Hands on with Office v. X: The Extras

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Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU) will release the much-anticipated Office v. X for Mac OS X on November 19. Over the next few days we will look at the applications that make up the suite, as well as the extras that come on the CD.

Overall improvements

There are several enhancements common to all the components of Office X.

New to the Project Gallery is the "Based on Recent" category. If you want to create new documents on ones you've previously produced, this feature offers a convenient way to do so. The Preview pane displays copies of up to 27 of the most recently used files from each Office X app installed on your Mac. Since they're copies and not the actual files, you don't have to worry about losing data if you make changes to them -- everything in the original file remains intact. Each time users select the copy of a file from the Based on Recent category in the Project Gallery, they create a new document with the same text as the previous document.

Many "discoverability" features of Mac OS X have been included throughout Office v. X. New to the Formatting Palette is the Genie Effect. To assist users in understanding the Formatting Palette's location after it's been closed, the MacBU made it possible for it to "Genie" to and from the toolbar.

To help navigate a cross platform world, Office v. X includes an "Append file extension." Although Office v. X possesses the same file format as office for Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Windows 97, exchanging files can be challenging because of the differences in how Mac and Windows operating systems distinguish files. In the Save As dialog box in each Office X application, the check box to attach the file extension to the file is automatically checked. Smart attachments in Entourage X include the option to append the file extension to outgoing documents to make sharing files across platforms easier.

The Collect and Paste feature enables easier management of multiple pieces of information in Office X, going beyond the single-step Copy and Paste function. Using the standard Office X Clipboard located in the View menu, users can copy information, switch windows, paste, switch windows, paste, switch windows, copy, switch windows, paste, etc. The Office Clipboard allows Word X users to collect multiple blocks of text or pictures from one or more documents, e-mail messages, Web pages, presentations or other files. Users can then paste these blocks into any Office X application -- either individually or all at once, using the Paste All feature.

Office X also offers access to Office Tools on the Web. Office Tools on the Web offers electronic services from the Office Web site. You can use the tools to do things like look up contact information, add that info to Entourage X, or find maps to import into a Word document. Other resources in Tools on the Web include online templates and clip art and reference services. You can also access the Office X productivity articles and downloads provided by the Mactopia Web site. Tools on the Web is accessed by clicking on the Tools menu in any Office X app.

REALbasic 3.5 is tightly integrated into Office X. Not only have Online Help topics been improved, but users can also print a help topic from the Help Viewer.

Carbonized, not Cocoa-ized

Office v. X is Carbonized, but some folks have wondered why it's not Cocoa-ized.

Cocoa is an advanced object-oriented programming environment. According to Apple, Cocoa gives developers a whole new toolbox for building the best next-generation applications. It's a collection of advanced, object-oriented APIs for developing applications written in Java and Objective-C. Carbon's big advantage is that you only have to change 20 percent of your code while you have to learn Objective-C to develop with Cocoa.

The MacBU says that they worked closely with Apple to ensure that Office X was designed to take advantage of the modern architecture and great-looking Aqua interface that Mac OS X provides. Rather than just "porting" to Mac OS X, all four applications in the suite have been completely redone, with 25 million lines of code, 50 shared libraries, 8,257 files and 800 dialog boxes -- all Carbonized. What's more, 700 new Aqua toolboxes have been added to the product.

However, there are some tradeoffs. Rather than develop a release that offered minimal Carbonization but many new features, the MacBU felt that Mac users wanted Office X to take advantage of everything Mac OS X promises, including simplicity, stability, reliability and discoverability. So the MacBU did intensive integration with Mac OS X technologies and features.

Why not Cocoa-ize Office X? Carbon is the right development environment to use to make pre-existing applications run on Mac OS X. This approach applies to Microsoft apps, as well, because the code base to create Office X was derived from Office 2001 for Mac. By Carbonizing Office X for the Mac, it took the MacBU just one year to complete. Cocoa was never a viable option. It wasn't available to the MacBU when development began. Had it been available, the MacBU still wouldn't have used it because of the Office 2001 code base. Cocoa, in fact, requires a longer development period, while offering no performance advantages over Carbon.

Office X supports Mac OS X technology by adding "above and beyond" functionality for Sheets (which give users an immediate visual connection between a dialog box and the respective document it affects), Quartz 2D drawing technology, Carbon Events Framework (which lets Mac OS X run applications as efficiently as possible), native Mac OS X controls, QuickTime movies and transitions, drag and drop and Mac OS X native navigation services.

Office X users can share files freely with users of Office 2001 for Mac and Office 98 Macintosh Edition. Office X shares the same filing format as Office XP, Office 2000, and Office 97 for Windows. It's also compatible with FileMaker Pro 5.5 and AppleWorks 6.0.

Product Identification Checker

Office v. X enforces the user license like no other product before it. Microsoft has built in a Product Identification Checker into each copy of Office. What this means is that if you're on a network you can't install and run the same copy of Office v. X on two computers at the same time.

If Office v. X is running on one computer and you try to start the Office package on another system, a dialog box will alert you that Office v. X is already in use and has exceeding its licensing limit -- then it quits.

"Our End User License Agreement has always stated that a customer can install Office for Mac on two computers, but only one can be running at a time," Erik Ryan, product manager at the MacBU told MacCentral. "In Office v. X there is now a product identification checker that enforces what the license has always said."

MSN Messenger, Windows Media Player and Import Mail

MSN Messenger 2.1 Windows Media Player 7.1 for OS X and Import Mail are all included with Office v. X.

Not just a standalone application, MSN Messenger is integrated with the suite through the new Office Notifications feature, which keeps all appointments, tasks and Microsoft .NET Alerts in one reminder window -- even if no Office X apps are running.

Through Office Notifications, users can be reminded about an Office document that's been flagged for follow-up and have a Microsoft .NET Alert inform them about an MSN stock quote. Notifications appear on the desktop or on top of an open Office application.

MSN Messenger is Carbonized and will run in either Mac OS X or Mac OS 8.6 through 9.2.1. When in Mac OS X, MSN Messenger 1.1 has the Aqua interface; in the traditional Mac OS, it sports the Classic appearance. Messenger also features one-touch integration with Passport profiles. Support for Passport accounts means that generic e-mail addresses are now valid Messenger IDs and Buddy Lists and preferences remain intact with any e-mail address. Users can now log on with the same sign-in name and password they use across their MSN sites, as well as on a variety of other sites that support MS Passport.

Another goodie included with Office v. X is Windows Media Player for Mac OS X. With Windows Media Player for Mac OS X, you can play digital media files in Windows Media Format. You can also use Windows Media Player view news broadcasts, tune into radio stations and more by using the Windows Media Player Web site.

Windows Media Player requires Mac OS X 10.1, 10MB of disk space and a monitor that supports 256 colors (millions of colors recommended).

The MacBU has included an Import from Mail script on the CD. The AppleScript will import all of your mail from Apple's built-in Mail program by simply double-clicking.

Microsoft does note that the Import from Mail script works for messages in Apple Mail Personal Mailboxes. The script does not work for messages in Apple Mail IMAP mailboxes or other mailboxes outside of the Personal Mailboxes hierarchy.

Also included on the Install CD are extra templates, fonts, clipart, REALBasic, several converters and much more.

Tomorrow, we will start our look at the individual Office v. X applications.

This story, "Hands on with Office v. X: The Extras" was originally published by PCWorld.

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