Microsoft reveals details of Office 2008 for Mac

Intel-based Mac owners will have a Universal version of Microsoft’s Office to call their own later this year. Microsoft’s Macintosh Business Unit revealed some details about Office 2008 for Mac Tuesday—namely that the suite of office productivity tools would ship in the second half of 2007.

Office 2008 adds plenty of new features, but the one sure to grab Mac users’ attention is its ability to run natively on both PowerPC- and Intel-based machines. Office had been one of the last remaining marquee Mac applications that had yet to add native support for Apple’s latest hardware.

“I’m really impressed with the speed [of the Intel version], especially with graphics intensive tasks,’ Sheridan Jones, group marketing manager for the Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit, told Macworld .

Office 2008 for Mac will share some technologies with its Windows counterpart, Office 2007, making for seamless compatibility between the different versions, according to Microsoft. Both Office releases will use the Office Open XML Formats, which will enable users to easily save files and open files in either platform.

Office 2004 users are not being left out of the new file formats, either—in February, Microsoft will release a free beta of the file format converters for the current version, so users can read and write the new Office Open XML Formats. Six to eight weeks after Office 2008 for Mac is launched, Microsoft intends to ship final versions of the converters.

Office 2007 for Windows includes a new user interface feature called the Ribbon that gives users quick access to specific tools. The Mac version will include a similar feature dubbed the Elements Gallery and Document Parts that can automate some of the most common document tasks, such as adding a table of contents or headers and footers to documents.

“We want things to be more discoverable,” Jones said. “We really worked hard on the user interface of Office 2008 for Mac, but we worked just as hard on enhancing the usability.”

Other new features of Office 2008 for Mac include a Publishing Layout View that lets users create layout-rich documents in Word and Ledger Sheets that enables Excel to handle common financial management tasks such as budgets, invoices, and registers, without requiring users to whip up complex formulas on their own.

“It really opens up specialized management tasks, so that you don’t have to be an Excel guru to do sophisticated financial management,” Jones said.

Another smaller application that will be included with Office 2008 is My Day. The stand-alone application allows users to track priorities and stay on top of daily tasks no matter what application they’re currently working in and without launching Office’s Entourage personal information manager. My Day lets users color-code everything for visualizing daily priorities.

Microsoft did not announce pricing for Office 2008; that will come as the software’s second half of 2007 ship date draws closer, Microsoft said.

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