is the most popular word processor in the business world, and the Mac version is
available as part of Microsoft's Office 2008 for Macintosh package. With Word 2008,
Microsoft has produced an Intel-native version of the venerable Macintosh word processor
with more new features and changes to the interface. Does the latest version bring
benefits that are worth the considerable cost? Let's take a closer look.
- A Mac computer with
an Intel, PowerPC G5, or PowerPC G4 (500 MHz or faster) processor
- Mac OS X version
10.4.9 or later
- 512 MB of RAM or
- 1.5 GB of available
hard disk space for the entire suite
- DVD drive
- 1024 x 768 or higher-resolution
When you shop for Office 2008 on Microsoft's website, it takes you to a page of various dealers, and the price ranges from
$299 to $399.
Office 2008 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. The installer requires the product key number to be entered
before the install begins. The installation process is simple and straightforward.
Installing Office 2008 for Mac
The basics of Word remain as they always were. The premier general-purpose word processing
application continues to be an essential part of most office (and many home) user's
experiences and the currency with which document interchange is transacted. Microsoft
has polished the Macintosh-specific version of Office and Word into arguably the
more attractive and usable version. The Mac version is minus the controversial Ribbon
interface while gaining an Elements Gallery that seems to steal the look and feel
from Apple's Pages. More new features are added, while changes are made to some others.
Whether it is right for you will depend greatly on what you want out of it. To a
great extent, the biggest feature many users are looking for is simply an Intel-native
To start off with, Microsoft has finally converted Office into a Universal Binary,
which will run natively on both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs. This has been a long-awaited
development, as Apple announced the transition to Intel processors in June 2005 and
shipped the first Intel Macs (the MacBook Pro and iMac Core Duo) in January 2006.
Apple completed the Intel transition with the Mac Pro in August 2006. Microsoft
finally shipped the Universal Binary Office 2008 in January. So was the wait for
the UB version worth it? I started with a completely updated copy of both Word 2008
12.0.1, and Word 2004 11.3.6. On my freshly rebooted test machine, an iMac Intel
Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz with 4 GB of RAM installed, Word 2008 launched in about 23 seconds.
Word 2004 running via Rosetta emulation on the other hand, launched in about 17 seconds.
This is certainly not what I had hoped for. A second launch of each program however,
yielded a time of about 6 seconds for Word 2008, versus a time of around 11 seconds
for Word 2004. Subsequent launches were consistent with the second launch times.
While it is nice that the launch time comes down for later starts, the first one
of the day is what I get impatient waiting on.
As far as speed during use, the interface was very responsive and text entry seldom
lags as it sometimes did under Rosetta emulation.
Microsoft has made a significant change to Word's user interface. It is quite consistent
with Apple's current look and, as I previously mentioned, looks a lot like an iWork
application. The document window has taken on the unified title and toolbar scheme
and the icons are more Mac-like than previously. Conveniently, the toolbar follows
the window around, unlike Word 2004 which stayed anchored in the upper left hand
corner. This is consistent with Apple's current implementation in the iWork suite
and other Apple software. I personally like the look quite a lot, but of course
everyone will have their own opinion. The default toolbar set is shown below. You
can still display the traditional toolbars via the View -> Toolbars menu, but
with some of the changes that have been made, you'll find yourself less likely to
The next significant user interface change, just below the toolbar, is the Elements
Gallery. which includes Document Elements, Quick Tables, Charts, SmartArt Graphics
and WordArt. If it's possible to change the tabs in the Elements Gallery I was not
able to find the way to do it, so you're stuck with what Microsoft has chosen. The
choices represent convenient, if not frequently used elements to make your document
look better. It seems like I use WordArt not quite often enough to remember where
to access it in Word 2004 (it's under Insert -> Picture -> WordArt, illogically
enough) that it's nice to have it in the Elements Gallery, but not so often that
I really want it there all the time. The Document Elements tab, which houses selections
for Cover Pages, Table of Contents, Header, Footer and Bibliographies is much more
useful, as is the Quick Tables tab, which will immediately remind you of Apple's
New Word 2008 Toolbar / Quick Tables
These elements make
it much easier to add title pages, tables of contents (TOC), and other items you
might have struggled with in the past. For instance, add a TOC to the front of a
blank document and instead of just ending up with an unformatted TOC, Microsoft inserts
text that tells you how to add headings later in the document that will then be added
to your TOC. When you click anywhere inside the TOC, a tab appears that you can pull
down to Update or Remove the TOC. Especially if you don't do this often (like me)
it's much easier than it used to be. The headers and footers are much friendlier,
too, identifying if it's the First Page, Even or Odd header or footer.
