Office 2008 SP2 improves speed, collaboration capability

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Microsoft’s MacBU on Monday released Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Service Pack 2, a new update that promises speed, stability and compatibility improvements, along with a new tool called Document Connection for Mac that leverages Microsoft’s SharePoint technology. The update goes live on Monday at 10AM Pacific Time, 1PM Eastern.

Calculation speed in cells in Excel spreadsheets has been increased up to 24 percent, according to Mike Tedesco, senior product manager at Microsoft’s MacBU. The outline view in Microsoft Word has also been overhauled and now works up to 10 times faster than before. What’s more, Word boots up faster than ever, as well.

The new Document Connection tool helps Office users collaborate more seamlessly. Rather than having to rely on a Web browser to maintain a connection to Microsoft Office Live Workspace, Document Connection lets Office 2008 users on the Mac save and open documents directly.

The software leverages Microsoft SharePoint technology, which enables Office users to collaborate by publishing documents to the Web. SharePoint manages the connection, making sure users n the same workgroups know when a document is available and when it’s checked out, who is working on it and what access privileges they have.

With this announcement Microsoft Office Live Workplace is also expanding the scope of supported Web browsers to include Safari 4 and Firefox 2.0 running on Mac OS X 10.2 or later.

PowerPoint 2008 also adds some new, highly-requested features: custom path animation and default theme support. Tedesco explained that while PowerPoint 2008 users have been able to play back motion path animations in PowerPoint stacks created by Windows users, they haven’t until now been able to make their own. And the default theme feature lets PowerPoint users define a default theme for their slides (for corporate presentations, for example) that use consistent fonts, color schemes and slide layouts.

The update, which measures about 300MB, according to a Microsoft spokesperson, will be available for download both from the MacBU Web site and using the AutoUpdate tool in Office 2008.

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