Microsoft Corp. will announce on Wednesday that its Office 2004 for Mac has reached store shelves.
As planned, the Redmond, Wash., software maker is releasing its Mac productivity suite in the third week of this month, following its unveiling in January during the Macworld Conference & Expo. While the standard and the student and teacher editions will be available Wednesday, Microsoft has slowed the release of the professional edition of the suite.
Thats because, as previously reported, Microsoft hit a snag in releasing Virtual PC for Mac Version 7, its Windows emulation software that is included in the professional edition. Virtual PC 7 and the Office professional edition should be ready in the fall, said Mary Starman, lead product manager in Microsofts Mac Business Unit.
Virtual PC 7 is the first release of the software since Microsoft acquired it last year from Connectix Corp. The later release schedule is the result of the need to do a thorough security audit of the software and delays in Windows XP Service Pack 2, Starman said.
Office 2004 for Mac is Microsofts second Mac OS X-native Office version, following the release of Office v. X for Mac in 2001. The suite includes Word 2004 for word processing; Excel 2004 for spreadsheets; PowerPoint 2004 for presentations; Entourage 2004 for e-mail, contacts and calendaring; and MSN Messenger Version 4.0 for instant messaging.
In the new release, Microsoft has added a feature called Project Center for managing files, e-mails, meetings and tasks associated with a particular project and for sharing project information with others. It also is providing new compatibility reports to pinpoint possible compatibility problems when sharing files between Mac and Windows platforms and with older Office versions.
Other features range from an enhanced Scrapbook for storing commonly used text and images in Office documents and a page layout view in Excel that previews a printed document.
Still missing is an e-mail client that fully integrates with Microsoft Exchange server. Microsoft stopped developing its Outlook client for Mac with Outlook 2001.
Starman said the Exchange integration is a priority but could not say when it will occur. However, Office for Mac 2004 does provide some improvements in the way the Entourage e-mail client interacts with Exchange, she said.
Entourage can automatically detect server information to ease setup, and it supports delegate access to Exchange, meaning that another, authorized user—such as an executive assistant—can access and manage someone elses e-mail and calendar, according to Microsoft.
For Office 2004 for Mac, Microsoft is offering a 30-day trial version it calls Office 2004 Test Drive. In the fall, Apple Computer Inc. has agreed to preload the trial version of Office 2004 on Macs, Starman said.
Pricing for Office 2004 is $399 for the standard edition ($239 for an upgrade) and $149 for the student and teacher editions. The English and Japanese versions will be available first, with versions for other languages following in June.