Office 2011 for Mac – nothing to get excited about

Microsoft Office logoLike it or loathe it, Microsoft Office is here to stay on Mac until 2011 at least and more details have emerged of what to expect from it. The unveiling took place at the Macworld Expo 2010 and revealed Microsoft Office 2011 will arrive by the end of this year.

However, as far as I can see, there’s nothing to get very excited about. According to Macworld, the suite will concentrate on improving three areas – better compatibility across platforms, improved collaboration tools, and a more refined interface.

As regards better compatibility across platforms and improved collaboration tools, I’ve never had a problem so far collaborating on Word documents so I’m not sure how this can be dramatically improved to convince me to upgrade from Office 2008. A Word document sent to me by a Windows user opens and edits perfectly as if it had come from a Mac.

Apparently, the major innovation in Office 2011 is that users will be able to share and edit documents via Microsoft’s Sharepoint and Skydrive but surely most companies have their own servers for sharing internal documents and most home users are happy to just to e-mail the odd document or two created in Office? However, I can see that the new Google Docs style ability to edit documents simultaneously may be useful for teams in different locations who regularly create or edit group documents.

Microsoft Office 2011 screenshot

As far as the interface is concerned, I think Microsoft should just leave it alone. Office is one of the few Microsoft packages where I think they’ve generally got it right already and we’re all used to it by now. It seems the most radical change is going to the introduction of the ribbon which was one of the most controversial introductions in the Windows version of Office which isn’t exactly encouraging.

The one trump card that Microsoft will be hoping drives sales Office 2011 is the inclusion of Outlook for Mac and the ditching of Entourage. Outlook 2011 will enable you to import PST files so you can import all of your old e-mails and support Information Rights Management (IRM) which gives senders some degree of control over what recipients can do with the e-mail received. You can also backup Outlook using Time Machine and find mails using Spotlight. However, this is still not going to be enough to convince me to upgrade when their are perfectly adequate free alternatives such as Mozilla Thunderbird out there.

What I’d really like to see in Microsoft 2011 is a far less bloated package that doesn’t include all of the hard drive hogging components that Microsoft 2008 does. Here’s what I mean:

Bloated Microsoft Office 2008

Apple managed to make their entire operating system trimmer, leaner and faster with Snow Leopard so come on Microsoft, surely you can do the same with an office suite? If you’d like to try it for yourself, you can download Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac here.

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