When I reviewed the prior version of Office, I recommended that users stick with Office 2004. Finally, I can strongly recommend upgrading to Office 2011. I would wager that this will be the major version for the next five to six years, in the same way that 2004 has been widely adopted and stable for the last six years.
I should state at the outset that I am primarily a user of Word for the production of long, annotated documents. I also use Excel and Powerpoint, but would not consider myself a power-user of these applications. I have been using Microsoft Word since 1986. This review is mainly for people who have been Word/Office users and are wondering whether to upgrade.
All three versions of the Office for Mac 2011 suite contain Word, Excel and Powerpoint. The Home & Student version does not contain Outlook; the Home & Business and Academic versions DO contain Outlook. Outlook replaces Entourage. If you do intend to use Outlook, keep in mind that this version only syncs with Exchange Server 2007 or newer (check with your I.T. people to see if you are okay). Furthermore, Outlook is not merely a renaming of Entourage; some functions change and/or disappear. You can do a custom install of Office 2011 and keep Entourage if you wish.
As of late 2010, many of the negative comments about this version revolve around Outlook (missing features, syncing, import problems). If you are a power Outlook user, I would take this as a big warning flag and a potential reason to wait for the next update from Microsoft.
[Update 4/11: Microsoft released the first service pack for this suite in April of 2011. The update fixes a number of problems/shortcomings across the suite, including some that led to highly critical remarks about Outlook. For a list of changes, do a search for Microsoft Knowledge Base article 2525412.]
[Update 7/11: Office 2004 for Mac does NOT work under the recently released OS X Lion. This is a good opportunity to upgrade to Office 2011. Microsoft's Mac group has indicated, however, that it will be some months before this latest version exploits Lion's new features (e.g. autosave). I am finding no compatibility issues, however, between Lion and Office 2011.]
My snapshot of Microsoft's latest release:
-Office 2011 is faster. It loads faster. It closes out faster. There seem to be very few delays in moving through very long documents. There is no sluggishness on my computer (2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo iMac with 2 GB of memory).
-The interface is improved from earlier versions. While I have qualms about it, I think it is the best one that Microsoft has offered for Office. After using the suite for the last 9 months, I have come to appreciate the context sensative ribbon. I find that I am spending less time digging for obscure commands.
-VBA support is back (critically important for many people; if you don't know what it is, you probably don't need it).
-Side-by-side arrangement of multiple documents. This sounds minor, but if you compose using multiple document windows, this will have you rejoicing. Why it has been so difficult to implement is a mystery (you could do it in earlier versions by tweaking Word or by sizing the windows manually). Now you can do it quickly from the "Window" menu. Thank you. Thank you. A million thank yous.
-Better ability to browse and import media from elsewhere on your Mac.
-I am intrigued by the new notebook view; it allows for scribbles and audio inputs.
-There is a new full screen mode which helps me focus on the document; I really like this feature but other people will find it hokey.
-Built-in support for collaborative document creation/editing and cloud computing.
-The interface may be improved from earlier versions, but the intent was clearly to make it more like the Windows version of Office rather than exploit OS X. I think the Mac group at Microsoft is between a rock and a hard place on this one: they can choose to make Office more consistent across platforms (think about the demands placed on corporate I.T. departments that support PCs and Macs), or they can create something more unique and native to the Mac (i.e., fully optimized for the Mac). I would prefer the latter, but the former wins. Office for the Mac is handcuffed to Windows.
-I find the interface easier to use than old versions, but I still find myself fighting with it at times (e.g. the Excel sort button toggles between A to Z and Z to A each time you press it... why?).
-For power Excel users, this version does not yet have an Analysis Tool Pack.
-I would have liked to see a bit more discipline in how options are presented. To give an example, when choosing how to look at a particular Word document there are no less than four different places where one can specify some aspect of the page view (e.g. outline view, 150%, etc.). Each place is slightly different from the next, however, so you can't simply eliminate three of the four. They all go in. I cringe at how frustrating things must be back at Microsoft; they have to make sure they have backward compatibility on the interface (because it is hard to teach old dogs new tricks) and they likely want to introduce improved ways of doing things. I would like to see them get rid of the baggage at some point (in the same way that they dumped Windows Mobile and went with Windows Phone 7).
-Microsoft continues to refine Word's page layout capabilities (i.e. the Publishing Layout view) but it is still kludgy. I would be very tempted by competing programs (e.g. Apple's Pages is a good budget competitor) if this were my focus.
