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Office Anyone?

July 21, 2014 - Dave Hecei
office 2008

MS Office 2008 for Mac

If there is one category of apps for personal computers that stands out from all the rest it would have to be the office suite. When I say suite, I mean the combination of several apps. A basic office suite includes a word processor, spreadsheet, and slide presentation App. The grand master would have to be Microsoft (MS) with Microsoft Office.

This is not to say that MS Office is the best, it just means that it is more the standard. It wasn’t the first out there by a long shot. Over time, MS Office has won over the majority of business offices around the world. When something becomes any type of standard then you need to adopt that standard to be compatible with everyone else.

Over the last few years, other Apps have come along as a replacement for MS Office. As usual, some are good and some are bad. The bad usually don’t last very long in this industry so we won’t worry about them too much. ClarisWorks/AppleWorks was one that tried to be an Office replacement. It had a sort of compatible spreadsheet and word processor, but it stopped being updated when Apple created iWork.

In the beginning, iWork comprised of just a word processor and slide presentation app, which in itself used to be a standalone app. Apple did finally add a spreadsheet to the mix called Numbers. Now iWork was pretty much a true office suite with Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.

These Apps are now all free from Apple. They are also free for iOS devices too, via the App Store. While these versions are a bit lacking compared to the desktop versions, they do allow you to work on documents on the road or even use your iPad or iPhone as a presentation device, with the appropriate video cable and projector/monitor. One of the main things holding back the mobile versions is iOS. There is no easy way to add additional fonts to the mix. If you create something on your Mac with special fonts, those fonts cannot be transferred to the iOS App.

Another major Office alternative is from the Open Source community and is no longer being supported. The good news is that others have taken Open Office and created other open source projects like NeoOffice, LibreOffice, and Apache Open Office. These suites are free to use and are mature programs. That is not to say that they are 100% compatible with MS Office. The area that is usually lacking is some of the more complicated spreadsheets that users can create in MS Excel. For the most part, you should be able to use any of these office suites for home and basic office tasks with little to no problem.

Another alternative that I like to suggest, especially to those who really need MS Office, is to buy a slightly older version on Ebay, or insert your favorite online auction/classified web site. My current version of MS Office that I use is 2008. I don’t love it, but I also don’t hate it. I had to make the move to 2008 because previous versions were written for the PowerPC chip and starting with OS X 10.7, Apple no longer supports PPC software.

I do love one thing about Office 2008 – Entourage. I am probably in the minority when I say that. I know that OS X comes with its own client, Mail. But I can say that I hate Apple Mail. I guess I’m too old and I like the old three-pane layout with the folder view on the left and the right is split horizontally with mail headers on the top half and the mail previewed on the bottom half. Entourage just does more. The problem is that this is the last version of Entourage. MS Office 2011 for Mac now comes with Outlook as the mail client. I don’t have to say any more.

Office 2008 Mac can be found on Ebay at a bargain. Full retail, MS Office 2008 was somewhere around $300. The full retail version on Ebay ‘buy-it-now’ is averaging $70. The Home and Student version is $50, which if it is new has licenses for three computers. The only drawback is that you are not supposed to use it in a business environment.

There will always be a market for MS Office, at least for the foreseeable future. Whether or not you can use something compatible like the free iWork or Open Office suites or you need the true Microsoft product, there are alternatives to the current pay every month version of MS Office. Just because it says 2008 on the box doesn’t mean the contents have expired.


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