bother reading articles that are clearly about MS products when you have already shown you have no desire or interest in MS solutions. Sounds like you need to learn something about time management and ask yourself why you came to this discussion in the first place. Clearly the blame for wasted time was all yours because the subject was CLEARLY displayed. I pass many of these up myself, but it is because most MS solutions will not serve me. I don't see my company EVER going to Vista. Maybe the next incarnation when we are ready to throw out our old hardware.

benjf5
benjf5

I think the reason that everyone is so angry about this particular offering is the fact that the title suggests that there will be comparison. As such, readers feel cheated when only the features of the one program are touted, in such a shiny, brand-new way, too. This kinda rankles a bit. After all, all of those capabilities were available for a long time before.

knucklhead
knucklhead

In this instance, I do not believe so. There are plenty of deficiencies noted in the responses to overshadow the two drawbacks mentioned. I haven't seen my pet peeve 'PowerPoint' mentioned yet but even a low level user like myself can push it past its limits without much effort.

999silver
999silver

Well, this 'everyone' loves NeoOffice, definitely the way to go on a Mac because no reason to run X-11 emulator. Fits like a glove, and I've had no crashes whatsoever in 4 months' use. Guess it's time to send that $100 to Sun. Wouldn't go back to MS (either OS or Office) for all the tea in China.

FlaRich
FlaRich

For most Mac users, NeoOffice is the right tool - it supports compatible formats, has a true Mac interface (unlike OpenOffice at this point), and it's free. Unless you need to connect to an exchange server, NeoOffice should suit you fine.

jez
jez

Yet another 'review' that is only an advert. As others have said there is no need for any new version of office on mac or windows. Open office is more compatible even with office (as backward compatibility is not a high priorty). Sorry guys but these adverts, sorry reviews only decrease your integrity. Unsubscribing from these now...

pkrdk
pkrdk

For the majority of useres any version of MS Office is overkill - Mac or no Mac. I once did a large survey on the common office desktop, and the result was that the generel office user writes a number of standard letters every day - maybe 3-4 general forms. Very few compose a letter from the start, and only a minority creates a template. Most uses excel only for creating the office phonelist, because even after 15 years of trying tables still stink in Word. Competent excel users creates think excel is botrh a database and a programming language, and very often creates bnusinnes critil 'applications', which are undocumented, extremely complicated, and impossible for anybody else to find head or tail in when they leave for an new challenge - running off when it gets too complicated. Why should I hand-out 400$ for one copy of MS Office, when I can get OpenOffice for free or pay 100$ for 5 licenses including printed material. This is completely comparabel with MS Office, and even saves directly in PDF, which MS - also after 15 years of trying, can't - or rather won't. Only thing MS now offers is a new document format, which no other office suite knows how to open, and that's probably the reason for introducing it. They also offer a completely new UI, the mastering of which always have been pointed out to be impossible, and prohibiting any change away from MS office.

monaro
monaro

Separate email archiving in Entourage! This new version of Entourage (Office 2008) still combines the ability to archive emails within the same database as the users inbox. It would have been so nice, from an IT perspective, to have seen the ability to create separate archives, like you can in Outlook, just incase your database goes toes up! I have seen Entourage databases as big as 12gigs. Not good! Especially when users archive sensitive emails that require backup and access at any given time. That .mbox feature isn't worth the time. Thanks!

tom.marsh
tom.marsh

I've been a Mac guy for years, and while I'm glad to see that Macs have FINALLY risen in prominence to the point where people will do freebie P.R. "news stories" about Mac products, I'd still prefer TR to be... you know a useful source of information rather than ads disguised as "Stories."

