Microsoft makes a splash at Macworld

San Francisco – Microsoft used the Macworld conference on Monday to release its much-anticipated Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac software suite.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant promises the new suite will offer a unique and feature-rich Mac-like solution to Mac users for their personal, home office and business office needs.

Han-Yi Shaw, lead program manager for Word in Microsoft Mac business unit, said the developers had four key goals in mind when developing the suite: discoverability, simplicity, professional output and compatibility. He added it was also important to Microsoft to create a product that would be Mac-like in its touch and feel.

Much like last year’s release of Microsoft’s Office 2007 for Windows, the Mac edition boasts a new user interface developers promise will be more intuitive for end users, along with an abundance of new features and capabilities.

Kurt Schmucker, group program manager for the user interface in Microsoft’s Mac business unit, said among those new features are the Embedded Toolbar and Elements Gallery. They can be commonly found across the suite’s Word, PowerPoint and Excel applications, and provide users with a one-stop-shop for anything and everything they may need to carry through with the current task at hand.

“We tried to make this a great Mac UI,” Schmucker said. “With the embedded toolbar everything is at the top of the document now. This is also what Mac is doing. Consistency across applications is very important because we tried to make these applications look and feel like the other modern Mac applications that are out there.”

Specific to Word 2008 are three distinct viewing modes that include a publishing, notebook and print layout view.

“In this (publishing) view, you can arrange, group and drag things around,” Shaw said. “Each element, such as text boxes and pictures, are independent of each other. There are also 20 different themes in the gallery for users to choose from.”

The notebook is geared toward students and professionals with a layout that resembles a spiral notebook in which the user can take notes. Notebook tabs are also present, along with note flag options, search capabilities and audio features for recording, listening and playback. For the essay writer there’s also the citation tool, which helps users compose bibliographies and works cited pages.

“Word allows you to fill in the blanks in a toolbox. You choose the style you want, put in the necessary information, and Word automatically formats it for you,” Shaw said. “It also does footnotes, so it helps to ease the pain many students feel after the end of a research paper.”

Microsoft spreadsheet application, Excel 2008, has been expanded to handle 10,000 times more data than its previous Mac release. Stuart deSpain, lead program manager of Excel in Microsoft Mac business unit, said the new release features 16,384 columns, over one million rows and supports up to 17.18 billion cells.

Another key new feature is Formula Builder, which helps users build and calculate formulas.

“Formulas are the language of Excel,” deSpain said. “With Formula Builder, it does the math for you. All you need to do is make sure the numbers are in the right place.”

Lastly, PowerPoint 2008, like Word 2008, also has an extensive collection of available themes. Marcus Aiu, lead program manager of PowerPoint in Microsoft’s Mac business unit, said PowerPoint 2008 has 49 new, fully customizable themes.

Arnaud Gabaudan, retail marketing manager at Microsoft Canada, said Office 2008 for Mac is a great tool for all Mac users that wish to work in an Office environment.

“The suite targets different types of customers,” Gabaudan said. “We have features in the software that address the needs and capabilities of new users and we also have features that address Mac-users and experts. The user interface and features are very Mac-like so users won’t be lost, whether they’re experts or beginners.”

Three different versions of Office 2008 for Mac are now available. The core suite is Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac and includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage, plus Microsoft Exchange Server support and Automator tools, at $539.95 for the full edition and $319.95 for upgrades. Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Home and Student edition includes up to three licenses for $199.95. And for the professional enthusiast, Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Special Media edition is $629.95, or $379.95 for the upgrade.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Maxine Cheung
Maxine Cheung
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