REVIEW: Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac SP 2 Is a Low-Impact Upgrade

Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Service Pack 2 comes at no cost and will be relatively easy to deploy. That said, end users will find little in the way of improvements to the productivity suite, with the "biggest" changes focused on PowerPoint.

Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Service Pack 2 is a no-cost upgrade that provides only modest improvements to the productivity suite.

Microsoft's service packs for Office are primarily evolutionary, and this one is no exception. IT managers should have little problem deploying the SP; indeed, during my tests, installation was no problem. However, there is no uninstall option, so I advise thorough predeployment testing in environments that use heavily customized Word templates, forms and Excel workbooks.

For images of Office 2008 for Mac SP 2, click here.

Office 2008 for Mac SP 2 focuses on the PowerPoint component of the suite. Microsoft Entourage for Mac 2008-the suite's much-maligned e-mail client-gains automated features for connecting to Mobile Me and Windows Live Hotmail accounts, while SharePoint users will be able to use the new Document Connection tool to ease file access. Microsoft has made some bug fixes to Word, and has tweaked Word and Excel for improved performance.

Minor Improvements

Compared with Keynote, Apple's slide presentation application in its own iWorks suite, Office for Mac PowerPoint just barely keeps up.

I was able to change the default theme in PowerPoint, but that's just a basic boon for presentation mavens. Also new in PowerPoint is the ability to add path animation to a slide. Making text and other elements fly around the screen adds a little pizzazz to presentations, but it is hardly the kind of sizable advance in product features I expected. That said, adding the path animation element is simple to do, and anyone with a passing familiarity with slide production will be able to master the feature in less than 5 minutes.

During tests, PowerPoint for Mac was able to retain the formatting of a slide presentation created in PowerPoint 2007 on my Windows XP system. Significantly, both slide decks correctly displayed text in Arial font-previous versions of the Mac version sometimes converted text to Calibri.

Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Word now retains the formatting of numbered lists. From Microsoft Office 2007 for Windows running on a virtual PC, I opened a numbered list created in the Mac version of Word, and everything displayed correctly. Aside from this minor change, Word is relatively unchanged from its previous state.

Entourage, the Outlook equivalent in Office for Mac, has new account creation wizards to help with Mobile Me and Windows Live Hotmail integration. During tests, the wizard helped me create an account linked to Windows Live Hotmail service. SP 2 is required for organizations that intend to use the Web-based edition of Entourage.

Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at [email protected].