The desktop application suite gets a makeover, adding Outlook and Office Web Apps.
With the release of Office 2011 for Mac on Oct. 26, Microsoft has made giant
strides in making the Mac version of its productivity suite less of an
afterthought to the Windows version, and in some ways has nudged the Macintosh
version of the suite past Office for Windows.
The applications that make up Office for Mac received a makeover in this
release, with the addition of the Office "ribbon" interface. But
Microsoft got the ribbon right in Office for Mac; the ribbon supplements the
menu commands, rather than replacing them or, worse, hiding them in a barely accessible
corner of the interface.
Also new across the board in Office 2011 is a focus on sharing and Web
access to applications. Microsoft's SkyDrive service and SharePoint 2007 and
later collaboration servers are directly supported as file repositories, and
Office Web Apps are now available to Mac users. This even includes the OneNote
Web App for free-form information gathering, which leads to the question of why
OneNote itself isn't available for Macintosh.
Office 2011 includes Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), which Microsoft
had cut from the Office 2008 lineup. VBA gives users the ability to record
macros in Excel and Word 2011, and offers an editor that runs from within Word,
Excel and PowerPoint to create and edit macros.
Other features common to the Office 2011 applications include new
compression options for embedded images and media browsing options that offer a
unified view of still images in iPhoto libraries, audio in iTunes playlists and
video files and iMovie projects. 3D views of layered objects in Word and
PowerPoint, coupled with the ability to quickly reorganize those layers, give
users more control over the appearance of documents and presentations.
Office 2011 builds in support for presence information and IM, voice or
video chat from within Office for Mac applications; these require either
Messenger for Mac 8, which is included with Office 2011, or Office
Communications Server 2007 R2 plus Communicator for Mac 2011.
This release of Office for Mac marks the end of Microsoft's support for
Apple's PowerPC-based hardware; all applications require an Intel CPU and Mac
OS X 10.5.8 or later. Given that Apple itself stopped most development efforts
for PowerPC last year with the release of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, I'm not
at all surprised. What I do find a little bit disappointing is that none of the
Office 2011 applications runs in 64-bit mode-although 64-bit support does
introduce some complexities, Excel for Mac in particular would benefit from it.
The suite is available through Microsoft's volume licensing programs and is
sold for retail in Home & Student, Home & Business, and Academic
editions. All of these include Word 2011, Excel 2011, PowerPoint 2011 and
Messenger for Mac 8, and the Academic and Home & Business editions add
Outlook 2011 to the suite. Pricing for single-install licenses is $99 for the
Academic edition, $119 for Home & Student, and $199 for Home & Business;
a three-install Family Pack license of Home & Student lists at $149 and a
two-install Multi-Pack of Home & Business goes for $279. Word, Excel and
PowerPoint 2011 are also sold separately, at $139.99 each; Outlook 2011 is not
available in a stand-alone package.
Here are my thoughts regarding the applications that make up the Office 2011
for Mac Suite:
Word 2011: "Word 2011 for Mac Gets It Right"
Excel 2011: "Excel 2011 Pushes the Envelope"
2011: "PowerPoint Gets Back to Roots"
2011: "Finally, an Outlook for Mac"