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Office 2008 Mac ships

Long-overdue update to the Mac Office suite brings revised user interface, improved Exchange server support and OOXML document formats, but VB support is dropped.

Hot on the heels of Apple's keynote announcements at Macworld, Microsoft has started shipping the new Mac version of its Office suite.

Like Office 2007 for Windows, Office 2008 Mac includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint, with the Entourage product in place of the Outlook email and organiser found in the Windows suite.

Mac users also get a new My Day, a desktop but widget-style application for managing tasks and to-dos. Although connected to Entourage, it means users can track this information through a compact and customisable interface.

A more crucial difference for business users is Microsoft's decision to drop support for Visual Basic (VB) and replace it with the Mac only scripting language, AppleScript. This means that macros written on one platform will not easily transfer to the other, a potential problem in mixed operating system environments.

Excel's new features are targeted at both novice users - who may find Apple's Numbers more appealing - and at experienced spreadsheet users.

For beginners, Ledger Sheets provide prebuilt worksheets for budgets, invoices and financial portfolios while Formula Builder walks users through the steps needed to confidently create accurate formulas. Advanced users have PivotTables and Formula AutoComplete, a drop-down menu that provides a variety of computation options. Excel 2008 introduces increased rows and columns that match the Windows-based 2007 Office system to ensure that users on Macs and PCs will have access to up to 16,000 columns and more than one million rows.

Office 2008 defaults to the new, if controversial, Office Open XML (OOXML) file formats, with support for opening and saving older office documents.

"We developed Office 2008 for Mac as a comprehensive productivity suite that also helps people simplify their work," said Craig Eisler, general manager of the Mac Business Unit at Microsoft. "To complement the deep set of new and improved features, we redesigned the interface so that it is truly easier to use. Even Office beginners can create great-looking documents very quickly. And, at the core, we focused on delivering reliable compatibility so that users can confidently share documents across platforms."

Office 2008 is available from today for Intel and PowerPC Macs in three editions.

Office 2008 for Mac, the core suite, includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage along with Microsoft Exchange Server support and Automator tools and has an estimated retail price of 349.99 inc VAT or 199.99 inc VAT for the upgrade version.

Office 2008 for Mac Home and Student Edition consists of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and a non-Exchange Server-enabled version of Entourage. The estimated retail price is 99.99 inc VAT for the full retail version which includes three licences.

Office 2008 for Mac Special Media Edition combines Office 2008 applications, including Exchange and Automator support, with the Microsoft Expression Media digital asset management system. The estimated retail price is 449.99 inc VAT or 299.99 inc VAT for the upgrade version.

Microsoft Volume Licensing will be available in the UK from 1 February.

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