Ars Technica’s first look: Microsoft Office for Mac 2008

Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit (MBU) “has been hard at work on the first new Office for Mac release in four years, and one that’s been designed to take on Apple’s iWork apps. Although the programs are still Carbon, rather than Cocoa, they now combine the look-and-feel of OS X 10.5 with some of the innovations Microsoft introduced in Office 2007, like the ribbon,” Jonathan M. Gitlin reports for Ars Technica.

Gitlin takes a look at the Mac Office 2008 versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage:

Word: New features are in keeping with Microsoft’s aim of allowing users to create better looking documents more easily and, combined with the new Publishing Layout View, points to Microsoft taking a careful look at Pages and deciding that they liked what they saw. I might add that I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing; anything that makes an oft-used software tool better is a good thing, even if the idea was poached from somewhere else. Word also now supports OpenType, meaning that fonts finally look like they should with no need to mess about.

Excel: It’s not all roses. Microsoft has removed support for Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) from Office 2008, despite leaving it present in Office 2007, the Windows version. While this might not worry the casual spreadsheet user, anyone who uses highly customized files with lots of actions as part of their daily grind will be very poorly served by the transition to 2008. Perhaps the easiest workaround would be to run Office 2007 via Parallels. At a guess, this would be Microsoft’s preferred solution, since it means a sale of both Windows and Office 2007, but that kind of defeats the point of having a Macintosh version of the suite if you ask me.

• PowerPoint: As with the new additions to Word that suggest the MBU has been paying attention to iWork, PowerPoint 2008 also shows the signs of lessons learned from the competition.

Entourage: Apple’s Mail, iCal, and Address Book have many fans, but Entourage isn’t as bad as it’s often made out to be. And if you need to use Exchange for your e-mail, then really it’s your only choice for an e-mail program… Integration with Exchange might not be quite as feature-replete as our PC-using cousins enjoy via Outlook, but I’ve found the experience utterly painless. Shared calendars work perfectly, and global address books show up, although I’ve found that these can take some time to display.

Gitlin reports, “The Mac Business Unit has looked at what others, notably Apple, have brought to the table with competitor applications, and they’ve incorporated some of the best elements into Office. And if they haven’t consciously done that, then the end result is still the same. The applications are better looking, and produce better looking documents too… That it does that in just the way you’d want a great Macintosh program to behave is good news for Office workers.”

Much more, including reams of screenshots, in the full article here.


  1. “At a guess, this would be Microsoft’s preferred solution, since it means a sale of both Windows and Office 2007, but that kind of defeats the point of having a Macintosh version of the suite if you ask me.”

    Sounds familiar?

    Embrace, extend and extinguish

  2. Pages will continue to work fine for me. Although…. has anyone else noticed that since the 10.5.1 update that you can’t export keynote to powerpoint consistently? About three of my switcher friends and myself are experiencing this.

  3. Another very “kind” review from Ars Technica. :rollleyes:

    While the guy doesn’t exactly blow any smoke, he glosses over all the flaws and doesn’t really compare the product to iWork or any of it’s competitors.

    It’s also ironic that the basic message of the review is that Office 2008 is more “Mac-like” and borrows from iWorks virtues, yet the only reason it is (he doesn’t mention this) is because Apple wrote those parts.

    It is the core animation stuff that Apple created that once added to Office, makes it palatable. How ironic is that?

  4. I had reluctance, but by degrees weened myself from MSFT last year. My international company now operates entirely Microsoft-free, most especially as I use PDFs for all contracts.

    Word and Excel docs come in, but are opened in Pages or Numbers, and exported as PDFs for security. Happily, most of my files are for final agreements, not collaboration.

    The only problem I haven’t solved is password protecting Numbers documents. A disk image seems a poor work-around.

  5. Wow, Microsoft is finally coming out with Office for MAC. At long last MAC sheep will be able to enjoy Microsoft’s wonderful office productivity suite which Windows enthusiasts have loved for years. Welcome aboard, lemmings! Doesn’t seem the same running on something other than Windows, but it’s a start.

    Actually this looks to be Microsoft’s way of killing the MAC once and for all. Once you get a taste of Microsoft on MAC the Office halo effect will ultimately lead to upgrading to the magnificent Vista, Zune, xBox ecosystem. Buh bye Apple.

    Your potential. Our passion.™

  6. In addition to losing VBA in Excel, Word for Mac still doesn’t support right to left typing of foreign languages, which its Windoze counterpart has done for years.

    At some point, Apple will need to release iWork for Windows, Linux, etc to compete with Office.

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