On Tuesday, Microsoft released Office 11 for the Mac. The newest version of the most popular productivity suite includes a Mac version of Outlook, online collaboration, the reappearance of Visual Basic for creating macros, and other new features.
Built from the ground up, Office 2011 includes the standard-bearers Word, Excel, PowerPoint and, for the first time, Outlook. It is designed to work with an on-site Exchange server and with Microsoft's newly announced cloud service for Office, Office 365.
First Major Release Since 2008
It has been slightly more than a quarter century since Microsoft first released Mac versions of Word and Excel, and there has been a dedicated team since 1997. This is the first major revision of the Mac Office suite since early 2008.
Eric Wilfrid, general manager of Microsoft's Office for Mac team, said about 75 percent of all Mac users have Office installed. "Mac users," he said, "need Office because it helps them work with the Windows world." Wilfrid added that the new release brings cloud-based benefits to Mac users that Windows customers saw when Office 2010 for Windows was released.
Office Web Apps, for instance, allows a user to edit documents right in the browser. Coauthoring tools enable simultaneous editing with others of a Word document or a PowerPoint presentation, whether the other collaborators are on Mac or Windows machines.
Microsoft Mac Senior Evangelist Kurt Schmucker said users of Office 2011 will "notice right away" the increased launch speed of each app, as well as performance improvements in specific features, such as charting. He said one tester described the new Word and Excel as "light because they are so much faster."
Viewing options to increase ease of use have been implemented throughout Office 2011. Full screen in Word, for example, offers two views -- one designed for writing and one for reading. When in the full-screen view for writing, the user interface disappears and a formatting toolbar appears when the mouse is moved to the top of the screen. A Dynamic Reorder feature allows layers in a document or a presentation to be moved around. In Outlook, there's a view to enable easier management of multiple e-mail accounts.
The new release is offered in three editions -- Home & Student, Home & Business, and Academic. Outlook is part of Home & Business, while Home & Student has Word, Excel and PowerPoint, plus licenses for up to three computers. The discounted Academic version has all four programs.
Pricing ranges from $99 for a single license of the Academic version to a two-install pack of Home & Business for $279.
In general, upgrades will not be allowed, just as they are not for Windows Office 2011. However, purchasers of the current Office 2008 can get a free upgrade to 2011, an offer which began in August and will continue to Nov. 30.