Office For The Mac 2011

Is it odd that if you spend most of your time working in Microsoft office that you get somewhat excited when a major new Office product release comes out?  The anticipation that the little bugs will go away?  That things will be faster?  That hanging indents will finally work perfectly without getting confused?  That the format painting tool will actually copy the format and paste it perfectly?  Or maybe it’s something as simple as just getting to look at a new and different UI? I hate to admit it, but I am that person – kind of like a carpenter getting the latest and greatest nail gun.

So, in a geeky kind of way December has been an exciting month for me because I’ve been using Microsoft’s Office 2011 for the Mac.  I’m pleased to announce that it is a very nice upgrade indeed.

In general, speed is increased all around.  All products launch must faster.  Documents save quicker.  Switching document view is improved. And editing in objects works snappier as well.  One of my favorite speed improvements is the File -> Open Recent menu option.  In the 2008 version the application always paused to build and display the list of the last 8 used documents.  In 2011 the list is built in the background so when invoked it is available with zero delay.

I also believe they’ve done a nice job integrating the ribbon menus into all applications.  In 2008 you accessed the controls via the ToolBox pop up window.  Although the ToolBox pop up still exists I find myself using them rarely because most of the functionality has been absorbed into the ribbons.  But since the ribbons are so well done, I found the transition seamless and painless.

One of the things that has always bothered me about Microsoft software is the speed at which they address obvious shortcomings and issues.  Example, when you cut and paste a section of text from a word document to a PowerPoint document why in the world should the copied font change from 10pt. Arial to 38pt.  Times Roman?  I know, I know something to do with the master font, template, page layout – whatever.  It’s just a terrible default behavior.  Make it go away.  Or another example, and my perennial favorite.  Hanging indents.  As my pixel perfect PowerPoint gets passed around to other type A perfectionists in our firm (Greg, you know I am talking about you) it never fails that my hanging indents no longer hang properly.  Well, I’m pleased to report that this problem appears to have gotten significantly better.  After a month of usage, I no longer see these problems occurring.  In fact, if you look at Microsoft’s promotional videos on the new products, they claim to have devoted much effort to making the documents 100% compatible between Mac and Windows versions of Office.

And a final general comment, all the file formats are identical, and remain the same as the Office for Windows file formats.

PowerPoint has improved the visual effects and functionality around reordering slides – works and looks better.  And a new feature that I love is an always present button in the bottom right corner of the window that with a single click maximizes the slide to take up the entire window.  Handy.

Excel finally gets a really nice readily accessible formula bar making it super easy to know and edit what’s in each cell.  Visuals are also improved via the better use of color when selecting ranges of spreadsheet cells.

Word gets a nice full screen reviewing mode that darkens desktop, hides all menus, and hides all other open windows.  Nice for focused reviewing.  The number of stock templates has increased and the functionality around previewing and selecting the right one for the job has gotten easier.

Many people are excited about the fact that this version includes a real version of Outlook.  Stated another way, no more Entourage (which, by the way, was the single most powerful reason I stopped using Microsoft’s integrated mail, calendar, and contact applications).  The reviews I’ve read say it’s very good – very similar to the Windows version of Outlook.  I’ve got no point of view here.  As I mentioned before, I’m no longer an Outlook user.

So that’s the quick update on Office 2011 for the Mac.  Not as exciting as a new motorcycle, but not near as expensive either.

I welcome your comments,
Mike Brannan