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. I have been a mac user all my life, but only bought my own computer a few years ago as opposed to sharing the family mac. I now own two macs (a 17″ G5 iMac at home and a C2D MacBook for using at University), and I am happy to say that I have never installed Office or any other Microsoft software on either machine, with the exception of a brief use of MSN for Mac and the driver for my MS mouse. I use some combination of iWork and TextEdit for everything. I have never had much need for Office, but as a last resort I can always use OpenOffice if something is acting wonky in terms of compatibility. I mostly export to PDF for sending files to people.

    I think there are a lot of people who use Office who don’t really need to. I see a lot of people in classes with Mac laptops who are running Office instead of iWork (yes, it’s kind of sad that I notice), and I often wonder why they decided to spend $200+ on a version of Office for Mac instead of just getting iWork. I have yet to have a class which has required electronic submission which hasn’t supported a format other than Word… and most classes still don’t allow electronic submission of Essays or other assignments, much less to the exclusion of paper copies.

    I can understand using it in a company for internal compatibility, although if the whole company shifted over that wouldn’t be a problem, but it seems as if there is little compelling reason for a home or school user to choose Office for Mac over iWork these days; the lack of an Excel equivalent was pretty much the last real reason.

  2. I have Microsoft Office for Mac 2004 and I’ve haven’t used it in probably 2 years.

    After Panther, I stopped using Entourage. And after iWorks, I stopped using Word/Excel.

    I don’t see the point to buy 2008. I might have bought it 2 years ago…but not today.

  3. The Mac Unit at MS has been hard at work on Office 2008 and good on them. They consistently one (or one hundred) up the Windows version of Office. I still need Excel to work with advanced spreadsheets used with my Windows using counterparts. As well, most of the business world uses Powerpoint and Word and for near-perfect compatibility, I need to use Windows for Mac to check all my iWork docs before sending as some formatting can go awry.

    Guys in the Mac BU at MS are decent Mac lovers who want to develop great apps for the Mac. You may not use the software but give them some slack. You don’t always have to be !@$@#.

    And good on MDN for not slagging them either. They don’t deserve it even though the rest (and I mean upper management) at MS does.

  4. So now neither Numbers nor Excel will do the job many of us need. I would love to just use Numbers but it lacks so much of the real sophistication and power that Excel has grown to have. Part of that was VBA. VBA has always empowered me to take on problems and tasks that many wouldn’t think possible in a simple spreadsheet program.

  5. I use iWork ’08 and like it- particularly keynote (this app rules!). My MAJOR gripe with Pages in the seriously sad lack of an equation editor. Really. How can something so fundamental be overlooked? Given that MANY iWork/Pages users are students/teachers/others who need to insert equations into documents, this is a MAJOR, MAJOR shortcoming and serious ANNOYANCE in Pages. Otherwise, its not bad. Nevertheless I will never buy another copy of iWork until it is fixed.

    Neooffice/open office are good, free alternatives. They’ll do about 99.9999% of what you want 99.9999% of the time.

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

    Are you sure Office uses Core Animation? Is Core Animation even accessible from the Carbon APIs?

    I didn’t see anything in the article, other than a few visual style differences, that Office 2007 for Windows doesn’t already have.

  7. Couple things:

    1) MS Office v.X still works as do later versions (pre 2008).

    2) For more advanced users, yes OpenOffice and NeoOffice work, but OO is still very window’s centric in it’s UI and is just as much a pain to work with as the windows version of Office. The NO port of OO: NeoOffice is growing up, but it does not handle forms very well. I don’t use it for spreadsheets.

    3) iWork is great for the casual user, student, even the light power user, but for those of us who rely heavily on related documents with embedded scripts and advanced collaborative features, (especially in spreadsheets, and word forms) Word and Excel are still far better than Pages and Numbers. (indeed, Pages cannot even do forms)

    I hate MS just as much as the next person, but unfortunately I would have to say that for me the only reason I want a viable and functioning MS, is to continue to produce Excel. It is far and away the state of the art spreadsheet application. Nothing even comes close.

    AMPAR, I sure you are aware that MS produced Word and Excel for Macintosh before Windows. And that typically the Mac versions exceeded what the corresponding Window’s release could do, feature wise and usability.


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