General Information

A lot has changed in the years since Microsoft released Office 2004, such that Microsoft is not only competing with itself as it was when Office 2004 was released. Chief among these changes is that Apple has fleshed out what was just the Keynote presentation software in to the complete iWork suite. iWork isn’t competitive with Office 2004 or 2008 on a feature-for-feature basis (mostly because iWork is targeted primarily towards home users) but it’s leaps and bounds better than its predecessor AppleWorks, enough so that for the first time ever Microsoft has some real competition for office suites on the Mac.

Meanwhile the Mac OpenOffice.org suite port/fork, NeoOffice, has been hammered out over the years to give Mac users a third viable choice in office suites. Like iWork, NeoOffice is not at feature-parity with Office 2008 so it isn’t and can’t be a complete Office replacement in all cases, but it’s also free, coming in at $80 cheaper than iWork and $130 cheaper than Office. Unlike 2004, if you absolutely need an Office suite of some kind you won’t need to suffer through OpenOffice.org’s un-Mac X11 implementation or pony up any money for Office.


The competition: Apple's iWork and NeoOffice

For Office 2008, Microsoft has released 3 editions of the suite, similar to the editions for Office 2004. At the bottom is Home & Student Edition ($130) which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage; the only thing missing is Exchange support and Automator support, which Microsoft holds out for the standard edition of Office 2008. Notably unlike Office 2007 for Windows Home & Student Edition, Office 2008 comes with an email client (Entourage) while Office 2007 does not. Following Home & Student edition is Standard Edition ($350) which includes the missing Exchange and Automator support; at $200 for a few extra features this it quickly becomes clear that this is the business user edition of Office. Finally is Special Media Edition ($440) which includes the Microsoft Expression Media application, a media cataloging program that replaces VirtualPC as the companion application for the high-end edition of the suite.

It’s also worth noting that while Microsoft does little to differentiate Office for the Mac and for Windows by name, the products are actually quite a bit different. Office for the Mac is developed by Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit (MBU) rather than the normal Office development group. While the products produce compatible documents and look & work quite similarly, the relationship is nearly superficial at times. Office for the Mac is not Office ported to the Mac, which means there are a number of differences between the products once you get beyond basic functionality. This can be both a good thing (new features better suited for the Mac) and a bad thing (features not available for the Mac).

Chief among these changes is the loss of Visual Basic for Applications support, and the addition of Automator and AppleScript support in its stead. Automator is Apple’s own workflow application for handling macro functionality and repetitive tasks, introduced in Mac OS X 10.4 and AppleScript is Mac OS’s long-standing scripting language. Sadly VBA became a casualty of the move to x86, in removing support for it Microsoft has cited that it would be incredibly difficult to port due to being built around the PowerPC architecture and meanwhile nothing else on the Mac uses VBA. So VBA support has been dropped and Automator/AppleScript integration has been added.

We won’t spend too much time on this change, but don’t take this to mean it’s a small change. VBA macros are a cornerstone of how businesses use Office (with Excel in particular) and dropping them will have a huge ramification on the Mac version of Office. We have heard some rumblings that this could effectively kill a large chunk of the business use of Mac Office (or at least start a riot in Accounting) and while it’s too early to say for sure how this will play out we also can’t discount the concern. Automator/AppleScript is plenty functional, its only problem is that it’s not compatible with the 90%+ of business computers running Office for Windows. In the business world, Mac Office may find itself replaced by Macs running the Windows versions of Office through WINE or virtualization.

On a happier note, the other significant global change for Office 2008 is file format support. Office 2008 adds Office Open XML file support (docx, xlsx, pptx) granting it otherwise full compatibility with Office 2007 and allowing Office to save files in a modern, technically open format.

Index Installation & A New GUI Design
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  • Rankin - Monday, February 11, 2008 - link

    Does anyone know the performance of Word '08 and Endnote? About 6 people in my office are running Word '04 (v. 11.3.8) and Endnote X02 with OSX 10.4.11 and the response is terrible. On any document with Endnote references, the CPU jumps to 100% and pretty much stays there, with the fan screaming away, until it's minimised for >5mins or closed. This is totally unacceptable - it makes it impossible to even scroll through documents. Apple tech support just shrug (they can't say if it will be rectified with no emulation), Leopard doesn't help and we can't change from Endnote because all our PhD references are in there.

