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Microsoft Releases Office 2008 For Mac

Office 2008 for Mac includes new versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage, which replaces Outlook for e-mail on the Mac.

After a round of delays, Microsoft is slated to release Office 2008 for Mac to the public on Tuesday at Macworld. It's the first new release of Office for the Mac in almost four years, and the new release isn't just a copy of the Windows-based Office suite.

Office 2008 for Mac includes new versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage, which replaces Outlook for e-mail on the Mac. But it doesn't replace the drop-down menu with the new "Ribbon" interface, as did the PC version of Office 2007 did.

And it adds a few of its own touches. The new Office for Mac apps add something called the Element Gallery, a new menu bar for easily formatting documents. There are also upgraded note-taking and publishing modes for Word.

(See our review of Office 2008 for Mac here.)

Office 2008 for Mac doesn't change everything from the Windows version. It still saves documents as Open XML files; matches the scalability to billions of spreadsheet cells that's found in Excel for Windows; and includes an upgraded version of SmartArt, which turns data and lists into PowerPoint graphics.

One potential negative for Office 2008 for Mac, especially in corporate realms, is that the new software drops support for Visual Basic for Applications. That means macro compatibility could be greatly affected by business power users who choose to upgrade, unless their add-ins were developed in .Net.

Office 2008 for Mac starts off at $149.95 for the Home and Student edition, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage. The full version, at $399, adds Exchange support, and the Special Media Edition, at $499, adds Microsoft Expression Media design software. It will have to compete with Apple's much cheaper ($79) iWork suite and even free competitors like NeoOffice that have found a home on some Macs.

Going forward, Office will also have to compete with Web-based suites such as Google Office, and there's little indication whether and how Microsoft's strategy of combining desktop software with Web-based services will play out on the Mac differently than it will on the PC.

Office 2008 for Mac will require Mac OS X v10.4.9 or later, a PowerPC G4 or G5 or Intel Core duo processor, 512 Mbytes of RAM, and 1.5 Gbytes free on the hard drive.

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