Improved Table of Contents Creation
Publication Layout View
Microsoft has added a new view modes for documents in addition to the previous
Normal, Outline, Print, and Notebook views, the Publishing Layout. This, of course,
looks much like Apple's Pages. The background of both the Publishing Layout view
and Notebook view now have a customizable desktop (including several woodgrains,
leather, blueprint, composites and metals). The Elements Gallery is context sensitive,
so when you have a Publishing document open it offers templates you may want, like
Newsletters, Brochures, Flyers, Invitations and quite a few more. Each one has from
two to more than a dozen sample templates to choose from. Given that I have spent
much more time in Word than Pages, I find it easier to use this layout mode, since
I am more familiar with Word's formatting palette than Pages' Inspector palette.
All of the content in the Elements Gallery seems much easier to use than Microsoft's
Ribbon interface in the Windows Office 2007 version.
Publication Layout View
New Publication Templates
Speaking of the formatting palette, it has lost the annoying transparency from Word
2004 (which, ironically enough I just found the option to disable while writing this
review). Instead, it adds more context sensitive switching to present you with relevant
options based on what element of the document, text or graphic element you have selected.
Also, the separate formatting windows that things like Clip Art and WordArt had in
Word 2004 are now incorporated into the formatting palette, rather than floating
around randomly. Also, the View menu item icons match the Toolbox icons, so you can
tell which one you are selecting from the menu bar.
Word 2008 boasts some iLife integration as well. In the Object Palette, if you select
the option to insert a photo, a list with all your iPhoto albums and photos will
appear that you can choose from
Notebook View is now more photorealistic including metal ring binders on the left
and also has the customizable workspace with the same selection of backgrounds as
Publishing Layout view. It now has cellophane-looking tab dividers to separate your
sections. Functionally it is much the same, with drag-able lines, so you can rearrange
your notes as desired. The audio note tool in the notebook can be used to record
lectures and presentations, as well.
Much attention has been paid to fit and finish with this application, as it appears
that Apple-only technologies like Core Animation were used to produce animations
in the Elements Gallery buttons and template choices and on page view buttons. Whether
you will find these attractive or annoying will of course be a matter of preference,
but I find they add a Mac-like feel to the program you might use at work in Windows.
I know I much prefer this version to the one I'm currently using at work.
The Preferences dialog has been changed to mimic Mac OS X's System Preferences. The
settings are the same as you remember, just presented in a very Mac-like manner.
Word 2008 Preferences Dialog
Issues and Incompatibilities
First, Word haas a new XML file format called DOCX. These files are incompatible
with previous versions of Word and currently Microsoft has delayed a converter to
assist users of earlier versions in opening them. If you need to share Word documents
with co-workers or friends, (and who doesn't?) you will need to change the default
file format in the Save preference panel back to the legacy .DOC format. That problem
is easy to fix. The next one is harder. 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. When it did so, years of accumulated
macros disappeared in a flash. 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. Other tools such as Endnote are not currently compatible with this
latest version, but a new release will restore compatibility in the future.
As with most Office version changes, there are menu items and commands that have
switched places for no discernible reason, and my Font menu no longer showed a WYSIWYG
version of each font. I had to dig into Word Help to find out you must enable that
feature via the Customize Toolbars and Menus dialog box. My previous versions of
Word had that enabled by default so I never discovered that option.
Business Unit at Microsoft has again delivered some compelling new features in Word,
the market's dominating word processor. The dilemma that always presents itself when
a new version of Office appears is whether the new features are worth the considerable
cost to upgrade. In Word 2008, I found the Publication Layout view quite useful,
and ironically more intuitive (probably from years of using MS Word) than Apple's
Pages. If your business is switching Windows users to Office 2007 and using DOCX
formats, it will be essential to you. However, if you have lots of work invested
in VBA macros, you'll have to think long and hard before making this switch, as Visual
Basic is no longer supported. Many users, however, will welcome the augmented AppleScript
- Indispensable in
- Elements Gallery
speeds document formatting and content insertion
- New Publication Layout
- iPhoto integration
- Excellent Mac OS
X look and feel
- AppleScript implementation
- Many users will not
need new features
- Macro system abandons
VBA for AppleScript
- Speed advantage of
Universal Binary not immediately apparent
4 1/2 out of 5 Mice