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Special Report:
Office 2008 for Mac OS X Preview
Cross-platform issues with the upcoming new version

New Office Mac to offer limitted compatiblity with Win Office 2007
January 9, 2007

Today, Microsoft announced that this year it will release Office 2008 for Mac OS X, an Intel-native version that will be compatible with the XML-based Office file formats of Office 2007 for Windows. The company also said that it will drop support of VBA script and macro support in the new version.

Office 2008 will include native support for the new.DOCX Word format and the .XLSX Excel format. The new version will also be the first Universal Binary Office, running natively on both Intel-based Macs and PowerPC Macs. Microsoft will ship Office 2008 during the second half of this year.

Microsoft also announced that it will also ship a file converter for  Mac OS X that will allow users of Office 2004 to translate between the old and new Office file formats. Currently, Panergy software offers a Mac OS X utility called DocXConverter (US$20) that can convert between .DOC and .DOCX formats.

The company said that PowerPoint 2008 will have better compatibility with PowerPoint 2007 for Windows, particularly with embedded images. A company spokesperson said that users could move a PowerPoint file between Mac and Windows versions of Office without losing graphics, a common problem with current versions off PowerPoint.

“Users should no longer see the big red X,” said a company spokesperson.

The company said that the compatibility is created by a new graphics rendering engine in PowerPoint 2008 that is essentially the same graphics engine in PowerPoint 2007 for Windows. 

Microsoft did not provide any details on Entourage 2008. A company spokesperson acknowledged that Entourage did not have the functionality of Outlook for Windows, but said the company had nothing to announce. Microsoft did say that Office 2008 will include a new application called My Day, which is a calendar viewer that displays a single day of appointments.

One notable change is the user interface, which adopts numerous Windows conventions, including aspects of the Aero interface of Windows Vista. This includes toolbars that are attached to document windows instead of the screen and Windows-like behavior in tabs and buttons. There are also a number of instances of Vista-like graphics, include the use of transparency and an increase in the use of 3-D interface elements.

Other new features include a new toolbar that embeds the Project Gallery in every document window. Excel has a new Ledger Sheet, a type of template available from the new Gallery. Word 2008 will include a new Publishing Layout View which includes page layout features such as linked text boxes that can be drawn anywhere on screen, similar to those in Adobe InDesign. (Each corner of a textbox is marked by a 3-D globe. It was not evident in our interview with Microsoft if this or other 3D interface elements served a functional purpose.)

MacTech to help with lack of VBA in Office Mac 2008
February 11, 2007

In a special April edition, MacTech Magazine will publish a 150-page guide to help users of the upcoming Office 2008 transition from Microsoft Office VBA to AppleScript. The multi-chapter guide will include examples for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage.

Microsoft will drop Visual Basic support from Office 2008 for Mac OS X, due later this year, thus forcing users of VBA scripts and marcos to switch to AppleScript. Writing in Macworld last December, Rob Griffiths said "Office will apparently be missing a feature so vital to cross-platform compatibility that I believe it will be the beginning of the end for the Mac version of the productivity suite."

Griffiths' pointed out that organizations that upgrade to Office 2008 for Mac will lose the ability of both Mac and Windows to share the same macros in files, which are used in many organizations for file templates. This is a built-in incentive for organizations to stick with Office 2004 for Mac OS X.

Parting VBA scripts and macros to AppleScript will enable users to operate the automation of existing Office files, but Windows users will not have access to the scripts. MacTech Magazine's "Moving from Microsoft Office VBA to AppleScript: MacTech's Guide to Making the Transition" will be available at the beginning of April. Subscribers will receive it, and a limited number of copies will be available on the newsstand.

For more on Office 2008 for Mac OS X, see our Office 2008 Report page.

Office 2008 for Mac: VBA a deal breaker for some
February 19, 2007

Several readers reacted to our report about Microsoft's plans to drop the cross-platform VBA script and macro support in the upcoming Office 2008 for Mac. Readers say that they'll stick with 2004 or use the Windows version in a virtual machine.

Greg Walker said simply "I will not buy Office without VBA scripting."

Joe Parker will stick with the current version:

There's, not a chance that I’ll upgrade to Office 2008 without VBA support. I’ll happily drudge along with Office 2004. Pass my thanks to Microsoft.

Although continuing to use Office 2004 retains cross-platform macro compatibility, it does not have native file compatibility with Office 2007 for Windows and the OpenXML file format. Neema Aghamohammadi will get around this by using the Windows version in Parallels:

I will tell you how the slow drift away from cross-platform parity will affect me: I'm switching to Office 2003 using Parallels. In fact, there's a discussion of this in the Ars Technica forums in the Mac forum.

