Following the resurgence of Apple computers, fueled largely in part by the popularity of Apple's iPod music players, Mac OS X, and stylish, well-performing PCs, Windows administrators are increasingly encountering Macintosh computers in business environments. Fortunately, Macs benefit from a host of available enterprise-class business applications that assist users in maximizing productivity.
Windows professionals, however, are often confused by the different applications and programs that target Apple users. As many Windows technicians haven't previously worked with the Macintosh platform, many Windows pros haven't had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with various Apple apps. Here's a roadmap designed to help get any Windows user quickly up to speed on the various business programs readymade for Mac users.
Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac
Microsoft, despite occasional rumors to the contrary, still actively supports Mac users. Redmond developers released the Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac suite of applications, which includes updated versions of Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Entourage (the Apple iteration of Microsoft Outlook), and Microsoft PowerPoint.
In addition to providing compatibility with Windows-based Microsoft Word 2003, Microsoft Excel 2003, and Microsoft PowerPoint 2003 and older files, Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac provides Apple users with industry-standard office productivity software.
Some compatibility issues exist, however, with Microsoft Office 2007. Documents, spreadsheets and presentations created using the new Microsoft Office 2007 XML-based file formats are incompatible with Microsoft Office 2004 For Mac. Further, Microsoft has not released a compatibility or conversion kit for Macintosh users. Instead, Mac users must wait for Microsoft's new office system to hit the Apple platform. Meanwhile, Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac is due sometime in the second half of 2007.
New Office features that will debut exclusively for Mac users include a new Publishing Layout View, Ledger Sheets enabling Excel users to complete common financial management tasks, and My Day, which will enable users to manage tasks and other daily activities regardless of the current program being used. In addition, Microsoft Office for Mac will include support for the new XML file formats and Microsoft's new Office UI and ribbon toolbars.
Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac, meanwhile, is priced similar to Microsoft's Windows Office software. Two versions are available for the Mac: a Standard and Professional version. Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac Standard Edition, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage, runs $399 for a Full Version (or $239 for an upgrade). The Professional Edition, which adds a copy of Virtual PC Version 7 with Windows XP, costs $499 (or $329 for an upgrade). Note that the Professional Edition's Virtual PC software runs only on Power PC-based Macs (and includes a Windows XP license, hence the additional cost).
Macintosh users can also opt to use the Mac port of the popular OpenOffice.org 2.1 office suite. NeoOffice 2.1 delivers a complete suite of office productivity applications, including NeoOffice Writer, NeoOffice Calc, NeoOffice Impress, NeoOffice Base, and NeoOffice Draw.
Better yet, released under the GNU General Public License (GPL), NeoOffice provides Apple computer users with a free but capable office productivity suite.
Apple iWork '06
Apple iWork '06, which replaces the former AppleWorks set of applications, delivers both a business-class presentation program (Keynote 3) and a powerful word-processing application (Pages 2). Priced at just $79, iWork combines the two applications in a single and affordable software package.
Pages 2 simplifies the process of creating arresting 3-D tables, charts, and designs within stunning documents. Further, Pages 2 supports completing spreadsheet-style calculations within documents, further simplifying the creation of powerful reports and documents.
Keynote 3 assists Apple users in building what Apple markets as cinema-quality presentations. With support for high-quality transitions, text animation, a variety of attractive themes, and the same spreadsheet-style calculations supported within Pages 2, Keynote 3 simplifies the process of creating attention-getting slideshows and presentations.
FileMaker Pro 8.5
Developed and supported by FileMaker, Inc., FileMaker Pro 8.5 provides both Macintosh and Windows users with a database application capable of powering custom database applications. The program enables tracking and managing projects, data, images, and even personnel, publishing, sharing and collecting data via the Web, and sharing database information as Adobe PDF or Microsoft Excel documents across both operating systems. The program also supports issuing SQL queries to enterprise CRM systems, generating weekly reports and creating catalogs of inventory and other assets.
Priced at $299 for a Full Version (or $99 for an upgrade), FileMaker Pro 8.5 provides Mac (and Windows) users with a capable database product. An Advanced version, which adds support for leveraging scripts to streamline and store database schema, deploy runtime applications, and additional customization options, is available for $499 for a Full Version or $99 for an Upgrade. The Server-side software, meanwhile, is priced at $999 for a Full copy of FileMaker Server 8 or $2,499 (for FileMaker Server 8 Advanced).
OmniGraffle Professional 4.0
The Omni Group develops and supports some of the most popular Macintosh-based diagramming software. OmniGraffle Professional 4.0 is viewed by many as the Apple standard of diagramming applications.
Priced at $149.95 for a Professional version and $79.95 for the Standard edition (upgrades start at $29.95), the Professional version includes all the features of the Standard version but adds additional tools for advanced document creation and editing.
Mac users have been using Omni software for years to serve as their version of Microsoft Visio, whether building organizational charts, network diagrams or other schematics. Omni's OmniGraffle Professional includes tools to import Microsoft's new Visio XML file formats, too, making it easier to import Visio formatted files.
The software also provides the ability to easily add notes, create tables, draw objects to scale, and more. The program also includes support for ColorSync, which helps ensure color accuracy from design to publication.
iLife, included with most every Macintosh sold, deserves mention. While consisting mostly of consumer grade software, the $79 application includes some important software tools.
By default, iLife'06 includes the following software applications: iPhoto, iWeb, iMovie HD, iDVD, and GarageBand. iPhoto provides simple but powerful digital photo editing capabilities, while iMovie HD delivers basic but compelling video creation software. iDVD assists in burning professional-appearing DVDs, while GarageBand provides powerful and expandable recording studio software.
iWeb makes it easy for Mac users to quickly and easily set up, publish, and update appealing Web sites and blogs. While iWeb is limited in its design and functionality, the program integrates well with the other iLife apps, thereby simplifying the process of creating and publishing podcasts, photos, blog entries, and other content.
Numerous enterprise applications exist, enabling Macintosh users to maximize their Apple computers. Whether using applications developed by Microsoft, Apple, open source, or other programmers, a wide variety of Mac-specific programs are available.
For those proprietary or other programs that run only under Windows, any Intel-powered Macintosh user, of course, can boot their Macintosh systems to the Windows environment using either Apple's Boot Camp or Parallels Software's Parallels Desktop For Mac applications. In such a scenario, virtually any platform incompatibilities are eliminated. The only additional cost is a Windows XP license.
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 of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.