One program that drives computer sales is Microsoft Office. It is the standard software suite used on business computers around the world. Microsoft, the makers of Windows operating systems, has made Office available for both Windows PCs and Macs for many years. The latest version, Office 2011, is coming to Mac OS X next month.
The current version of Office for the Mac is 2008 so it has been a few years. The version before this one was 2004. While the Mac versions of Office could read and write documents that were compatible with the Office for Windows, the programs looked and felt quite different than the PC versions. This is about to change.
Office 2008 is popular but not loved. When Office 2007 for the PC was released it included a radical departure to the user interface, at least for Office. When 2008 came out for the Mac, it too had a new user interface, which was a bit different than 2004. However, it did not look anything like the PC version, which had a new interface called the 'ribbon'. The ribbon allows you to easily customize your copy of Office with the commands and functions you use regularly.
The other problem with Office for Mac was the difference in E-mail software. PCs have Outlook, which combines E-mail, contacts, calendars, tasks, and notes. Macs have Entourage, which essentially does the same thing as Outlook, but it is not Outlook. For the corporate crowd, having Outlook for Mac is an important step toward acceptance of the Mac platform. Office 2011 for Mac swaps Entourage for a Mac version of Outlook. For the first time ever, a Mac OS version of Outlook.
Office 2011 for the Mac will be available in two versions. There is a 'home' version and a 'business' version. Each version is available as a single license or with multiple licenses - for a slightly higher price.
Like the versions before, there is the Home and Student version that excludes Outlook with a street price under $120. It will also be available as a Family Pack for under $150. With a Family Pack you can install Office on up to three Macs.
The Home and Business version will be priced around $200. It will include the full suite Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Messenger. For $80 more you get a second license, which allows you to install it on either another desktop Mac, or most likely, your Mac laptop. Gone are the days of running the same copy on multiple machines, which you could do as long as you didn't run them at the same time.
There are a few important notes to make. First are the requirements. Office 2011 will only run on Intel based Macs. Those running G5s or, heaven help you, G4s are out of luck (sorry, it is getting time to think upgrade). It also needs OS X 10.5.8 or better, at least 1GB of RAM, 2GB of space on the hard drive, and a DVD drive for installation (otherwise you could install over a network).
I am sure there are a few out there that love Entourage. I don't have any problem running Entourage. Unfortunately, Office 2008 is the last place you will see it. Outlook is a PC staple and since there are so many PC users out there, some of which have switched to the Mac, Microsoft has listened and brought it over.
You are now probably wondering if you should upgrade your version of Office for Mac. If you are running Office v.X or 2004 it is probably time to really consider it. While the version you have may work just fine for you, the main question is compatibility. Are you getting more documents in your e-mail that you cannot open? If so, it's time to upgrade. If you are running 2008, the main question is whether you need Outlook. Office 2008 is new enough that you shouldn't have too many document mismatches. I'm pretty sure that Microsoft will come out with any add-ons to 2008 that allow it to read documents created by 2011.
Office 2011 for just over a hundred bucks is a great deal, even if it doesn't include Outlook. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are the true meat-and-potatoes in Office anyways. If you have multiple Macs, the 3-computer Family Pack is an even better bargain at $150. If you are new to Office, or have skipped a version or two, Office 2011 should be in your future.