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Microsoft Office for Macintosh OS X
This review was begun in July 2002 and completed in October 2003
Steve Webber
Submitted for Publication October 6, 2003

In November of 2001 I bought a G4 and it came with OS X. I really liked the looks of the aqua interface but didn’t like the way it performed. After upgrading to OS X.01 the performance was much improved but I was growing old waiting for “Classic Mode” to start-up to use Microsoft Office for Macintosh 1998. Once open it was fine but Classic Mode seemed to take forever to load.

I used Microsoft Office 2000 at work on a Windows NT network and have come to love the protected memory environment it uses. I’d have Word crash but would simply restart and go back to work. Occasionally I need to log off and restart to get the auto save feature to function properly, so it was the protected memory feature of OS X that I was interested in. I hated the way my browser would crash in OS 8.6 and take down my whole system.

Microsoft Office is a suite of programs that include word processing (Word), spread sheets (Excel), presentation software (PowerPoint), and e-mail client/organizer (Entourage). The windows world also gets a database program (Access), but Microsoft does not offer that to the Macintosh community. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access for Windows are all sold as stand-alone programs and each could take years to find every neat and useful feature. Even without Access Microsoft Office for OS X is a heavy-duty set of programs, and the fact that they work well together has given Microsoft the market share of the business computing in both the PC and Mac communities. These are all serious programs and well worth the $ 399.00 suggested retail price.

I contacted Microsoft about presenting the advantages of Microsoft Office for OS X to our Macintosh User Group but didn’t have much success. As 2002 ticked away, I asked about a review copy the end of June and in early July it arrived on Friday of a weekend promising uncomfortable weather and nothing to do. Great!

Installation was a piece of cake. Drag the folder to my hard disk and launch the application. After turning off some of the auto-formatting features I hate, I was in business. I started right off on Word, popping open some old Excel files and some PowerPoint presentations. Everything worked great.

Fig. 1: Word interface with formatting palette
First impression—Elegant. I liked the formatting palette that appears and disappears from the button bar with a click of the mouse and use of the Aqua interface. I still find the updated icons in the button bar take a little getting used to but Microsoft provided the option of using traditional ones when setting up the programs the first time—live dangerously.

In 2001 I had put together an 80-page “scrapbook” in Word 98 but found I was limited in file size by the 96 megabytes of memory I have on my Power PC. The files are filled with photographs so I was choking the computer and Word at around 40 Megs. What a difference in Word for OS X!

I combined three of the files before I got Word to choke. This, I believe, must be due to OS X’s dynamic memory feature as I was surprised to learn the Microsoft maximum file size is 32 MB.  When I restarted Word my 75-MB auto-save file reappeared and I promptly saved it to a 36-MB PDF file—neat, huh?

Drawing features are much improved and lots of templates and “wizards” provide creative tools for the casual user. You can do simple flow charts and use templates to make organization charts and many other standard graphics with a professional look. There are lots of clip art and styles provided for all three programs, making the Office suite a bargain compared to individual programs.

I’ve got years of old excel files from taxes and miscellaneous records and to date they all have easily opened with the new software. Again the updated icons take a little getting use to, but  they are identified when you move the mouse to them. The formatting palette is also available with a click of the mouse, or another click will make it disappear. When you make a change to a spreadsheet the Aqua interface looks like it is 3-dimensional.

PowerPoint also opens earlier versions in a snap. Similar icons are getting to be familiar, and it has a neat feature where you can save a presentation as an IMovie. However, a 3.5-megabyte presentation turns into a 550-megabyte movie so you better have a CD burner or stock in IOmega. It’s a neat feature though.

As I proceeded with Office into the late summer and fall, I forgot to complete this review. Guilt-ridden I have decided it’s time. Microsoft has announced a new offering which is a repackaging of Microsoft Office for OS X with the addition of Virtual PC 6.1. I have VPC 5.0.4 on my G4 but it’s too slow on my aged G4 466. I presume the newer G4s with giga-speed may be more satisfying but think that if Microsoft really wanted to provide a useful package to the Macintosh community they would bust a butt getting it upgraded for the G5 and include Access with the VPC package. Since Access is not available for the Macintosh and VPC emulates the Wintel desktop, this would allow the Macintosh community to connect to the corporate IT community and be a worthwhile addition to a competent suite of programs. Since Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files are interchangeable between Mac/Dos platforms, Access is the missing piece.

