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Microsoft's Office for Mac 2011 'best Office ever,' analyst says

Suite adds ribbon and Outlook for Mac, restores long-demanded Visual Basic macros

October 26, 2010 01:30 PM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft today launched Office for Mac 2011, the newest version of its application suite designed for Mac OS X.

One analyst immediately dubbed it "the best Office ever."

Office 2011 is Microsoft's first for the Mac since January 2008. Microsoft added the once-scorned "ribbon" interface that debuted in Windows' Office 2007, dropped the Entourage e-mail client in favor of a Mac flavor of Windows' Outlook, and restored Visual Basic-based macros.

Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg said the new suite is Microsoft's most impressive suite effort to date.

"This is the best Office ever, not just on the Mac," said Gartenberg. "It brings the Mac version to parity with the Windows version, but it still feels like Mac software, not a Windows port. Mac Office doesn't feel like you walked into your house in the dark and someone rearranged all the furniture."

Several new or restored features in Office for Mac 2011 were long requested by veteran users, particuarly a closer cousin to Windows' Outlook and the return of macros. Both were especially important for IT staffers who had to figure out how to integrate Macs into their organizations and users bent on having tools equal to their Windows brethren.

"I think the improvements show that Microsoft listens to its customers," Gartenberg said, pointing to the reappearance of Visual Basic macros, a feature Microsoft ditched in Office 2008 but reinstated for 2011. "Enterprise customers were not happy when that was removed," Gartenberg noted.

Microsoft defended the 2006 decision to abandon Visual Basic by saying that to bring the technology to Intel-based Macs would have delayed Office 2008 by two years. In the end, that edition was delayed, although not to that extent, when Microsoft realized that the Office code quality was subpar and called off a 2007 launch.

Shortly after Office 2008's debut, Microsoft promised to reinstate macros in the next version.

"What impressed me was the overall refinement of the product," said Gartenberg when asked whether there was a stand-out enhancement or addition that wowed him. "It's Office, isn't it? It's not a revolutionary product. But this is the ultimate refinement."

Microsoft didn't hesitate to tout features, including integration with several cloud-based services that Windows users can access from Office 2010. Among them: The free Windows Live SkyDrive online storage service, SharePoint collaboration tools and Office Web Apps, Microsoft's attempt to compete with rival Google's Docs.

"Office isn't just about what runs on a desktop machine or laptop," said Eric Wilfred, the general manager for Microsoft's Mac Office team, in a statement Tuesday. "Office shows up across your computer, on the Web browser, and on your mobile device."



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