Microsoft Office for Mac Will Include Updated Tools, Web Apps

Microsoft announced that the upcoming Office for Mac 2011 will emulate many of the features of Office 2011, including the ribbon interface and the ability to access documents online via Microsoft Office Web Apps. Microsoft will also replace Entourage for Mac with a new version of Outlook for Mac, which will allow .PST files to be imported from Outlook for Windows. Microsoft recently offered the Release Candidate of Office 2010 to a small group of testers enrolled in its Technology Adoption Program.

The upcoming Office for Mac 2011 will include many of the features present in Office 2010, according to a Feb. 11 statement from Microsoft, and will roll out to consumers and businesses at an undefined point later this year.

As with Microsoft Office 2010, Office 2011 will allow Mac users to access their documents online through Microsoft Office Web Apps. Considered Microsoft's entrant into the growing world of cloud-based productivity applications, and a competitor to offerings such as Google Apps, Web Apps features stripped-down versions of OneNote, PowerPoint, Excel and Word. Users will need to access the service through a Windows Live account, and certain functions will only be present in the full, purchasable version of Office.

On the collaboration front, Office 2011 will allow co-workers to co-author documents from different locations, with features designed to prevent lost edits and other productivity issues. A Presence Everywhere feature lets users see who's working on a document at that particular moment.

Microsoft also made the decision to integrate the ribbon, its interface tool for the most recent versions of Office for PC, into this newest Mac edition. According to a statement released by Microsoft on Feb. 11 to coincide with Macworld, "The ribbon delivers a modern and fluid experience and also gives you a more consistent experience across platforms, which is key to productivity as 75 percent of Mac users also use a PC."

As previously announced in August 2009, Microsoft also plans on replacing Entourage for Mac with a new version of Outlook for Mac as part of the Office 2011 rollout. Eric Wilfrid, general manager for Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit, said in an Aug. 13 statement that Outlook for Mac would include features such as a "high-speed file-based database with support for backing up files with Time Machine and Spotlight searching," as well as information rights management to help "prevent sensitive information from being [disrupted] or read by people who do not have permission."

Outlook for Mac will also import .PST files from Outlook for Windows. Built using Cocoa, the platform will utilize the Exchange Web Services protocol.

Microsoft is currently offering the Release Candidate of Office 2010 for PC to a small group of testers enrolled in its Technology Adoption Program, although a Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK that there are no plans at this time to make that new code set available broadly.

Having slated the final version of the program for a June release, Microsoft opened Office 2010 to general public beta testing late in 2009, hoping to utilize millions of testers to ferret out any bugs or issues. By the beginning of January, some 2 million people had downloaded that beta. Microsoft had used a similar technique in the months before the release of Windows 7 to correct errors throughout the software.