-Installation was straightforward on both a desktop and laptop. The process took about 15 minutes. Prior versions of Office are not removed until you bother to delete them yourself.
-***UPDATE*** I had one major compatibility issue with old documents (originally created with Office 2004). My document files had various Excel graphs that could be read in earlier versions of Word, but in this version the software said there was insufficient memory and showed a blank. Fortunately, I was able to find old copies of the documents that this version COULD read (maybe Office 2008 corrupted them?) and I simply cut and paste the tables. So if you've got some critical, old documents, you'll want to make sure they open completely in this new version. That said, once I discovered the problem, I much preferred to fix the files than return to the old versions of Word (just shows you how much I appreciate this upgrade).
-***UPDATE*** If you find that other people are having trouble opening up your .docx files, even when they have the latest Office Suite and should be completely .docx compatible, do a "save as" in the prior .doc format. My experience is that files that have been under revision for years can sometimes become unreadable in .docx when opened in Windows (even when other .docx files transfer just fine).
-As noted, Microsoft's Mac unit has not tried to rock the boat too much. Longtime users of Office should have little trouble shifting to this version.
I will continue to revisit this review as I learn more about the new version's ins and outs.
The only reason to buy this version of Office 2011 (Home and Business) is to get Outlook. The home and student version offers more licenses for less money and you get everything but Outlook. It was the same with Entourage in the 2008 versions.
But this time Microsoft promised a real Outlook! No more virtual machines and Outlook 2007 - Oh yeah.
Unfortunately what we got was a repackaged Entourage. You can see all of the same underpinnings but in a fancy new skin. Much of the PC outlook functionality just isn't there and there is none of the MAPI interface - its all OWA so no better than WebMail functionality for the most part. On the plus side, the new skin is very nice, and its a bit faster and not quite as flakey as the Entourage 2008 (but have still had several incidents in as many days). But its no Outlook 2007 by a long stretch. And while you normally get some phone support for Office 2011, the second you hook Outlook up to an Exchange server (and why else would you use it) the support for Outlook is no longer free and is going to require a paid support contract (min $99 for one incident).
As to all the other apps - they start faster, generally feel snappier, offer much better compatibility with Office 2007 for PC, and while not as stable as Office 2008 is right now, not as flakey as 2008 was when it was first released. I also like that the interface is much closer to Office 2007 for PC. While I like Mac programs in general to be Mac like, I more appreciate the similarity with the PC version in this application suite. The one serious problem I have encountered with the core suite so far is a change in the way Pivot tables work in Excel. Some of my spreadsheets that use pivot tables no longer work properly in Excel 2011 while they work fine in Excel 2007 or 2008. Still working on that issue.
So I would not recommend Office 2011 Home and Business for the Mac to anyone. Get the Home and Student version without the so called Outlook. OS Xs native mail and calendar Exchange support gives you almost everything the new Outlook 2011 does (but admittedly not as fancily wrapped). The core suite of Word, Excel, Powerpoint is a very worthwhile upgrade for 2011. Outlook isn't.
on August 11, 2011
I went back to iWork about six months ago...
Simply put, VERY powerful, EASY to use and UNDERSTAND. Excels at page layouts, graphics, OPTIONS! Word is always been good - but is slow, bloated with too much stuff MOST people would never use.
I write a lot of reports with Pages and am NOT missing Word in the least. Goodbye to that one... Oh by the way, it is extremely compatible Word users, sometimes minor annoyances, just remember to save as a Word Document.
There are SOME "features" not present in Numbers that Excel has (Excel has always been the king of spreadsheets) however MOST people rarely use more than 10% of the power of spreadsheet software anyway. I have easily (and quickly) created spreadsheets in Numbers that include: Custom "pull-down" menu choices, sliders, steppers, all sorts of conditional formatting, external links, etc...etc... In Excel these features are also available but are far more complicated to use.
The options available are exceptionally good, easy to implement, AND allow you to create much more professional and intricate operations than PowerPoint. I have used both extensively and I strongly feel that Keynote is a far better choice!
FINAL NOTES - Like many people over the years, when Microsoft pushed WordPerfect into obscurity in the Windows PC world, I switched from WordPerfect Office to Microsoft Office. I can't tell you how badly I missed WordPerfect - Word really sucked! Microsoft's Mac version does not seem to be getting the attention it needs...BIG SURPRISE!!!
