When it comes to software, Apple makes no attempt to hide or excuse their breakneck development pace. This decade alone has seen Apple make a major operating transition with Mac OS X, a major hardware transition in moving to x86 processors, and a couple GUI style redesigns to round things out. Apple’s desire to keep Mac OS X modern means backwards compatibility can take a back-seat to the need to move forward.

But what does this have to do with Office 2008? Practically everything.

Very seldom will you find us feeling even the least bit sorry for an 800lb gorilla, let alone the gorilla that is Microsoft, but this would be one of those few times. As one of the largest Macintosh developers outside of Apple, Microsoft has been along for Apple’s wild ride at every step and we can’t imagine a company that normally has such a strong focus on backwards compatibility enjoying it all that much. Stops along the wild ride include porting Microsoft’s entire Mac product catalog to OS X, rebuilding Virtual PC for the G5 processor (only for Apple to drop PPC entirely a short time later) and now the latest stop: x86 processors and universal binaries.

Ask any Mac user who has purchased a Mac within the last two years about what they’re waiting for the most in Office 2008 and you’ll always get the same answer: universal binary/x86 support. Although OS X ships with the Rosetta emulation layer to run older PowerPC-only software, you won’t find many Mac users happy with the performance of it. Even Office 2004 runs fairly slow on modern Macs under Rosetta, in spite of the relatively lightweight nature of an office suite; it’s usable but not in any way fast or snappy.

Ultimately Microsoft could have just done the bare minimum to clean up Office 2004 so that it could be compiled as a universal binary and then sold it as a full price upgrade, and make a tidy sum of money in the process just from users willing to buy Office again just to escape Rosetta. Thankfully they didn’t do that, in the four years between Office releases Microsoft has taken the time to give Office 2004 a significant overhaul in functionality on top of the changes in its underpinnings, all of the Office applications have been given a makeover in some way or another. Many Mac users will end up buying Office 2008 anyhow just for the universal binary support but never the less it has more than enough new with it that it can stand on its own.

So what exactly has the Mac Business Unit been up to over the last four years in developing Office 2008 and how does the latest iteration of Office stack up to its competition? Let’s take a look and find out.

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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?
  • Gandalf90125 - Saturday, February 9, 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.
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, February 7, 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

  • hiromizu - Wednesday, February 6, 2008 - link

    There's no mention of this important feature of remote Exchange/Outlook integration.
  • Yawgm0th - Wednesday, February 6, 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.
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, February 6, 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.
  • Pirks - Wednesday, February 6, 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
  • Omega215D - Tuesday, February 5, 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.
  • slashbinslashbash - Wednesday, February 6, 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.
  • halfeatenfish - Tuesday, February 5, 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...

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