… You get full Outlook/Exchange compatibility + Access at this cost. Performance is stunning in comparison to MacOffice 2004 on any Intel Mac with greater than 1GB of RAM.

(CrossOver can also run Microsoft Office for Windows, as can the VMware Fusion beta.)

New Microsoft beta converter turns Word .docx files into RTF, but can't save to .docx

May 16, 2007

Yesterday, Microsoft posted for download Microsoft Office Open XML File Format Converter for Mac Beta 1, a prerelease version of a one-way file converter. The utility allows Mac users convert .docx and .docm (macro-enabled) files to Rich Text Format (RTF). The two new Word formats are native to Office 2007 for Windows, but are not yet supported in Office for Mac.

The new converter utility cannot convert .docx files to .doc files, nor does it convert files to the new Word formats. Microsoft recommends that Mac users who need to return files to Office 2007 users should save to the .doc format. Office 2008 for Mac, due later this year, will support the new file formats natively, with both read and write functionality.

Microsoft said that it will offer beta versions of similar converters for PowerPoint and Excel sometime this summer. It will ship a final version of the full-suite converter six to eight weeks after it releases Office 2008 for Mac.

Read the most recent news at the MacWindows home page.

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No MAPI for Entourage 2008, but Kerberos will be added

Monday, October 22, 2007

A source told MacWindows that Entourage 2008 will not be a native MAPI Exchange client, and will continue to connect to Exchange Server using WebDAV. But the new version will add support for Kerberos authentication, allowing single sign-on in an Active Directory environment. The lack of MAPI, and inclusion of Kerberos, are aspects of the current Entourage 2008 Beta 7, which is not public.

Readers have long complained that the lack of MAPI makes Entourage an Exchange client that is unequal to Outlook. (The old Outlook 2001 for Mac OS 9 was a MAPI client.) Kerberos has also been a feature frequently requested by network administrators. Currently, users are authenticated to Active Directory via OS X's support provides a single sign-on to most services, while Entourage continues to ask for it's own password.

Microsoft has only disclosed one new feature of Entourage 2008, a stand-alone program called My Day. Microsoft’s Office 2008 preview web site describes My Day as displaying appointments, tasks, and messages in a small space. My Day lets users add a task or print a schedule, and has a button that can launch Entourage.

Entourage 2008 is scheduled for release in January 2008 as part of the Office 2008 suite. It will be Intel- and PowerPC-native.

Entourage 2008 will support kerberos for AD, GAL authentication

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

As we reported in October, Microsoft's Entourage 2008 will add kerberos authentication support when Microsoft releases Office 2008 for Mac OS X on January 15. Entourage 2008 will be able to use kerberos to authenticate to Active Directory and to Exchange Server's global address list (GAL). Currently, Exchange logons cannot be part of Active Directory single sign-ons.

Paul Nelson of Thursby Software described how ADmitMac will work with Entourage 2008 in Active Directory environments. He also described the benefits for high-security military sites:

Entourage 2008 can now use Kerberos for authentication when accessing Exchange servers. This is good news for users because passwords don't need to be kept in the user's keychain where they can get stale.

Since ADmitMac handles getting Kerberos credentials when users log in, they will get a true single sign-on experience with Entourage and Exchange.

In addition, ADmitMac for CAC provides Kerberos credentials for smart card users. When used with the new Entourage, smart card users without passwords will be able to authenticate to Exchange servers. Smart card users, such Department of Defense employees and contractors don't have passwords, and must rely on Kerberos for authentication using the Common Access Card (CAC).

The release of Entourage when used with ADmitMac for CAC should open up more of the US Federal market to Apple because it overcomes the biggest roadblock to deploying Macintosh computers - Exchange integration.

As part of the Pentagon renovation, the Washington Headquarter Services is starting to deploy Macintosh Active Directory and Exchange clients this month. Thursby developed Kerberized Exchange support for the Pentagon and other military customers using Entourage 2004. Entourage 2008 now provides even better Exchange integration.

While e-mail is essential for the DoD, so is address list support. Entourage has this covered too because it uses Kerberos authentication when talking to the global address list (GAL) and Active Directory. Support for the GAL has been a major challenge when integrating Macs into Department of Defense networks.

Thursby will ship ADmitMac for CAC (v2.0) this month. It will include the features of the recent ADmitMac 4.0 release, including Leopard support and other enterprise enhancements.

Read the most recent news at the MacWindows home page.

Eliminate cross-platform Office problems by running Office 2007 for Windows on your Mac with
Parallels Desktop 4.0 for Mac. With 2007, you get full support of the new file formats along with full support of VBA macros and scripts, without switching between Windows and Mac OS X!

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