Road to Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac: A New Hope

Posted:
in Mac Software edited January 2014
It's been just over two years since Microsoft released Office 2008 for Mac. Now the company is preparing to launch its 2011 edition in significantly less time than it took to update Office 2004, this time delivering an application interface sporting a sharper and more professional look. Here's an early introductory look at what's coming.



Setting the stage for Office 2011



Microsoft's last release of Office 2008 for Mac spent four years in gestation before the suite was finally birthed as a Universal Binary, nearly a year and a half after Apple began shipping its first Intel Macs. It also dropped support for Visual Basic for Applications, an important feature many companies use to automate their document workflow. Office for Mac also lacks Project, Access, and other apps from the Windows version of the suite.



Even so, Microsoft's release was very successful. The company said the release was "selling faster than any previous version of Office for Mac in the past 19 years," a fact that was likely related to its sharply lower pricing and much more liberal "Home and Student Edition" licensing ($149, compared to the $400 Standard Edition sold to businesses).



When Office 2008 arrived, it strained to bridge the awkward gap between being a suite of unique Mac apps that were custom tailored to the platform and its creative users, and being functionally equivalent to the Windows suite, with close adherence to how it looked and worked.



It appeared Microsoft's Mac Business Unit chose to lean in favor of being Mac-like, but rather than delivering tools that looked and worked similar to Mac OS X apps like Apple's own iWork, Office 2008 invented its own idea of what a Mac-like interface was, with lots of day glow, translucent plastic trim salvaged from the late 90s iMacs and other non-standard ornamentation.



This tended to result in Office 2008 looking like a clownish new low in Microsoft's Office efforts on the Mac, after ten years of development since the 1997 deal between Apple and Microsoft, and more than 20 years after Word first premiered on the Macintosh in 1985. Later this year, Microsoft will be refining its Mac productivity suite in a new direction that looks to be a lot more professional and sophisticated.



Microsoft's Fluent UI vs Apple's Toolbars



While the Mac BU delivered Office 2008, the rest of Microsoft was busy taking Office (and Windows) in its own unique direction, following the "Fluent" user interface concept developed around the Ribbon. This replaced the toolbar and Windows' menu bar (which is integrated into application windows rather than being separate as it is on the Mac OS) with a dynamic strip of controls that packed together a dense amount of user interface buttons and options.



Meanwhile, Apple has established a standard Toolbar user interface for apps in Mac OS X, which allows users to customize the buttons they use, present them with or without text labels, and depict icons in large or small sizes. The company has also standardized its own apps to make heavy use of Inspector palettes. Within iWork, Apple has also introduced the Format Bar as a way to optionally present a contextually relevant strip of controls under the standard Toolbar.



The Mac BU, facing the difficult task of pleasing both sides of very different isles, delivered Office 2008 with both a semi-standard version of the Mac OS X style Toolbar and a strip of Ribbon-like band it called the "Element Gallery." The toolbars used in Office 2008 don't offer to resize icons, you can't just display text labels, and they aren't configured using drag and drop sheets like standard Mac Toolbars. Instead, the Office Toolbar is really a replica of the standard Office toolbar, which allows you to select between and customize the rows and rows of familiar icons.







Office 2011's cleaner new look



In the existing Beta 2 of Office 2011, Microsoft has dialed down the Day-Glo frivolity of the clunky feeling Element Gallery and turned it into an actual Ribbon with a much more solid and refined feel. Despite being busy and packed with controls, the new Ribbon looks a lot more professionally subdued, although it feels like it's lacking enough visual contrast to make its elements clearly pop out as distinct options.



The Ribbon has a series of tabs that enable it to pack a huge amount of controls into the inch of space below the more-compact-than-ever Toolbar (which remains an Office Toolbar rather than a standard Mac OS X one.) It's easy to dismiss the Ribbon using a single Toolbar button, providing a large functional space for your content.



In place of a more Mac-like Inspector, Office 2011 provides a toned down Toolbox panel, which serves as a floating window that presents tabs for Styles; bibliographic Citations; Reference Tools including a dictionary, thesaurus and language translation tools; and a Compatibility Checker for reviewing potential problems that might affect interoperability with Office users running other versions of the suite.



Controls that were formerly in the Formatting Palette of Office 2004 were partly moved to the Elements Gallery of Office 2008, but are now completely removed from the Toolbox and will now be part of the Ribbon in Office 2011.



Given that it would be impossible for the Mac BU to completely please either its Mac-centric users or its users with needs for cross platform familiarity between the Mac and Windows versions, the new Office 2011 looks like a well designed compromise that works to look clean, crisp and professional on the Mac while also retaining much of the direction of the latest Windows version.



