It's been four years since Microsoft's last Office for Mac release: Office 2004. Following last year's release of Office 2007 for Windows systems, Mac users have been a little stuck as they have had no support for the latest Open XML document formats. After what seems like a very long year of waiting, Mac users are put back ‘in the loop' with the delivery of Office for Mac 2008. As a Windows and Mac user, I find Office for Mac is an essential tool that allows me to work with my files, whichever platform I happen to be on at any particular time. Once I started to create and receive documents in the new Microsoft Office 2007 formats, I had no choice but to spend most of my time working under Windows. Now that I have support for these documents in Office for Mac 2008, I can get back to my Mac more often.
So what are my favourite features of Office for Mac 2008?
- Supports new Open XML formats
- Saves documents directly to PDF
- Entourage works noticeably faster
- Saves PowerPoint presentations directly to .mov
- Increased compatibility with Exchange
- ‘My Day' mini-organiser
So far, Office for Mac 2008 has received a mixed reaction from users and opinion on whether or not this latest release is worthy of the upgrade fee seems to be divided. Elsa Wenzel over at CNET seems to think the upgrade is well worthwhile for any business users out there, while Tricia Liebert here at TechRepublic isn't a fan. I can understand Tricia being miffed that Microsoft took away Macro support, but that's only true for the Home and Student edition—I'm using Entourage with Exchange right now!
I would say I'm quite a lightweight Office user—I work with basic documents and spreadsheets and also use Entourage with Exchange to keep on top of my e-mail and Calendar. For me, being able to work with the latest document formats is vital but I don't want or need advanced features such as automation or Visual Basic macros.
If I have one major grumble it is that there's been no effort at all to update Microsoft Messenger for Mac, which is included with the Office for Mac suite. While there are quite a few good alternatives to Windows Live Messenger (Yahoo and Skype for example) it still remains the IM of choice for many people. Why Microsoft has put so little effort into updating the Mac client is beyond me. The lack of audio/video support is completely unacceptable given that the majority of Mac users will have a Webcam built into their computer!
All things considered, I think Office for Mac 2008 is pretty good and a worthwhile upgrade. Although the standard edition is a little pricey at £330, the Home and Student edition is a very reasonable—setting you back only £90. Home and Student edition doesn't include Exchange Server support in Entourage and lacks Automator integration but non-business users won't miss either of those.