When the Office X launched on the Mac, aside from rewriting the code specifically for the platform, there wasn't much new to the office suite from Microsoft. Another year on, and Office 2004 has been given a new lease of life. This time however, Microsoft has packed in plenty of features to make this more the Office users' friend than ever before.
Connecting all the packages together in the suite is a new feature called Project Centre, which for now is exclusive to the Mac version. The crux of the feature is that it allows you to create a project that all your office programmes relate to. Based out of Entourage, although you can access it from Word etc, it allows you to set deadlines, share files, emails and other assets between users and programs. For the project mad the feature works a dream and allows to you easily keep track of everything that is going on under one simple roof. Tasks can be set, notes made and schedules kept- well hopefully.
Other features across all packages are the scrapbook feature- a boosted Office clipboard and Toolbox an element that tries to make sense of all the different formats both in Office and other packages and make sure your document is going to be able to be read by most. For the most part this mean paring down crazy formatting that you might have got carried away with and simplifying it. While the element is useful it does go to show how many versions of Office we've seen over the years and how there doesn't appear to be one coherent format through the versions.
Moving on to the individual programs within Office and the list of new features that have been added is far too long to go into in this review. Entourage has received an overhaul on the interface, and a new preview pane has been introduced. It's not leaps and bounds on from the Office X version, but it does help make everything that little easier on the eye. Additionally this version supplies the buyer with MSN Instant Messenger. Alongside the program being included in the box, Microsoft has included greater integration with not only Entourage but Word as well.
Excel is next on the list and one of the key new features is the ability to work in layout mode. This gives you a greater understanding of how your charts and spreadsheet will look on the printed page and is a great new feature. Before it meant switching between the views to make any changes, now you simply make the changes and any further necessary amendments there and then.
For most Office users Word is the key element and like its brethren, it hasn't gone untouched on the new features and make over. An interesting, but rather small feature is the notebook mode, which, along with pseudo notebook lines gives you and interface like a notebook complete with tabs down the side for notes on different subjects. It's an interesting option, however one that we can see little benefit from. Likewise Microsoft has added a reference button, which similar to the synonyms allows you to look up the definitions of words on the internet. Here you have three choices, either look up the definition in the included dictionary (Encarta of course rather than the Oxford Concise or Collins) or see what Encarta online has to say about it or simply do a search on MSN. Of course Microsoft has opted for this version to increase traffic to its Encarta and MSN systems, however it is rather annoying when arriving at the Encarta home page only to be told you've got to sign up and pay your money.
So should you upgrade, For £220 it might be a little steep for most, however if you are a serious office worker then there should be enough to justify the outlay. If however you are an office user that merely uses the basics, and don't need to manage multiple projects with multiple people then Office X will serve you just as well as it always has.
For those upgrading from a pre Office X copy, go on and spoil yourself, the extra features give it the edge over Office X and make life that little bit easier.