Microsoft Office:mac 2008 - Mac

Four years in the making, Microsoft's latest version of Office for the Apple mac is here, but has it been worth the wait, is there enough new stuff in here to get you excited and should you be rushing out to upgrade? We get office working to find out.

So what do you get for your £349? Well it's the usual package: Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage with Messenger thrown in for good measure. All the packages bar MSN Messenger have been heavily upgraded, transferred to Universal coding so they will work faster on an Intel-based machine as well has having a complete overhaul on the interface and functionality fronts.

It might have been 4 years in the making, but Microsoft hasn't wasted any time in adding new options in an attempt to make your office life easier.

Installation was pain free from a previous version of Office:mac (version 2004) and even though we had around 8GB of data within Entourage, the setup procedure transferred our identity settings and folders over to the new package in around 10 minutes. Installation which will take around 1.1GB of your hard disk will take around 30 minutes in total.

Microsoft Entourage

While Windows users get Outlook, Mac users get Entourage. Here, like all the pages, the interface has been overhauled. It is a more coherent design that fits in with other Apple applications and has a great emphasis on helping you run your office workstation. Improvements include a vastly improved search, that is hundreds of times better than the previous incredibly slow offering. As with OS10.5 leopard you can narrow down your search options on the fly such as whether the document was sent on a specific date, it's got an attachment or even via who sent it.

The other major improvements focus around getting jobs done with an emphasis on flagging items. Not only has Microsoft made flagging an item easier, but also how you flag it. Now messages can be flagged with a date associated with it giving you the option to set it as something to do today, tomorrow, next week, or a specific date. Where this comes in handy is the creation of a "To do" list option which is accessed at the press of button. Those wishing to highlight stuff even further can opt for the My Day widget that gives you a heads up as to what you are doing today with calendar views, as well as showing you those flagged messages.

Tasks can be created without the need to attach to an e-mail, and those who like to cross stuff off your lists can opt to print the whole thing out.

The application can be run from the Dock or the Menu bar if you're keen to keep things simple.

You can now also have it so attachments are automatically zipped when you send the e-mail, a nifty feature that is sure to cut down on your attachment sizes and saves you having to do it before you send.

Realising that more and more people are using Macs in the office rather than just at home, Microsoft has included full support for Microsoft Exchange Server into the package.

Complaints? Well there aren't many, although we found that the boldness between read and unread emails isn't as apparent as before. It's a small detail, but enough to make you have to look a bit closer as to whether you've opened the e-mail or not. For the light user it isn't going to be a problem, but if you are one of those that gets hundreds by the day, it's something to bear in mind.

Microsoft Word

A new interface that cannily looks like Apple's Pages, sees Microsoft Word getting a simpler interface and the ability to access a plethora of templates very quickly.

Bar a range of templates that allow you to design posters, flyers and a host of other desktop publishing options you also get new insert options include Document Elements, Quick Tables, Charts, SmartArt and WordArt galleries all of which can be dragged on the page at a moments notice. Implementation is easy.

Other big changes include moving the toolbar from the top of the page to a window that can expand that floats to the side of the page view. Very much like other applications from Adobe, you can access everything via a series of expandable menus.

There are shortcuts on the top of the view pane, such as word count, and now a live word counter in the status bar at the bottom, but the most noticeable change is a change in the default font.

Ditching Times New Roman for Cambria, the move brings a new more rounded font as the default option and one that was developed as one of six types specifically for the company's Vista operating system.

"Apart of its ClearType collection, the font has been designed to be viewed better on screen and in print. Originally designed specifically for Window Vista's rendering system each font has been designed by hand to look better screen, above and beyond what is printed", Jeremy Tankard, one of the typographers that designed the new font set (he is responsible for Corbel).

What's interesting is that the font won't look as pretty on the Mac OS, because it's designed specifically for Vista, but that hasn't stopped it still looking very nice indeed.

Microsoft Excel

Beyond writing letters to the bank manager or staying in touch via e-mail, Microsoft has also as you would expect included Excel into the package. Here like the others in the offering, the spreadsheet application gets a considerable overhaul with the toolbar shifting to the side and greater emphasis on the cell toolbar.

Other new features include drop down elements making it easier to spruce up your worksheets and you can opt for templated designed to help you with personal finance or charts till the cows come home.

Microsoft PowerPoint

Those wanting to kill off board meetings with death by PowerPoint option will be pleased that there are stacks more features to spruce up your presentations and make them go on even longer.

PowerPoint too gets drop down elements that can be easily dragged into the presentation and everything is now very easy to do.

Verdict

Wow. This isn't just whimsical update with a few changes here and there, but actually a product that brings a massive amount of productivity to the table.

While the look and feel mirrors Apple's considerably cheaper office offering, it's clear that there are far more features and capabilities on offer whether it's the My Day function or the new font set that makes everything easier to read.

If you are a Mac owner and a heavy Microsoft 2004 user, Office:Mac 2008 is not only worth the upgrade, but a veritable must.

UPDATE: Since our review it has come to our attention that the latest version currently does not support PocketMac for BlackBerry. Users wishing to sync their contacts with their mobile phone will have to first sync their contacts and diary entries with Apple's Address Book and iCal before syncing it with the BlackBerry. Unfortunately users won't be able to sync email. RIM is reported to be working on a solution.



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