MY INITIAL REVIEW *************************************
Until "Lion" was released, I used iWork ALMOST exclusively...except when creating spreadsheets. The ONLY feature I need in Numbers that was NOT available was the ability to angle column labels (example, 60 degrees). The only way I found to work around that was to use text boxes, they did afford the opportunity to complete the task. However, not as easily as it should be.
So I used Microsoft Office for Mac 2004. So with the recent OS upgrade, I was forced to purchase Excel 2011 - either in another suite or as a standalone product.
I have found some bugs - disappearing lines in previews and other "quirky" behaviors. What I NOW need is the ability to make data forms that allow pull-down lists, steppers, checkboxes, etc. These options work well in Numbers but...Excel disappoints here. "Word" is "OK" but I still find "Pages" more intuitive. "Powerpoint" is pretty good, but again, "Keynote" is (IMHO) better.
What I DO like is the "Ribbon" feature in the Office apps.
Outlook is pretty good - but the newly improved iCal and iMail offer excellent upgrades. (Personally, I prefer BusyCal for calendaring...)
Overall, I think iWork is a better product, but I also think that in time Office 2011 should be stabilized and improved (hopefully) soon. Would I recommend it? Not sure...it is OVERPRICED and for most people in the Mac world, I strongly feel iWork is a much better choice.
on May 28, 2011
First, I am cross platform user and I spend equal amounts of time on Mac as on Windows. I do not view myself as particularly loyal to one system or the other and my remarks should be considered aimed at folks like me.
This iteration of Office for Mac is greatly superior to Office 2008. Office 2011 greatly extends the usability of the Mac for business applications and makes the Mac more useful as as a tool for the home user as well. The installation is seamless and the applications function smoothly. Most features available to Windows users are now available and several important missing features can be gained with a bit of web searching.
It is true that, even though this version does use the riobbon, there are differences in how some tasks and features are accessed in Office 2011 from the windows counterparts. I believe this is mainly due to making the applications consistent with normal Mac applications.
For cross platform users there is no trouble working on files in Office 2007 or 2010 and working on those files in Office 2011. If you tried that with Office 2008 you will understand what a large improvement this change can have.
I love the inclusion of Outlook. It works wonderful and really increases the viability of the Mac as a business tool. This app is smooth.
I do wish Microsoft allowed for Visio and Project to be available for Macs. I believe this would greatly increase the appeal of the suite.
If you disliked Office 2008 you may want to try out Office 2011. It is a great improvement. The full screen capability and compatibility with Office 2010 make a big difference. Microsoft did right by the Mac community with this release.
on January 9, 2011
I purchased Mac Office 2011 solely for OutLook. What a disappointment.
Although the conversion to Outlook went smoothly, I found I could not get Outlook to do simple things like read the next unread message, it would always go the the one I just read. I do not like the placement of items on the Ribbon from a functional point of view and it appears that it can not be customized. Additionally Outlook crashes.
There are several user interface issues I don't like, but I figured I would get used to them over time.(Note: I guess no one does usability testing any more) Basically Outlook is not as accommodating as Entourage. I gave up as I do not have the time to deal with all of the issues and poor design. I have switched back to Entourage.
My rating reflect my opinion of Outlook. I've not had any problems with the other Office components, at least not yet. However, I feel I just wasted $200 as I'd had purchased the 2 license pack.
on November 1, 2010
Product not opened or reviewed. One star for incorrect depiction of the product.
I bought the Home and Business two-license pack thinking that it would be a license for two persons, as with my Office 2008 family pack. My package has some wording on the top left of the front side that is not in the Amazon photo of the package: "1 User 2 Macs." I read the license agreement at [...] and found the license unacceptable for my purposes: "one copy of the software on the licensed device and one additional copy on a portable device for use by the single primary user of the licensed device."
I'm lucky to have noticed that before removing the shrink wrap--back it goes, and no more MS Office "upgrades" in this household.
on March 8, 2012
First let me say that the vendor of this product did a great job and did not miss a beat. Delivery was on time and the product was as described. As for the product itself that is a different story. I have used Office on a PC for years. I mistakenly thought that i was going to finally have something on my new Mac that was a little familiar. Well, it is a little familiar, but there are conflicts with other versions of Office and I am still having issues with switching back and forth between the Mac version and the PC version. I guess you have to go all Mac or all PC because they don't play nice and this program / application proves it every day. I had to go to Open Office to use some of our most commonly used spreadsheets. If you are pure Mac it may be problem free but if you have to swing back and forth between Mac and PC Open Office is the way to go.