There's still some odd facets carried forward from Office 2008, such as the candy colored translucent controls around objects or the transparent grey HUD look of some palettes, but the new edition appears to solidify the interface and behave more predictably and maturely. The existing version of Office feels like a beta version of a conceptual effort to create a high energy, glossy interface that really just looks a decade old. This new edition feels more clean and modern, like what one might expect from a serious corporation selling the world's leading productivity suite.



Upcoming segments in this series will examine what's new in each of the individual apps within the new Office 2011 suite.







For those readers interested in the history of Office on the Mac, please see the first segment of AppleInsider's Road to Mac Office 2008 series.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 105
    chronsterchronster Posts: 1,894member
    Microsoft is the greatest company ever ever. I would die for them.
  • Reply 2 of 105
    ivladivlad Posts: 739member
    Cleaner? How is that cleaner. Looks pretty fugly. I think the best bet for Microsoft is to copy iWork. They're pretty good at it.
  • Reply 3 of 105
    spotonspoton Posts: 645member
    I avoid Microsoft software like the plague it is. Even for Mac users over the years there has been numerous serious security issues from Office.



    I don´t know why Mac users even bother using Office on their machines, the files don´t even retain their formatting when transfered to a Windows PC.



    If the files don´t retain formatting, then one really can use something else, like the free OpenOffice as it will save in a MS format, with that too there is some formatting loss, but at least one doesn´t have to pay for it.



    I look at this way, if someone has got to edit your stuff and not accept a PDF or a hard copy, then itś best to use the same machine and software as everyone else, namely a Windows PC or VM with Office.



    Else, spreadsheets are spreadsheets, and word processors are nearly all the same, just some differences. You use one, you´ve used them all basically. Save in a universal format to be accepted into just about any program and your fine. Cross train in various programs and you can use anything you like, not just stuck in MS world of constant security terrorism and the Stockholm Syndrome effect.



    Heck, even TextWrangler from BareBones is free and allows one to edit system files with root powers, very nice.



    Nobody should be paying for office software anymore in my opinion, it has little room to grow and the market is flooded with cheap and decent alternatives.
  • Reply 4 of 105
    So, is this yet another typical M$ announcement, wherein a new product is promised ... at some point in the future? Or, did that post put a date on the release? The post was too long, and too similar to previous Office 2011 posts.
  • Reply 5 of 105
    Why is AppleInsider only talking about how it looks ? Even in the past, there is so much emphasis on how this stupid Office 2011 looks it's sickening.



    This just alleviates the pressure from Microsoft to produce a product that actually functions as they see that all Apple and its users are interested in is appearance. Office 2008 when it first came out was almost unusable. It was so slow !! After countless updates it is at least functional now but no where close to Office for Windows. Office for Mac crashes all the time and can't handle big files with tens/hundreds of pages. With multiple documents open forget about it, the software is as slow as a snail. It is no where close to as smooth as the Windows version.



    This article claims that the Office 2011 is more professional than previous versions but then refers to its colour scheme as "Candy Coloured." WTF!? If you make Apple users out to be little materialistic teens and that don't know anything about computers, then 3rd parties will treat you that way, and this is exactly the response we are seeing from Microsoft. If you need more proof then just go see their pathetic excuse for software "MSN Messenger for Mac."



    I think it's ridiculous that respectable blogs like AppleInsider sit here and talk about the appearance of Office 2011, WHO CARES IF IT DOESN'T WORK!!! It is so annoying, and I tried the 2011 Beta, wow, no improvement to speed. tahlu mzyalq microsoft
  • Reply 6 of 105
    nvidia2008nvidia2008 Posts: 9,262member
    F***K Microsoft Office for Mac. Seriously. I'm tired of its nonsense. Sluggish response, Entourage neither-here-nor-there, crazy interface. If you really need to work with Office docs maybe try OpenOffice, for your own documents use iWork'09. Absolutely need 100% compatibility? Run Windows in VMWare or Parallels.



    Who the hell uses all the features of Windows MSOffice anyway since MSOffice 2003? I think since even just MSOffice 2000, beyond that it's just bloat, bloat, bloat, bloat and more bloat to keep you renewing your licenses... and just marketing hype.



    Granted I work for an Apple reseller. But even then, I ditched Office for Mac on my own laptop about 2 years ago and it's been great ever since.
  • Reply 7 of 105
    zindakozindako Posts: 468member
    Why do I need office 2011 for mac when I am already running iWork?
  • Reply 8 of 105
    dkwalsh4dkwalsh4 Posts: 178member
    I never found Office 2008 as a suitable replacement for the Windows version, so I would just run it through VMWare. I'm currently running Office 2011 Beta 2, and I must say that even being a beta version, it is a major step up from 2008.
  • Reply 9 of 105
    Bloody cuss, unfortunately some of us (read my wife) are forced to use this stuff for professional reasons.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by zindako View Post


    Why do I need office 2011 for mac when I am already running iWork?



