Microsoft announced on July 20 the release of Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Service Pack 2, a midcycle update designed to improve the stability and compatibility of the application widely considered Microsoft's premier Mac product.
SP2 will be available for free download here starting at 1 p.m. EDT, and will also be offered via Microsoft AutoUpdate. The full trial version of Office 2008 for Mac is also available for free from this site.
One key feature of the service pack is a new tool, Document Connection for Mac, which improves access to and browsing of documents on SharePoint Products and Technologies and Microsoft Office Live Workspace. This represents an attempt on Microsoft's part to boost cross-platform collaboration and compatibility.
Specifically, Document Connection allows users to open and save documents to the Microsoft Office Live workplace from Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other Office applications. As part of this, Microsoft Office Live Workspace will support Safari 4.
With regard to SharePoint, Document Connection will allow easier collaboration among Mac users by simplifying the processes of browsing, accessing and managing files both online and offline.
In addition, other updates include two upgrades to Microsoft PowerPoint 2008 for Mac: Custom Path Animation, which allows the creation of motion-path animations in addition to playing them back, and Default Theme, in which users can define a default theme with fonts, color scheme, slide layouts and other elements.
SP2 increases the launch and scroll speeds for Microsoft Word 2008, as well as calculation performance for Microsoft Excel 2008.
Microsoft's recent focus has been on making its Office products more collaborative and cloud-centric, possibly in response to platforms such as Google Apps that make productivity suites available over a browser for free.
At its Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans, which ended July 16, Microsoft announced that its upcoming Microsoft Office 2010 would be offered as a free online service to Microsoft Live subscribers. The stripped-down versions of OneNote, Excel, Word and PowerPoint will not include features available in the full desktop versions.