spam
spam

Some of the advantages claimed in the article are factually incorrect and require correction: 1. Widespread compatibility with other Microsoft Office users - OpenOffice also provides widespread compatibility. Office macros have been removed from the Mac version; thus Windows Office users are not in fact compatible with Mac Office users. 2. Universal application - a universal application would include the platforms such as Linux and Solaris. Open Office and Star Office provide support for Windows, Mac, Linux, Solaris, and FreeBSD. Office only runs on Mac and Windows. This cannot be an advantage for Office. 3. PDF output options - OpenOffice provides native PDF SaveAs functionality (from the main menubar). This is not an advantage. Office is actually catching up to OpenOffice in this space. In-line with loss4words comment; this is not a blog post, this is an advertising feature. Please do not post this sort of paid material in supposedly impartial blogs. It blows away any credibility the blog had or has. Both Eric Eckel and Cara Reynolds should be ashamed of themselves.

tech
tech

I've heard that it doesn't really offer full compatibility to MS documents but honestly I've never encountered that in my usage. this software is awesome and loads much faster than MS products.

pubs
pubs

I made the mistake of upgrading my XP machine to Office 2007. What a bloated mess! It's filled with useless, pedantic tools designed for beginners. It actually reduced my productivity to the point that I reverted back to Office 2003. Sounds like the Mac Office upgrade is the same bloatware. Professionals/business users beware! You will be forced to unlearn what you've spend years mastering on previous versions of Word and Excel, and waste hours trying to figure out how to do the most simple tasks.

loss4words
loss4words

You said it buddy, 'why should i hand out $400 for MS Office when I can get open office for free?'. What do you get for your money? incompatibility. I'll admit that I do like the interface of new office slightly better than the old one, it does afford some usability increase once you learn how it goes but meh. MEH. But still, not the point - this is thinly veiled advertising. They may as well put a sign on their heads saying 'we take payola'. I've been nearly about to cancel my TR membership for some time because of the sodding atrocious quality of 'journalism' that passes for content here and I think I was just tipped over the edge.

cvmichael
cvmichael

Every EXCEL workbook I have developed over the past five years has at least one Macro in it. I did not switch to iWork because Numbers does not support macros-it is ironic that I will have to use Parallels and Windows 2007 to continue my Excel-based support for my clients!

juhlster1021
juhlster1021

I'm in agreement that the loss of macros is a strongly negative development -- I can't imagine why MS would release this product without it. It takes away my only reason to choose Office over NeoOffice or OpenOffice (or Apple's own iWork, for that matter). Re: Universal Application: This is the correct terminology. Apple programs designed to work on PowerPC and Intel chips are thus designated. It isn't a reference to OS compatibility, though it may rankle that Apple has chosen this marketing term. Re: Native PDF output: OS X has this baked in, so its presence isn't necessary in applications.

paymankhoda
paymankhoda

I couldn't agree more with this response to the article. Posing the headline as a question is especially shameful, since the writer never spent two seconds questioning MS Office. The Microsoft Office Suite is as inevitable as the tide, unfortunately. Therefore the headline should read: "Office for the Mac, are there really any choices left?" I doubt this author has seriously considered or seen any alternatives such as Nisus writer on the Mac that or short money shame MS Word, or ever even used Open Office. This sort of shameful promotion turned me off to so-called trade magazines years ago. I hope TechRepublic does a better job identifying this sort of PR campaign material in the future so we don't have to waste time opening it. The writer of this article has basically lost all credibility with me.

knucklhead
knucklhead

Even if everything else were accurate, since when is compatability with previous versions a 'plus' rather than an expectation? Microsoft began that downhill slide and still persists.

infospy
infospy

The correct term is universal binary, not an universal application, meaning it runs on ppc cpus and intel cpus

alicia
alicia

There are dozens of different architectures available, claiming universality because a product runs on 2 or 3 is just wrong! When Microsoft Office can claim, at least, 15 architectures, then it can claim universality!

ambient
ambient

I just bought a new MacBook, and given the choice(s), I went with NeoOffice. How they can consider themselves respectable still publish something like this is AMAZING! "Right for the job" depends upon what the job is...

Editor's Picks