Review: Microsoft Office for Mac -- better than iWork?

Microsoft's latest version of Office for Mac adds some nifty interface improvements and a bunch of new features. Should you switch?

You can display your to-do items, along with your calendar events, in the new My Day widget. Visible all the time, whether you're in Entourage or not, My Day lets you see what's on your plate at all times. It's also live, so if you click the check box next to an item, it marks it as complete.

Entourage 2008 adds some very useful features for those connected to a Microsoft Exchange server. For example, anyone can schedule an event and invite people to it by choosing their names from the Contacts list. But those in an Exchange environment can see other Entourage users' schedules to make sure that everyone' is free. Entourage with Exchange also lets you set up an out-of-office message to be automatically sent during the time you specify.

Entourage is a solid personal assistant (it doesn't seem enough to just call it an e-mail program), but there's no compelling reason to use it instead of the combination of Mail, iCal and Address Book that come free with your Mac, unless you're in an Exchange environment. Once you get Office, of course, you might decide you prefer handling e-mail, contact management and scheduling in one program rather than three, or you might really like the My Day widget, or you might prefer Entourage to the Apple alternatives. But don't buy Office just to get Entourage.

Conclusions

From some angles, the overall question of whether you should upgrade to Office 2008 is a no-brainer. Office 2008 is as close as you can get to a universal app, and all of the changes I explored are improvements or at least potentially worthwhile additions -- why not get it?

Well, maybe you've never needed compatibility with Office and have found alternative programs you like better, or you're perfectly happy with one of the open-source alternatives (or you just hate Microsoft). Certainly, if you've been able to get by all this time without Office, there's little reason to buy the 2008 version.

But if you do use Office, plan on getting Office 2008. I'd recommend waiting until you get an Intel Mac if you haven't yet, because of the performance hit you'll take compared with Office 2004 on a PowerPC Mac. But aside from that caveat, you'll find that Office 2008 helps you get your work done more quickly and easily than before. You're also likely to start using features that were always there but were too much trouble to bother with, such as using alternating colored rows in your tables or graphical presentations of ideas on your slides.

There's something to be said for a new Chevy, after all.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jake Widman

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?