04 January 2008

Office 2008 review

Ars Technica's word

Ars Technica has released a brief review of Office 2008, a few days before the suite's release at MacWorld 2008 .

The new file format

For translators, the main appeal of the suite is the access it provides to the new Office 2007 format. There are plenty of things to say about this new format, and the first is that power users or developers who rely on the OOXML standard to create files that Office 2007/2008 should support are going to be a little surprised ...

Native !

Another important feature of the suite is that the new Office for Mac is now a Universal Binary, which means that it will run natively and equally well on both PPC and Intel machines. No more Rosetta between the machine and Office!

MacTech has run a few tests (2500) to compare Office 2008 to Office 2004 on G4 and Intel /Tiger and Leopard machines.

The conclusion is that Office 2008 is about 30% faster than Office 2004 on Intel machines and that it is "marginally" slower on G4 machines. Also, Office 2008 looks faster on Leopard than on Tiger.

Besides for the raw performance, the article points at the fact that the suite having been rewritten, a number of features are either more quickly accessed or provide a faster ergonomic experience than their 2004 counterparts. Which means that even users of a G4 could see some benefits using it .

No more Wordfast ! Scripting options ?

The major problem for Mac translators is that since Office 2008 drops VBA support they won't be able to use WordFast anymore, at least the current versions that are basically a Word macro written in VBA.

Office 2008 supposedly adds better AppleScript support and OSX integration but it is unlikely that such features will be of much use for tool developers who relied on the relative compatibility with Office for Windows to deliver their "mutliplatform" tools. Still, people who want to start converting their VBA work to AppleScript should take a look at MacTech's transition guide.

According to Nadyne, MBU member and Ars Technica's Jacqui Cheng, Office 2008's Automator support does not come as a default option: it is not in the "Home/Student" edition, only in the "Standard" and "Special".

Automator support comes along with "full Exchange support" for an extra cost of $250 ("Home/Student" at $150, "Standard" at $400)...

Pricing ?

Also, it looks like MS is sticking to its funky Vista-like pricing options (or maybe Vista only made that worse)... Why is it so hard to simply have a 1 license vs 3+ licenses pricing pattern?

No multi-license scheme for "Standard" and 3 "non-commercial" installs for "Home/Student"...

Last but not least ?

Here is a good reason to wait until a few updates are released... Microsoft has published a list of know issues with the new software. MacOSXHints makes a short summary and has links to the relevant page at Microsoft. You wonder what they've done of their time in 4 years of development... Another case of the Vista syndrome? Some issues seem to have been addressed in the first update of the suite though.


Ars Technica's Office 2008 review:
First Look: Microsoft Office for Mac 2008
By Jonathan M. Gitlin, January 2008

MS does not respect its own format:
Microsoft Office XML formats? Defective by design
By Stéphane Rodriguez, August 2007

MacTech's VBA to AppleScript transition guide:
Moving from Microsoft Office VBA to AppleScript: MacTech's Guide to Making the Transition
By Paul Berkowitz, April 2007.

MacTech's Office 2008 Benchmarks Preview:
How well does Office 2008 run compared to Office 2004?
By Neil Ticktin, Editor-in-Chief, January 2008.

Mac My Day, Nadyne's blog at MBU:
today's top five questions in the Office 2008 booth
By Nadyne, MBU member, January 2008.

Ars Technica's Infite Loop
Microsoft announces Mac Office 2008 pricing, upgrade details
By Jacqui Cheng, September 2007.

MacOSXHints' summary of known issues
A list of known issues with Microsoft Office 2008
By user davidfoster with addendum by manager robg, January 2008.

Microsoft's first update details
Description of the Office 2008 for Mac 12.0.1 Update
By Microsoft, March 2008