PowerPoint 2008 , by Microsoft

Posted: 25-May-2012

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice Vendor: Microsoft Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Mel Krewal Class: PRODUCTIVITY

Overview

If you are in business, odds are overwhelming that you have been subjected to a PowerPoint presentation. Although there are other presentation packages including Apple's own Keynote, PowerPoint is well on its way to becoming the Kleenex or Xerox of the software world. More than Word or Excel, (IMHO) PowerPoint is the element that business people would miss the most if Office were removed from their computers. A game-changing communication tool is now better with the latest version of Microsoft's ubiquitous Office suite. New features and better performance may be reasons for you to consider the 2008 version.

Requirements

  • Mac OS X version 10.4.9 or later
  • A Mac computer with an Intel, PowerPC G5, or PowerPC G4 (500 MHz or faster) processor
  • 512 MB of RAM or more
  • 1024 x 768 or higher-resolution monitor

Installation

As noted in other Office 2008 reviews, this version uses a standard Mac installer to install all components of Microsoft Office (see screenshot below). Unlike with Office 2004, there is no longer a drag and drop installation, which will please corporate IT staffs that use scripted remote installers. The installer requires the product key number to be entered before the install begins. The installation process is simple and straightforward.

Basics

One of the most anticipated features of Office 2008 is the fact that the software is now a Universal Binary, meaning that it will run on both PowerPC and Intel x86 Macs at native speeds. Previously, Office 2004 had to run under Rosetta emulation on Intel Macs. This created slowdowns under certain conditions. On a freshly restarted 2.4GHz 24" iMac with 4GB RAM, PowerPoint 2008 presented a blank presentation screen in 22 seconds on the first launch. Subsequent launches were only 5 seconds to the blank presentation. PowerPoint 2004 started in 8 second on the first launch and 4 seconds thereafter. Obviously, this is not what most of us had in mind when "native speed" is discussed. Other operations, like changing presentation themes and typing text manifest no significant differences between versions. It seems the new code base may take some time to mature and Microsoft needs to consider efficiency and speed, which may be a uncharacteristic idea.

User Interface

Office 2008 adopts Apple's new standard Unified title and toolbar look that is clean and less cluttered than past Office versions and brings to mind the iWork suite. The plus to this arrangement is that the toolbar is always with the window, no matter where you drag it, and each window gets its own toolbar. This is consistent with Apple's current direction even though it is a break from Microsoft's previous practice of one toolbar set for all the windows open in the application. The Preference window has received a makeover as well. The options are mostly the same as you remember them, but Microsoft has reorganized them in a style very much like Mac OS X System Preferences.

PowerPoint 2008 Preferences

Elements Gallery

My favorite new feature of Office 2008 is the Elements Gallery. In PowerPoint's case, the Presentation Themes and Slide Layouts have been relocated from the Formatting Palette that made its debut in Office 2004 to the new Elements Gallery. Word and Excel each have unique items in the Elements Gallery and PowerPoint follows suit. The Themes show up in the Elements Gallery as much larger thumbnails than previously in the Formatting Palette. This makes it easier to choose one that fits your subject matter and mood for your presentation. I consider the new location of the Slide Layouts more convenient as well. The Slide Transitions options has moved from a sub-menu in PowerPoint 2004 to the Elements Gallery as well. This will encourage me to use ever more-annoying transitions on my co-workers. No, seriously, it's easier to find what you are looking for now that Transitions are in the Elements Gallery.

Elements Gallery

In addition to the Themes, Layouts and Transitions, PowerPoint gains common features with other Office applications, Charts, SmartArt Graphics and Word Art in the Elements Gallery. New and unique to PowerPoint is Table Styles. If you have used Apple's Numbers spreadsheet application you will be familiar with Table Styles. A spreadsheet-like table is inserted with selectable styled rows, columns and headers to make attractive data formats quickly. The Table Styles are color themed to coordinate with your chosen presentation Theme. This will certainly come in handy for users like me.

Table Styles

PowerPoint 2008 also upgrades the Themes with more stylish layouts, which are very reminiscent of Apple's Keynote or Pages. Microsoft has integrated the iPhoto library into the Object Palette, so you can just drag and drop a photo from your library into the placeholder in your presentation. Again, quick and easy. Clip art has been updated to look more modern and incorporates photo art as well.

Object Palette

PowerPoint 2008 can now export a presentation to iPhoto so it can be presented without running PowerPoint. You can use your Apple Remote to control an iPhoto slideshow presentation, so this adds new convenience to presenting on the road with your MacBook or MacBook Pro. You can also sync the presentation from iPhoto with an iPod or iPhone and present via the video output in a pinch.

Issues and Incompatibilities

Microsoft has implemented a new XML file format called Office Open XML or OOXML, in PowerPoint's case, PPTX. These files are incompatible with previous versions of PowerPoint and Microsoft only recently delivered a converter to assist users of earlier versions in opening them. If you need to present PowerPoint files on unfamiliar machines, you should change the default file format in the Save preference panel back to the legacy .PPT format. In addition to the file format changes, during Microsoft's conversion of Office to a Universal Binary the company made the decision to end support for the longstanding macro system, Visual Basic for Applications, or VBA. Now your legacy macros will no longer work. Instead, AppleScript and Automator are used for developing macros. If you have a lot of work invested in VBA to automate tasks that you do on a regular basis and can't afford to migrate to AppleScript, you'll want to stay away from Office 2008. Microsoft has promised that the next version of Office will once again include VBA scripting, but if you have macros you depend on you should skip Office 2008 unless you're prepared to rewrite them in AppleScript.

Summary

The latest version of Microsoft's essential business communication tool has a lot to offer. New features to help construct attractive presentations quickly, iPhoto integration, updated themes and Clip Art will have your presentations looking better than ever. New tools like iPhoto export and Apple Remote control will cut down on problems when presenting on the road. The only potential snags are from new file formats and the loss of VBA macros. Lack of a significant speedup from an Intel native program, especially on initial launch, is somewhat of a disapointment, however.

Pros

  • Indispensable in many businesses
  • Attractive new themes and art
  • iPhoto integration
  • Helpful presenter tools

Cons

  • Universal Binary speed advantage not obvious
  • VBA macros no longer work

Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice