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Placing Your Bets on Office for Mac 2011

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MacOffice 2011 is currently in the beta testing phase, which is closed to the public, and is due to be released to manufacturing (RTM) in mid-to-late 2010. Yvonne Johnson, author Using Office for Mac 2011, describes Microsoft's strategy for the new version: to get Mac Office 2010 caught up with WinOffice 2007 and make it as compatible as possible with the new features introduced in WinOffice 2010. So by studying the new features of WinOffice 2010, you can make some bets on which features you think Microsoft will include in the Mac version.
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Microsoft's new program, Office for Mac 2011, is currently in the beta testing phase, and the program suite is due to be released to manufacturing in mid-to-late 2010. Be sure you get your guess in the office pool for the exact date that you think you'll be able to buy the program. I checked with my bookie, and he recommended a date in October or November. My psychic recommended a date in September, and my beautician, who knows more than the bookie and the psychic put together, recommended a date in early December. So there you go, it's anybody's guess. You just have to throw the dice. I'm going with my beautician and betting on Friday, December 3.

If you're still in a betting mood, you might want to speculate on what new features the program will have. Microsoft has already let us in on a few sure things. In August of 2009, Microsoft announced that Outlook for Mac is replacing Entourage. In February of this year, at Macworld 2010, Microsoft announced that the suite would have co-authoring tools, Web Apps, and the ribbon interface. The announcement at Macworld also gave these additional details:

  • The new co-authoring tools eliminate the need to have multiple versions of a file and allow multiple people to work on a file from Word, PowerPoint or Excel from different locations regardless of time, geography or platform. The feature called Presence Everywhere allows you to keep track of the people who are co-authoring with real-time status updates on who is working on the document directly in the application.
  • The new Web Apps tool gives you a simple way to access and share Office documents from any machine with an Internet connection. The Web Apps will be available to both home and business users (across platforms) and allow documents to be stored via a Windows Live ID account or on Microsoft SharePoint Technologies.
  • The ribbon is at the core of the Office for Mac suite, but the new design is an evolution of the Office 2008 Elements Gallery and uses the classic Mac menu and Standard Toolbar. It's also collapsible to give you more screen space.
  • Outlook for Mac leverages the Exchange Web Services protocol and is being built using Cocoa, allowing for improved integration with the Mac operating system. It will be able to import .PST files from Outlook for Windows, which was one of the most requested features by Mac users. Outlook will be built on a file-based database with Spotlight search and backup support from Time Machine. Outlook for Mac will also work with Microsoft Exchange Server, yielding increased collaboration capabilities and security enhancements.

So much for the sure things, but can we get some odds on what individual features will be included? It's difficult to get this kind of information because Microsoft doesn't open its Mac beta testing to the public. Of course, I'll be sharing the details of these features in my new book, Using Office for Mac 2011, published by Que, but that doesn’t come out until after the release of the program. For now, all I can do is help you speculate about the new features.

What I can tell you is that Microsoft has said that it is committed to making Office for Mac 2011 "the best, most compatible productivity suite on the Mac." Think about what "compatible" means in this quote. It could mean that the programs in the suite are compatible with each other, but that's too obvious because the whole premise of a suite is that the pieces work well together. No, I think you can deduce that "compatible" in this context refers to being compatible with the Windows Office 2010 suite.

Based on this assumption, then, you can certainly compare the features in Office 2010 with Office 2008 for Mac and place your bets accordingly. A good way to learn about the features in Office 2010 is to go to http://www.microsoft.com and search the site for "office 2010 product guide." Download the Office 2010 Product Guide (6.1 MB) and look at the section called What's New in Office 2010 by Application. Obviously, Microsoft won't include all the new features of Office 2010 in Office for Mac 2011, so it will be a gamble deciding which ones you think will make it.

To save you some time and effort, I've listed and described some of the new features in Office 2010 in the table below. This is not a complete list[md]just some of the features that I like the most.

Feature

Description

Across Applications

Backstage view

Takes the place of the old File menu and groups information about a file with common tasks, such as saving and printing. Accessible from the ribbon.

Customizable ribbon

Allows you to create your own tabs and modify the built-in tabs.

Paste preview

Shows the effect the pasted content will have when you hover the mouse over the different paste options available.

New/enhanced image editing tools

Allow you to sharpen or soften, change the contrast and color saturation, crop, eliminate the background, and add a variety of artistic effects to a photo right in the application.

Screen capturing

Allows you to capture a screen and insert it in the file.

Protected View (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint only)

Opens a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint e-mail attachment in a protected view, in case it contains potentially harmful content. After viewing the file in Protected View, you can choose to edit it if it looks safe.

Recover unsaved versions

Automatically saves a file you have changed and closed without saving.

Trusted Documents

Eliminates security prompts for documents you have already trusted.

Excel

Sparklines (Excel)

Allows you to embed cell-sized charts in a worksheet next to data. Gives a quick visual of the data.

PowerPivot (Excel)

Transforms large quantities of data into meaningful information. (A separate download.)

Outlook

Quick Steps

Help you manage and respond to information rapidly by enabling you to create and define common tasks that you can choose when you right-click a message.

New and enhanced conversation view

Allows you to see all threads of a conversation in a single view that can easily be followed, collapsed, or expanded. Includes tools to clean up or ignore a conversation.

Team Calendar

Displays your Team calendar automatically in the Navigation Pane when viewing your calendar. Makes meeting scheduling a breeze. Only for Exchange client.

Calendar Preview

Instantly reviews calendar conflicts or adjacent items in a calendar snapshot, shown in a meeting request. Allows you to read the request and check the date on your calendar at the same time.

VBA support

Allows you to add customized functionality using VBA programming.

Social Connector

Organizes all social sites, such as SharePoint My Site, Windows Live, Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace in one centralized location.

Mail tips

Warn you if you are sending out e-mail that you perhaps shouldn't send (due to size or confidentiality, for example).

Voice-Mail Preview

Sends a voice-to-text preview of a recorded voice message to your inbox. Exchange client only.

PowerPoint

Audio and video editing tools

Allows you to trim and add fade-ins and fade-outs.

New video controls

Allow you to pause, rewind, and fast-forward a video during a presentation

Create a video of a presentation

Creates a high-quality video of the complete presentation.

Animation Painter

Lets you take any animation that you've selected or created and apply it across multiple slides, without having to do it manually for each slide.

Word

Improved contextual spell checker

Marks words that may be spelled correctly but are used incorrectly, such as "economical conditions" instead of "economic conditions."

Letter styling

Adds special effects such as bevel, glow, reflect, and shadow to text. Also supports OpenType fonts that use sophisticated typography such as ligatures.

Enhanced search features

Includes the ability to search charts, tables, footnotes, and other content not previously searchable.

Selection pane

Allows you to select, rename, or hide graphics in your documents.

Send by instant message

Sends the current document via instant message directly from Word.

Now for really high-stakes betting, you might want to speculate on what new features Office for Mac 2011 will have that Office 2010 doesn't have. I can assure you that there are some.

The best way for you to speculate on these features is to stomp around in the official blog of the Mac Business Unit (MacBU), the Microsoft team that develops Mac products. On the blog, you'll see that Mac users post lots of comments and make lots of requests, and the MacBU takes notice, or at least they say they do.

They're all Mac users, so they're sympathizers. The address of the site is http://www.officeformac.com/blog. Once you get to the site, look at the topics listed on the left and click the link for Office for Mac 2011.

When Office for Mac 2011 is released and all bets are paid off, look for my new book, Using Office for Mac 2011 online at http://www.quepublishing.com.

BIO: Yvonne Johnson has been writing computer books and teaching computer classes since 1982. She has written more than 65 computer books for well-known publishers, including Using Mac OS X Snow Leopard. Her other recent Mac projects include technical editing for Easy iLife 09 (Que) and Switching to Mac OS X Snow Leopard (Pearson Education). Johnson is known for the simplicity of her writing and her ability to explain complex topics in understandable terms: skills that come from decades of delivering classroom training on computer applications to employees, military and government personnel, teachers, attorneys, secretaries, and even Microsoft software support engineers.

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