Office v. X, by Microsoft
Posted: 26-Mar-2002

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Microsoft Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bob Kenyon Class: PRODUCTIVITY

The Microsoft Office suite is the most popular suite of office programs on the market. The suite includes a word processor, spreadsheet program, presentation program, and office mail client. Starting with Office 98 on the Mac, Microsoft has really turned the Mac version into first class Mac software. In addition to providing full-featured applications, Office takes full advantage of the Macs features, supports Mac interface standards, and even incorporates features that aren't available on the Windows platform. With each version since Office 98 (which now includes Office 2001 and Office X), Microsoft continues to improve Office and continues to provide excellent support of the Mac platform. The latest release, Microsoft Office X, is a fully native program designed specifically for Mac OS X that harnesses the power of Office, the simplicity of Macintosh, and the stability of Unix.

Installation
Installation is very easy. just put the CD in your computer and drag the "Microsoft Office X" folder to the desired location. It seemed like it did a lot less looking around on the disk than the old OS 9 versions of Office. Since the files were merely copied over, the Office programs had to take care of setting up all the extensions and libraries and what not the first time an Office program was run which usually took many minutes of grinding. The structure of OS X is different, with the shared resources handled differently and so the first start up time for a new program is much shorter.

Once you install the program and open up the folder, you will see five programs of Office: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Entourage, and a new one called Welcome.

Welcome
Welcome pops open with a nice OS X looking screen, including the tabs that you will know and love from the Apple web site. The tabs include Welcome, What's new?, What's cool?, Need help?, License and Warranty. There's not much more to it, though, as it serves merely as an introduction to Office's new features.

Entourage
Entourage is an email client and calendar program, and it works very well. It has all the features of a modern email program, and a pretty good wizard to get you all set up. Each mail note contains a list of replies sent and received, just so you can keep track of it all.
It sports an all-new interface with large buttons that make it easy to navigate among mail, address book, calendar, and notes displays. The redesigned Calendar window now consists of three panes, one of which sports a Task List that shows the day's events. Unfortunately, Entourage still lacks some basic PIM features. You can't print paper calendar pages that'll fit in your appointment booklet or binder, for instance. Nor can you sync directly to handheld Palm devices, both features that the free Palm Desktop supports.

Word
Word works just like Word 2001, with the addition of beautiful Aqua graphics (which goes for all the Office X programs) and a few new features.

One very useful task I used Word for is to convert Word documents to HTML. There are two ways to do this, either by saving all of the document data or just what you want displayed. If you choose all the data, you get an amazing amount of data in your HTML file. I don't think much of it is useful for a normal web page. The display version works fine.

Another nice improvement with Word is the ability to select text. For example, if you need to format and spell-check unconnected blocks of text, simply hold down the Command key and use your pointer to select all the appropriate sections in one fell swoop. This saves you the trouble of having to choose one text block, apply the format, and then repeat the process for every area you want to change.

Word X also has a nifty new Contact toolbar that uses the new Merge Manager, allowing you to export contacts and addresses to Entourage and letting you add addresses to Word documents. To put a name and an address in your Word file, just choose the name from the pop-up menu on the Contact toolbar, then click the Include Address button. Entourage doesn't even need to be opened.
I also used Word's Merge Manager to produce some labels, and it worked well, although the syntax wasn't explained real well in the Help system, so it took several false starts to get a good result.

Word has added transparency capabilities into its drawing feature. For example, using picture importing and text bullets, Word now lets you make custom graphic bullets, and treats them like regular bullets in documents with bullet lists.


Excel
Excel is Microsoft's spreadsheet application, greatly improved in Office X. You can now customize keyboard commands by using the Customize command in the Tools menu, and you can now import FileMaker Pro database files. Unfortunately, Excel doesn't import Microsoft Access database files (and Access is still not available on the Mac).

PowerPoint
PowerPoint X, the presentation application, appears to have changed the least out of all the Office programs. There is one new feature called the PowerPoint Package option. This lets you wrap a presentation and all of its attendant files into one neat little package, then move it into a single folder. Of course, there's the nice aqua interface, and the fact that PowerPoint is still the best presentation package for the Mac.

InterConnectivity
One of the big benefits of having the Office suite of applications is the way that the program communicate and interoperate together. As mentioned above, you can send email through Word without ever having to start up Entourage. You can paste Excel spreadsheets into Word documents and PowerPoint presentations, edit charts within Word, and much more.

Documentation
Although Office X doesn't ship with a printed instruction manual, just like Office 2001, it now includes a well-written 164-page manual in the form of a PDF file called the Getting Started Book. In addition, Microsoft provides the wonderful
Mactopia web site, their Mac support center.

Summary
Office X has been redesigned with a fresh new Aqua interface, supports all Mac OS X features and technologies, and has Mac-only features like Formatting Palette, Microsoft Word Data Merge Manager, Microsoft Excel List Manager, and Microsoft PowerPoint Movies. E-mail is made even easier in Entourage X by allowing connections to Microsoft Exchange servers, Hotmail, and Mac.com so users can more efficiently manage e-mail online and off. With the integrated and improved Entourage calendar, you can easily organize your schedule and set reminders for important events and projects. Office X is compatible with Office 2001 for Mac, Office 98 Macintosh Edition, Office for Microsoft Windows, AppleWorks 6, and FileMaker Pro 5.5, so you can share files with practically anyone, whether they use a Mac or a PC. Microsoft Office X is a great suite of productivity applications, and the perfect addition to anyone who has braved the waters of OS X.

Pros

  • Native in OS X
  • Beautiful Aqua interface across the board
  • Nice improvements such as Merge Manager and Formatting Palette
  • Excellent integration between applications
  • Now comes with a "Getting Started" PDF


Cons

  • Steep purchase and upgrade prices
  • Still no printed manual
  • Entourage lacks basic PIM features
  • Not much new in PowerPoint


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice