Office 2008 for Macs is now in the private testing phase, and unfortunately it is still not known whether or not Microsoft will offer a public beta in the future.  The plan as it stands, is that the Mac version will be released in the 2nd half of 2007 which would make it the newest addition since 2004.

Several big changes from the previous version: First, it will be a universal binary.  This means that it will be able to run on both Intel and Power PC based Macs.  It will also support the XML file just as with Office 2007.

There’s also a new program called “My Day” which will give users quick access to their calendar info like appointments, without needing to open up Entourage first. It’s a stand alone application and users will be able to color-code everything. They’ve also improved the layout in Word and Excel templates, and the Ledger Sheets will make it easier to integrate formulas for balancing your checkbook and other financial management tasks.

As far as looks go, the user interface will look quite a bit different.  While it doesn’t look like Office 2007 with the ribbon, it does use what they’re calling an elements gallery.  This gallery will provide context sensitive toolbars, and appears to make use of tabbing.You’ll also notice their Publishing layout which will allow users to create layout-rich documents.

The images below come from Apple Insider, and they got them from a projector screen. While they’re not the greatest quality, it will still give you an idea (click to enlarge):

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