Details have been revealed for Office 2008 for Mac.  The Windows version, Office 2007 is due out later this month, while Mac users will need to wait until the second half of 2007 for their new version. There are lots of new features, but one in particular that will make Office 2008 stand out from the previous Mac version.  The new version will have the capability to run on Mac machines with both PowerPC and Intel based chips, it’s a Universal binary.

There will be many similarities between the Windows version, with seamless compatibility between them.  In February, we can expect Microsoft to release their free beta of a file format converter for current versions of Office.  This will allow users to read, and write the new Office Open XML format.  Then, after Office 2008 for Mac is released, the final version of this converter is expected to ship six to eight weeks later.

Just as with Office 2007 for Windows, there was a pretty big focus of the user interface.  If you’re familiar with the new Ribbons feature in the Windows version, the Mac version will be similar.   Instead of being called ribbons,  the quick access tool feature will be called the Elements Gallery (see picture below). Sheridan Jones, marketing manager for the Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit says, “We want things to be more discoverable.  We really worked hard on the user interface of Office 2008 for Mac, but we worked just as hard on enhancing the usability.”

With Office 2008 for Mac will be some new features, and a new program.  First, one of the new features is the Publishing Layout view which will allow users to create layout-rich documents.  Another feature that I’m sure many people will be grateful for is the Ledger sheets for Excel.  These are specific only to the Mac version, and it will make it easy to use financial management tasks such as balancing a checkbook, creating invoices, or a register.  This will all be done without needing to know Excel formulas.  There are plenty of people simply afraid to touch Excel because they don’t know how to create formulas. Finally, the newly added program is called My Day, and it will be an easy, quick and efficient way to view your calendar and unfinished tasks without needing to go into Entourage. It’s a stand alone application, and lets users color-code everything.

Now for the pricing.  Pricing has not been officially announced yet, however it is said to be similar to the current versions.  Right now,  Office 2004 for Mac is selling for $399 on the Apple website with a $100 rebate offered if purchased before January 16th.  The student and Teacher edition currently sells for $149 with a $15 rebate.  Expect similar prices for Office 2008.

Overall it sounds like Mac users will have a great product to use, particularly because it will be able to run on Macs with both the PowerPC and Intel based chips. I also think that the new Ledger sheets will be a big hit with people who’ve always wanted to use Excel, but have been too intimidated by formulas.

News Source: Macworld