As a student, I use a word processor on a regular basis. Since I made the switch to Mac after graduating in 2008, my natural decision for “office suite” software was Microsoft’s Office for Mac 2008. I was drawn to it because of its inherent familiarity to my PC background.
When Microsoft presented Office for Mac 2008 to the Mac community, their goal was to improve on what was presented in the 2004 version, which was the first version released for the Macintosh platform. The 2004 version was sluggish and lacked some of the general usability that was present in the the counterpart 2003 version for PC.
With the release of the 2008 version, Microsoft attempted to please traditional Mac users by incorporating a palette-style menu setup in the vein of Adobe’s well-known palette setup.
A good thought, but annoying. Not too bad once you get used to it, but that little palette is always in the way. You’ve always got the option of minimizing it into the main window and setting the window up more like the 2003 PC version, but that’s not really a step forward.
And then there’s Entourage, the program that replaced Outlook in the Mac versions as the desktop mail client. Entourage had a lot of good ideas in the way of mail clients, but was considered by some to be too cumbersome with a slower learning curve than the rest of the suite.
Never fear, Office for Mac 2011 is here…?
First off, there’s the branding redesign, signaling that Microsoft is changing the game. And Outlook has replaced Entourage.
There are a number of other changes as well. In Word, you now have the option to compose documents in a full screen mode, which I suppose will help to mask distractions like Facebook (whether you like to admit it or not, social networking is a definite time killer for a college student).
Each application in the suite now starts with a “document type choice” kind of screen.
Also, the annoying palette-style menus have been done away with and replaced with what Microsoft calls the “ribbon” menu. This looks a lot like the suite’s PC counterparts in the 2007 and 2010 versions of Office.
So, will you make the upgrade? Or move to Apple’s iWork suite? Maybe try something free that’s still full featured in OpenOffice.org? Keep in mind, the full screen document composing and document choice screens have already been available in iWork. And then there’s a nice little free word processing app called Bean, which I personally like for its lightweight feel. Check out a review of Bean, if you’re interested.
I also recommend reading Mac.AppStorm’s review on Office 2011 for more in-depth information.