    Don't suppose I can convince anyone to do some tests on this to add to the review?
    Reply
  • Gandalf90125 - Saturday, February 09, 2008 - link

    "iWork is ... leaps and bounds better ... enough so that for the first time ever Microsoft has some real competition for office suites on the Mac."

    This is a silly comment. I don't think you are aware of Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect for Macintosh. In the early to mid-1990s, both products were excellent and were serious challengers to Microsoft's offerings. In fact, when 1-2-3 was released, Excel (version 2.2 at the time) was clearly inferior to it. I don't mean to denigrate you or your review, but I think you ought not to make such comments unless you are familiar with the history of Macintosh business applications, a history that goes back almost 25 years.

    Now, I expect that I will be challenged or flamed over this on the grounds that 1-2-3 and WordPerfect never constituted an actual "Suite", but that's just semantic baloney. Word processing and electronic spreadsheets have always been the workhorses of business software applications.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    These figures are great, esp. implying a connection between global warming and pirates. I'd guess the pirates being outrun by cruise ships is a bigger problem for them though

    http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/africa/11/05/somalia...">http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/africa/11/05/somalia...
    Reply
  • hiromizu - Wednesday, February 06, 2008 - link

    There's no mention of this important feature of remote Exchange/Outlook integration. Reply
  • Yawgm0th - Wednesday, February 06, 2008 - link

    The article talks quite a bit about business use and how certain features (caused by lack of VBA support) are missing, mostly from Excel. This seems like a moot point, or at least the point that some of the missing features should not affect more than a few dozen -- if that many -- potential end-users of Office 2008 for Mac.

    What kind of business uses a Mac for accounting or a similar function based around Excel spreadsheets? I mean, one could make the argument that few business use a Mac in any function that will have use for Office, but Excel is a big stretch. No business hoping to profit would justify the cost of a Mac for use with Excel.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, February 06, 2008 - link

    One of my jobs prior to working for AnandTech was IT at a company using Macs near-exclusively (as exclusive as they could be, anyhow). You would be terrified what these people did with Excel spreadsheets and VBA, there were certainly better ways to do it but it was quite literally a matter of the whole thing having built out of Excel over the years.

    And this company isn't alone.

    There will be plenty of Excel-addicted accountants reeling from the loss of VBA, for this you can take my word.
    Reply
  • Pirks - Wednesday, February 06, 2008 - link

    doh, no biggie - they can just replace expensive macs with cheap office dell pcs and get all their loved vba back in the business, while saving money on expensive apple hardware at the same time Reply
  • Omega215D - Tuesday, February 05, 2008 - link

    Any chance of this office version being updated to be more like Office 2007 on Windows? I just bought the Office 2008 Home and Student and also have a Office 2007 but couldn't get an OEM of Windows Vista without having a processor, RAM or motherboard included in the purchase. So no BootCamp for now. Reply
  • slashbinslashbash - Wednesday, February 06, 2008 - link

    I really doubt it. I mean, look how long it took for MS to update Office for Mac to Universal. Also, MS tends to release the Mac version a year after the PC version (Mac Office 98, 2001, 2004, 2008 vs. Windows Office 97, 2000, 2003, 2007) so I doubt we'll see any new Office releases for Mac for another 3-4 years, and there's no way they'll make major updates available between releases. In the past the only updates have been due to security and stability issues, and also to add compatibility with the new .docx/.xlsx/.pptx file types. In other words, nothing major.

    Personally, I'm just happy that there's finally a Universal version available, and they made the cheaper "Home and Student" version. The UI updates are handy, but hardly impressive IMO.
    Reply
  • halfeatenfish - Tuesday, February 05, 2008 - link

    "The other new layout in Word is the Notebook Layout, which turns Word in to a notebook. It’s an interesting concept in theory, and if we had a tablet Mac perhaps we could put it to use, but as it stands right now we’re not sure why Microsoft added it. It’s not a page layout feature, and we can’t find much use for it on its own."

    Notebook layout first appeared in Word 2004. It's actually very handy for doing outlines. Think of it like a stripped down and basic OmniOutliner...
    Reply

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