Mac Office users want Retina support from Microsoft

Office typically slow to support new OS X features

Mac owners want Microsoft to update Office for Mac so it supports Retina-equipped MacBook Pros because they say the suite is unusable as it is.

"The whole suite look absolutely dreadful," said someone identified as "James" in a comment to a July 25 blog post by the Office for Mac team where it proclaimed the suite "ready for Mountain Lion."

"Could you please also let us know when Office for Mac will be updated to support Retina display?" asked "DCGOWDA". "I recently bought [a MacBook Pro] with Retina display and Office for Mac 2011 is practically unusable."

Others called Office for Mac "very fuzzy," "crap" and "blurry" on the high-resolution display of the top-end laptop that Apple launched June 11.

A commenter labeled "Office for Mac Team" noted that Outlook 2011 supports Retina, but declined to comment on when or if other applications -- Excel, PowerPoint and Word -- would receive the same treatment.

"The remaining apps will have the same viewing quality as on any non-Retina device," said the team. "Unfortunately at this time, we cannot comment on any future updates regarding supporting Retina on Word, Excel or PowerPoint."

While some commenters asked for other improvements to Office for Mac, Retina support was the most common request.

Microsoft will have to deal with Retina at some point if the rumors are true that Apple will move all its notebooks, including the rest of the MacBook Pro line and all MacBook Airs, to the pixel-dense screen.

Apple's Office wannabe, iWork, supports Retina: Apple updated the apps -- KeyNote, Numbers and Pages -- July 25, the day Mountain Lion hit the Mac App Store.

Few commenters agreed with Microsoft's claim that Office for Mac was Mountain Lion ready.

"It'll be 'Mountain Lion ready' if you add full-screen mode, iCloud and Retina support," said David Ebert. "Before it does that it merely 'works on Mountain Lion.' "

"It's a bit of a stretch to say you are 'ready' for Lion, let alone Mountain Lion," said "Johnson" two days after the blog posted. "I am sure all [these] features will also be promised in the 'new' Office version coming out real soon [but] I'm really sorry that we bought this version for our office. The 2008 version would have done just fine."

Johnson had a point.

Office for Mac 2011 has yet to adopt a pair of OS X Lion's most-touted features -- including Versions and Auto Save -- and added support for full-screen mode only in April 2012's service pack 2 (SP2), nine months after Lion's launch. Even then, one of the suite's four applications, Outlook, was left out.

Last year, just after Apple delivered Lion, a Microsoft senior director of product development said his company was "working hard with Apple to enable versioning, auto save and full-screen" for Office for Mac 2011, and added that the timeline was "likely measured in months."

Some requested improvements, including support for iCloud -- Apple's online storage and sync service that's integrated into Mountain Lion -- will probably never appear. Microsoft has never signaled interest in iCloud, and instead touts its own SkyDrive. One possible reason: Apple requires software with ties to iCloud be sold through its Mac App Store, which would require Microsoft to give 30% of all Office for Mac revenue there to its rival.

Office for Mac 2011's next big move has nothing to do with new features, but everything to do with Microsoft's strategy to "lease" that suite and Office 2013 for Windows through subscription plans. Microsoft will update Office for Mac 2011 to make it available to subscribers, but has said it will make no other immediate changes to the software.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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