Office 2004 for Mac

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We look at Office 2004 for Mac including the similarities to and differences from Office 2003 for Windows.

More people are getting Macintosh computers — we’ve heard this claim for many years but now it’s really true. With iPod music players becoming amazingly popular, people are drawn into the Apple world and do more than just consider getting a Macintosh computer.

Another semi-secret weapon in the Apple marketing arsenal is the Apple Stores and their ‘Genius Bars’ where friendly face-to-face technical support can be had. The Genius Bars are a comfort and support for novice computer users and helps retain people as Apple users.

Its past time Office Watch had a closer look at Office 2004 for the Mac so that’s what we’ll do in this issue. Next week we’ll look at an issue that can concern all Office users – compatibility between the Office releases for Mac and Windows.

HOW DIFFERENT IS OFFICE FOR MAC?

As you’d expect, the core features of Office are the same in the Windows and Mac versions – concepts like Styles or Formulas are the same and the menus are structured in familiar ways.

But some interface elements are different – for example editing a formula is done by double-clicking on a cell them making changes in-line which is a narrow and inconvenient way to do it – until you discover the Formula Bar that has the longer editing field that Windows users are familiar with.

There’s a work menu in Word for Windows but its hidden away but in Word for Mac the Work option appears on the menu bar by default.

In this overview we’ll focus on the major differences from the Windows version of Office but that viewpoint should not give you the impression that Office 2004 for Mac is a vastly different suite that requires a lot of retraining. The Mac version of Office is mostly the same as in Windows but it has some omissions and additions compared to Office for Windows. The largest variation is in the PIM / Outlook equivalent for Mac called Entourage.

There are enough differences to disconcert an Office for Windows user at first. There’s no Options item under the Tools menu – instead you’ll find it in the traditional Mac location as Preferences under the Word menu.

Office 2004 for Mac now supports Applescript fully plus there’s VBA support with macro recording. There are some differences in VBA, mostly to do with operating system variations. For example there’s no ActiveX control support in Office for Mac and path separators in the Mac OS use colons not back-slashes.


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WHAT’S IN OFFICE FOR MAC

Office 2004 for Mac comes in various packages but can consist of four major components. Word, Excel and Powerpoint are obvious while the equivalent of Outlook on the Mac is called Entourage. There’s no Mac version of Project, Publisher or Visio.

OneNote has no direct equivalent but Word 2004 for Mac has, somewhat intriguingly, incorporated many of the OneNote features under the ‘Notebook’ option.

As with Office 2003 for Windows – the best value for most people is in the so-called Student and Teacher edition of Office 2003 for Mac.

TOOLBOX

The Office Toolbox is the Mac equivalent of the Taskbar but the Toolbox floats to any place you want on the screen, not locked on the right-side as it is in Windows.

Sadly the Toolbox doesn’t have the range of features that Office 2003 for Windows has. The Mac toolbox only has Scrapbook (clipboard), Reference Tools, Compatibility Report and Project Center (about which more later)

There is a separate Formatting Palette that can show anywhere on the screen with not just basic character formatting but also styles and document options.

NOTEBOOK VIEW

The Notebook features in Word 2004 for Mac are a direct lift from OneNote for Windows. A default notebook document has side tabs and a heading just like OneNote. Drawings can be added to the notebook and audio files can be attached with linked text notes.

A normal Word document can be converted into a notebook or vice-versa but some formatting can be lost in the conversion.


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PROJECT CENTER

For years Microsoft has tried to link the various Office document types into a single view of documents related to a particular project or topic. In the Windows versions these efforts have been poorly implemented and quietly dropped.

But the Office for Mac team has come up with the Project Gallery which you see by default when you open a Mac Office application. Go to the Customize option and uncheck ‘Show Project Gallery at Startup’ to bypass this menu had have the Office applications open in a more traditional way.

Confusingly new Projects are not created from the Project Gallery, instead you have to open Entourage and choose File | New | Project. Each project is in a separate folder and can have a due date and notes plus a distinctive image and color assigned to it.

Email and contacts can be linked to a Project as can files, events, tasks, clippings and notes.

Once you’ve created a project the Project toolbox pane makes sense. The schedule, notes, tasks and email related to the Project can be seen next to the document you’re currently working on.

Projects can be shared with others via a AppleShare, a WebDAV server or iDisk with the option to share individual files or all of them.

I’m gradually warming to the Project Gallery though the lack of configuration options nor links to the obvious Microsoft product, Sharepoint is a real shame.


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ENTOURAGE

Entourage is definitely not a direct equivalent to Outlook for Windows in the same way that Word, Excel and Powerpoint are similar across platforms. The feature set is much more limited and the interface is quite different.

Entourage has all the basic PIM features, Contacts, Calendar, Tasks and Notes. It can connect to POP, IMAP and Hotmail accounts plus Exchange Server.

However Exchange Server links can only be achieved if your mail host has WebDAV properly installed which is neither common nor easy to do. This should be possible with Small Business Server 2003 though I’ve never managed to get it working.

One notable addition to Entourage is support for newsgroups, something that Outlook has conspicuously omitted over all the years. The Mailing List Manager goes beyond simple Inbox rules to manage incoming list messages.

Entourage has its fans and opponents. Generally anyone coming from Outlook for Windows is frustrated and disappointed with Entourage which seems like a second-cousin to Outlook. Existing Mac users will probably like the extra features in Entourage when compared to the Mac’s in-built Mail client.


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SHORTCUT KEYS

Most of the common shortcut keys are similar on Office for Mac except that the Apple key (the four-leaf clover symbol) replaces the Ctrl key. For example, toggling Bold formatting is Apple+B instead of Ctrl+B.

Applying Heading styles is done via Apple+Option+ the number of the Heading.

AUTOUPDATE

Microsoft has a special automatic update tool for all their Macintosh programs. On a regular schedule the tool will check for any new updates and offer to install them. This is something that Windows users might get later this year and will be a dubious benefit.

In our experience the Office for Mac updates have installed and operated smoothly which is a pleasant change compared to the Office for Windows updates. If you’re wary of Office updates, as many people are, then you can still update at a time of your choosing.


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TRYING OFFICE FOR MAC

Unlike Office for Windows, you can download a 120 day trial version of Office for Mac from http://microsoft.com/office and follow the links to Office 2004 for Mac.

Getting accustomed to Office for Mac has a lot to do with being accustomed to the Mac operating system. If you take the time to get used to the Mac way of doing things then Office for Mac won’t be a big leap.

If you are thinking of making a move to a Macintosh computer then there’s lots of factors to consider but Office 2004 for Mac is a suitable equivalent for your Windows office suite.

Generally many long-term Windows users may find the move to Mac troublesome. While most popular program may have Mac versions the trouble can be with smaller applications you are accustomed to or need which have no direct Mac equal. You need to check that before committing yourself.

 


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