  • Reply 10 of 105
    kasperkasper Posts: 941member, administrator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by picman View Post


    Why is AppleInsider only talking about how it looks ?



    If you actually read the whole article, you'd see at the end that this is just an introduction to an in-depth series that will go far beyond looks.



    Thanks,



    Kasper
  • Reply 11 of 105
    newbeenewbee Posts: 2,055member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by chronster View Post


    Microsoft is the greatest company ever ever. I would die for them.



    Sounds good to me.
  • Reply 12 of 105
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpotOn View Post


    I don´t know why Mac users even bother using Office on their machines, the files don´t even retain their formatting when transfered to a Windows PC.



    If the files don´t retain formatting, then one really can use something else, like the free OpenOffice as it will save in a MS format, with that too there is some formatting loss, but at least one doesn´t have to pay for it.



    ...



    Nobody should be paying for office software anymore in my opinion, it has little room to grow and the market is flooded with cheap and decent alternatives.



    I agree with the initial sentement. However, in recent years MS Office for Mac has gotten better.



    The last problem I ran into (with regards to inconsistent formatting) had to do with accepted changes reappearing in the Window's version after having been accepted (and thus dimissed) in the Mac version. Other than that, I can't remember the last problem I had with formatting issues across platforms and I have been the lone Mac user in a department of PC's for going on 9 years now. I have tried various office suites and their inconsistencies are more frequent (font type and size changes drove me nuts with OO.org).



    Also, I don't know about anyone else, but my company pays for the MS license, so it doesn't cost me anything either. For home I use the iWork suite or an older MS Office license I purchased as a student (for $5).



    My big complaints with Office are not OS dependent. Fine tuning of Table layout is next to impossible, and almost guaranteed to take 4x longer than it should. Changes I make being ignored or reverted for no apparent reason is also absurdly common.
  • Reply 13 of 105
    thetoethetoe Posts: 84member
    Can we just have Word 5.1 for OS X/Intel?



    That's the last version that wasn't crammed with poorly-functioning features that hardly anyone uses.
  • Reply 14 of 105
    I for one am excited for this release. iWork just isn't functional for our corporate environment.
  • Reply 15 of 105
    mj webmj web Posts: 918member
    I haven't bought a Microsoft product since 2006 and thanks to iWork and NeoOffice I don't need MS Office.

    Because of their garish colors, lame icons, and copycat nature, I don't contemplate ever buying software from Microsoft again.
  • Reply 16 of 105
    benicebenice Posts: 382member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DKWalsh4 View Post


    I never found Office 2008 as a suitable replacement for the Windows version, so I would just run it through VMWare. I'm currently running Office 2011 Beta 2, and I must say that even being a beta version, it is a major step up from 2008.



    Did you have any font issues? I was hearing that it wiped out fonts (apparently in his browser) though it may have been easy to do a font file replace to resolve the issue after installing the beta.
  • Reply 17 of 105
    I can't stand OO.org. I tried to make some postcards and I got so very frustrated. I tried to find templates for iWork and that didn't work... I had to d/l the Office 2008 trial just to print Avery postcards correctly.



    I use office 2007 everyday (on a PC) and it just works. If Office 2011 on the Mac can finally duplicate the office experience I already have then that's good for me.



    iWork still has a way to go before it can really replace MS Office on the Mac. (Note that I am using iWork 08 and hoping for a new version this year that exceeds even what I experienced when using the iWork 09 trial version. No, I couldn't get the postcards right with 09, either. that is what necessitated the download of MS Office 2008). I don't own Windows to run in VM but now we have Office 2007 for the PC upstairs and perhaps this will work for the future.
  • Reply 18 of 105
    icyfogicyfog Posts: 338member
    I couldn't care less about Microsoft's Office. I use alternatives whenever and wherever possible - iWorks, Google Docs and OpenOffice.org.
  • Reply 19 of 105
    earthyearthy Posts: 16member
    I still find the interface too cluttered with these rows of icons and menu titles. A good interface, especially for a word processing application where most documents are in portrait format, needs to cut down on the vertical screen space taken up by interface elements so that it frees up the maximum possible vertical space for you to visualise the page you are working on.
  • Reply 20 of 105
    vsighivsighi Posts: 22member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by chronster View Post


    Microsoft is the greatest company ever ever. I would die for them.



    Then WTF you on AppleInsider...? You going to die to protect Window Vista too...because I want my money back.

    No hard feeling man but Microsoft / Steve Ballmer sux big time.
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