I’d also like to see Microsoft deal with the interchange of Mac files to DOS files. The smart quotes and symbol characters, which made the Macintosh the preferred Desk Top Publishing platform of choice in the late 80s and early 90s, need to be interchangeable with the control characters available in the DOS programs. You can always tell e-mails from Mac users because of the weird characters generated by symbols, apostrophes, and the smart quotes when you copy Word-generated messages into e-mail.

Hey, it seems the upgrade price is more reasonable, if the pop-ups on the internet are true, and Microsoft Office for Mac OS X would pay for itself by not having to wait for the Classic Mode to open. Sorry it took me so long to complete this review.

Details: (from the Mactopia web site)

Office v. X for Mac Professional Edition
Professional Tools. Complete Compatibility.

This edition of Office v. X includes Virtual PC for Mac Version 6.1 with Microsoft Windows® XP Professional, a powerful tool that lets you run Windows-based applications on your Mac. Get the professional tools and complete compatibility you need for only $499* for the full version, or $329* for the upgrade. Programs and retail prices may vary; not available via Microsoft Volume Licensing programs. Please contact individual resellers for details.

System Requirements for Virtual PC for Mac Version 6.1

To run Virtual PC for Mac Version 6.1, your computer must meet the following requirements:
  • 500MHz native2 G3 or G4 Macintosh with a CD-ROM drive (Please note that Virtual PC for Mac Versions 6.1 and lower do not run on the G5 Macintosh)
  • Mac OS X version 10.1.5, or 10.2.1 (Jaguar) or later
To use Virtual PC for Mac Version 6.1 for OS 9, you need:
  • Any native2 G3 or G4 Macintosh with a CD-ROM drive
  • Mac OS 9.2.2
To use the Windows XP Professional Guest OS with Virtual PC for Mac Version 6.1, you need:
  • 256 MB physical RAM (Mac OS X)
  • 192 MB physical RAM (Mac OS 9)
  • 2 GB free hard disk space
Office v. X for Mac Standard Edition
Just What You Need. Just for Mac OS X

Take advantage of the new low price on Microsoft® Office v. X Standard Edition. Office v. X combines compatibility between Macs and PCs with ease of use. Create rich documents, useful spreadsheets and compelling presentations, and manage your personal information for only $399* for the full version, or $239* for the version upgrade of Standard Edition. It comes with full-featured versions of Word X, Excel X, PowerPoint® X and Entourage® X. Programs and prices may vary. Please contact individual resellers for details.

System Requirements for Office 2001 for Mac

To use Microsoft Office 2001 for Mac, your computer must meet the following requirements:

  • PowerPC, Mac OS compatible (clock speed of at least 120 MHz recommended)
  • Mac OS 8.1 to 9.x (Mac OS 8.5 or later recommended)
  • 32 MB of RAM with at least 1 MB of Virtual Memory for Mac OS 8.1 to 8.6; 48 MB of RAM with at least 1 MB of Virtual Memory for Mac OS 9.x
  • At least 160 MB of available hard disk space for a default installation of Office 2001
  • 75 MB for a minimum installation of Office 2001
  • 80 MB for a default installation of an individual program (Word, Excel, PowerPoint®)
  • Installation of Value Pack components requires additional hard disk space. The Office 2001 Value Pack offers 120 MB of additional clip art; 40 MB of additional templates and wizards; and 140 MB of help, add-ins, and other components.
  • A CD-ROM drive or a connection to a network if installing from a network volume
  • A monitor that can display 256 grays or 256 colors and a resolution of 640 x 480 or higher

Additional items or services required to use certain features:

  • 9600 bits per second (BPS) modem (28.8 Kbps or higher recommended)
  • An Internet connection through either an Internet service provider (ISP) or a network. Internet access might require a separate fee to an ISP; local or long-distance telephone charges might also apply.
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