Microsoft unveils try-before-buy Mac Office

30-day trial includes new e-mail client, but lacks OneNote app that just landed on iPhone

Four months after it debuted Office for Mac 2001, Microsoft on Tuesday launched the first free trial of the application suite.

The trial version of Office for Mac Home and Business 2011 includes fully-functional versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, the suite's word processor, spreadsheet, presentation manager and e-mail client.

Users can run the trial edition for 30 days.

Microsoft has used try-before-you-buy for its Mac Office before; two years ago it offered a 30-day trial for Office for Mac 2008.

However, Microsoft lets Mac OS X users run Office through its paces only half as long as it does Windows customers. The consumer and enterprise trial editions of Office 2010 , which requires Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7, are valid for 60 days.

When the month-long trial of Office for Mac expires, customers must purchase a product activation key by buying a boxed copy of the suite or obtaining a key via online purchase.

The latter will be less expensive.

Amazon.com, for example, sells the single-license Office for Mac Home and Students 2011 for $99.99, $20 off Microsoft's price, and the three-license edition for $124.25, a $25.74 discount.

The more expensive Home and Business 2011 -- the only version that includes Outlook -- runs $174.99 for a single license, $228.43 for a two-license pack on Amazon, a savings of $25 and $51.56, respectively.

Alternatives to Microsoft's suite include the for-free OpenOffice.org and the just-released LibreOffice , as well as Apple's own iWork bundle.

iWork, which costs $79 but costs $66.55 on Amazon.com, is also the only suite of the four that can be purchased on Apple's Mac App Store, the iPhone e-mart doppelganger that opened earlier this month . In the Mac App Store, Apple sells the three iWork applications -- Pages, Numbers and Keynote -- for $19.99 each. Mac App Store software can be installed on up to five personal machines.

Last year, when Apple first announced the Mac App Store, Microsoft said only that its Mac group was "working to understand the impact of the new app store," but would not commit to trying that distribution channel for Office.

The 890MB Office for Mac trial can be downloaded from Microsoft's Web site after providing a name and e-mail address.

Also this week, Microsoft's development team dodged customer questions about whether they would add OneNote to Office for Mac.

Last week, Microsoft released an iPhone version of OneNote . The app, however, is of little use to Mac owners, who lack a desktop version for creating notebooks - something impossible on the iPhone -- or synchronizing notes. Instead, they must use the Web-based OneNote.

"No, we don't have any updates outside of the new [Office for Mac] 2011 suite which includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook," the Microsoft Mac team said on Twitter in response to questions about a possible OneNote on the Mac.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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