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Microsoft Office for Mac Gets an Update

Mac users get access to new e-mail and better PC integration with an updated version of Microsoft’s business software.

Is it time to upgrade the business software on that Apple Mac of yours? Microsoft is certainly hoping so. In October, the company gave its flagship software package, Microsoft Office for Mac, a ground-up makeover ($150 for Home and Student 2011, $279 for Home and Business 2011).

"Office for Mac has just reached its 25th anniversary," says Gavin Shearer, program manager for the Macintosh business unit at Microsoft. "We felt it was time to rebuild the product to take advantage of new small-business options available in later-generation Apple technologies."

Here's a look at how the update measures up:

The Good
Office for Mac 2011 is all about being easier to use in the real world of PCs. It offers better integration with PC-based versions of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, plus improved speed, new graphical features, web support, plenty of bells and whistles--and, most important, the debut of Outlook as the legitimate Mac-based calendar and e-mail tool. (Yes, Entourage, the long-debated e-mail program, is officially dead.) And for those businesses that can afford Microsoft's beefier collaboration server tools such as Exchange and SharePoint, Office for Mac offers an unmatched enterprise-level, state-of-the-art collaborative and document security experience.

The Bad
Mac or not, this is still Microsoft Office, which means there's a heck of a steep learning curve. Template galleries are bloated with layouts you will never use. The controversial ribbon, which is located on top of all files and displays available functions, remains the same irritating exercise in rote memorization. Expect to take Bill Gates' name in vain regularly.

The Bottom Line
Mac users definitely should give the software suite a test drive. The new wild card is pricing: The Home edition, at $150, compared with $79 for Apple iWork, carries real value. And at $279, full-on versions of Office for Mac are now cheaper than Office for PCs. So, if you're careful, you can get a Mac-based small-business solution for about the price of a similarly configured PC. 

Jonathan Blum is a freelance writer and the principal of Blumsday LLC, a Web-based content company specializing in technology news.

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This article was originally published in the February 2011 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Microsoft Gives at the Office.

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