Microsoft Office 2008 for Macintosh

from Technology & Learning

Intel Mac–savvy at last.

In a very welcome move, Microsoft Office 2008 has finally been optimized for both legacy PowerPC and newer Intel-based Macs. Able to take advantage of Mac OS X features without having to run in Rosetta (the technology that translates PowerPC machine code into Intel machine code) is a huge modification.

Company: Microsoft

System Requirements: Intel, PowerPC G5, or PowerPC G4 (500 MHz or faster) processor; Mac OS X version 10.4.9 or later, 512 MB RAM

Price: Office 2008 for Mac ($388.95 or Mac OLP Academic $52.57); Office 2008 for Mac Special Media Edition, $478.95; Office 2008 for Mac Home and Student Edition, limited to three installs per household, $142.95.

Pros: Optimized for both Intel Mac and PowerPC processors; new features cradled in a familiar interface soothe transition angst; Save as Movie feature in PowerPoint; Word's new Publishing Layout.

Cons: No support for Visual Basic macros; can't copy/paste between certain versions of programs.

The product suite folds new features into a familiar menu-driven interface that makes transitioning from older Office installations a breeze, without removing earlier versions.

Launch Excel 2008 and you'll see menus and menu items identical to Excel 2004. But you'll also see the new Elements Gallery unobtrusively positioned below the toolbar, providing quick access to Document Elements such as Cover Pages, Tables of Contents, Headers, Footers, and Bibliographies; it also includes tabbed access to Quick Tables, Charts, SmartArt Graphics, and WordArt.

More changes include adding SmartArt Graphics for lists, diagrams, charts (all compatible with Office 2007 for Windows); new suite-wide Themes and Styles applied for a consistent document look; a revitalized Toolbox providing tabbed access to Formatting, Object, and Citations palettes; plus, Scrapbook clippings and References. The Citations palette is useful in educational settings, allowing users to enter citation references and then double-click an entry for automatic insertion in the open document.

Highlights

Office 2008 includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage, bundling Microsoft Messenger.

Each application sports several new features and improvements. In Excel 2008, the Elements Gallery has preformatted ledger sheets for managing a checkbook, savings passbook, and credit card balance (perfect for teaching high school students about personal finance); other worksheets for tracking bills and expenses are also included.

With the Save as Movie feature, PowerPoint 2008 can now save and run presentations as QuickTime movies, allowing teachers and students to share their work with users.

In the new Publishing Layout view for Word 2008, choose a publication template (newsletter, flyer, etc.) from the Elements Gallery, then replace boilerplate text and graphic placeholders with real document content. Publishing Layout features Master Pages, and new image drop zones. While not matching the publishing strength of Adobe InDesign and Quark XPress, its bundled templates, support for linked text boxes, and other publishing features give users quality desktop publishing tools.

Microsoft offers three versions: Office 2008 for Mac; Office 2008 for Mac Special Media Edition; and Office 2008 for Mac Home and Student Edition. Office 2008 for Mac (the version sold to schools) and the Special Media Edition include connectivity support for Entourage 2008 Windows Microsoft Exchange Server, plus more than 70 time-saving Automator actions.

Grin and bear it?

Transitioning to Office 2008 still has its bugaboos.

  • Older versions of Office can't read documents created in the Open Office XML format. You must first run them through a converter.
  • Cannot copy/paste between Office 2004 and Office 2008 or Dreamweaver CS3 and Word 2008. (Workaround: Copy text to Apple's Text Edit, then Paste in destination document.)
  • Excel users who created macros in earlier versions of Excel (Mac or Windows) cannot run, view, or edit these in Excel 2008 because the application doesn't support Visual Basic. Microsoft suggests building macros in AppleScript, but that won't work when it comes to running macro-rich files sent by others.
  • Problems with Entourage 2008 include the deleting of every message sent through Gmail's SMTP server and the purging of the contents of my Gmail Sent Mail folder. No amount of tweaking settings or junk mail filter settings made any difference. Entourage 2008 also has problems with running Office 2004 sound sets. With no need to access an Exchange Server for mail and calendar functions, I'm reverting to Entourage 2004 until I figure it out.

Carol S. Holzberg, PhD, is technology coordinator for Greenfield Public Schools in Massachusetts. You can reach her at cholzberg@gmail.com.

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