Microsoft Office v. X coming in November

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Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU) announced today the official name for their Office suite of applications coming to Mac OS X, as well as availability and pricing. The suite, dubbed Office v. X will be available in November for U.S. customers and will ship internationally shortly after.

The Office v. X suite includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage, the email and personal information manager first introduced with Office 2001. Until now details of Entourage have been kept under wraps by Microsoft -- they didn't even show the application during the keynote address at Macworld New York this past summer.

The functionality of Entourage will be familiar to users, but the interface has gone through a major facelift. Instead of having Tasks, Notes, Mail, Calendar, Address Book and Custom Views in the folder pane of the program, Entourage X has them conveniently located on the top left hand side of the application.

Entourage X also includes new and improved features. The personal Address Book offers improved international support, enabling users to customize and format addresses for any country or region in the world. The Calendar in Entourage X has been revamped to offer greater flexibility in managing schedules, particularly when meetings involve people in several time zones. Entourage X also includes the ability to insert rich content, such as movies or photos into the body of e-mail messages and sports improved Word editing tools.

In addition Entourage X includes improved support for the public Internet Message Access Protocol 4 (IMAP4) standard; new Mac OS Keychain support; and new Office Notifications, which display appointments, tasks, reminders and Microsoft .NET Alerts in a window even if Office programs are not running.

"Entourage X has been designed to deliver a world-class communication experience on Mac OS X," said Kevin Browne, general manager of the Macintosh Business Unit at Microsoft. "As the cornerstone of Office v. X for Mac, Entourage X offers users many improvements and feature enhancements. In addition, Entourage X has received the same deep Mac OS X development work common to all the applications in Office v. X. Whether it's for the improvements to Entourage X or the great Mac OS X features throughout the suite, come this November no Mac user should be without Office v. X."

Office v. X will also include MSN Messenger 2.1 for Mac, the company's instant-messaging application -- it is integrated with Office v. X through Office Notifications. Messenger will be fully localized into the international language versions of Office v. X, and it will support the double-byte character system in Japanese.

Office X runs natively on OS X -- it will not run under OS 9. All of the applications in the Office suite have undergone changes in their appearance adding Aqua buttons and dialog boxes. When making the Aqua interface the MacBU redesigned many of the buttons and took advantage of many features in the operating system. "We wanted to make our apps a great expression of OS X and not just Carbon," Browne told MacCentral. "This release of Office X is about showing our customers we are committed to them."

When building Office v. X Kevin Browne said he wanted to take advantage of everything OS X had to offer.

"I told my team to figure out what it is about the operating system that is special and take advantage of that," Browne said. "When someone asks what is about OS X that is interesting, my direction to them is to make Office something you can use to demonstrate that."

Office v. X marks the beginning of Microsoft's move to OS X and away from Classic applications. "Office 2001 is definitely the last OS 9 version of Office -- everything we do from now on will be for OS X, Browne said."

Office v. X will be available as an upgrade version for US$299 and as a standard version for $499. Customers that are licensed users of any Office 2001 for Mac application or Word + Entourage 2001 Special Edition can take advantage of a special limited time upgrade price of $149 fulfilled directly through Microsoft.

This story, "Microsoft Office v. X coming in November" was originally published by PCWorld.

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