Office:mac 2011 launched: Entourage is dead, long live Outlook

Microsoft has updated its Office for Mac offering, making a number of changes it says were prompted by user feedback - and we’re guessing there was quite a bit of feedback.

Office:mac 2008 always played second fiddle (or perhaps third triangle if we’re talking in orchestral terms) to Office on the PC. Despite appearing a year after the update to Office 2007 on the PC, it had a look and feel more like Office 2003 and lacked some of the refinement that its PC cousin touted.

Office:mac 2011 rights those wrongs, bringing with it a collection of new features, a new look and feel, and much improved performance. Microsoft claims that Office for Mac is as compatible as it can be with the PC version, an acknowledgement that PC and Mac are operating together in the workplace.

Although visually similar, Microsoft claims that many of the changes have been built from the ground up, to make Office:mac the most “Mac like” version of the software ever. Perhaps that is more a reflection of Microsoft making Office progressively more intuitive and user-friendly on the PC than anything else.

A big change is the introduction of the “ribbon” interface introduced to Office 2007 on the PC. This replaced the need for numerous drop-down menus, toolbars and palettes that made up the old system. You can turn it off if you don’t like it, but having used the ribbon on the PC, we welcome it on the Mac, even if you lose a little screen space. This has been applied across the suite to make it consistent.

A new full screen view lets you ditch the rest of your desktop so you only have the document you are working on in front of you - to help you concentrate on the task at hand. It is a little like Safari’s new reading view and we already love it. The same system can be used for reading, with a simple scroll (on a mouse or trackpad) to change pages.

There is added emphasis on sharing and collaboration, with the integration of SkyDrive sharing using a Windows Live ID, and messaging options from the application windows, rather than having to switch to a new app. Integration with iLife applications has been improved, so you’ll be able to access iTunes, iMovie and iPhoto collections easily to add to docs and PowerPoint.

The biggest change however, is dropping the Entourage email client and adopting Outlook, so it mirrors the PC offering. For those that are happy to stick with Mail, there will be a Home & Student version of the software offering Word, PowerPoint and Excel, whilst the Home & Business offering adds Outlook into the mix.

Four versions of the software are available: Home & Student comes with either a one-user licence for £89.99 or three users for £109.99. Home & Business offers one user for £189.99 or two users for £239.99. It will be available from 26 October.



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