The Problem Microsoft Created: Mac Office 2008

msofficemac.pngAbout a year and a half ago, I made the switch to Mac and I have not looked back. To this day, I feel confused when I go into Windows (XP or Vista) even though I used to support XP for Northrop Grumman.

When I made the switch, I was very much used to Office 2003 (I was coming from a Windows world!) so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Mac Office 2004 was included on my new Macbook Pro. I used the 30 day free trial and then bought a full license. However, I got frustrated after a bit by the sluggishness and the prone nature of Office 2004 to crash.

For those of you following along at home, this was because Office 2004 was never redone for Intel processors (or as we in Intel Mac world like to say, there was no Universal binary). It was built for the old PowerPC architecture and so the underlying code was not optimized for zippier, more threaded architecture. Yes, I know I’m getting geeky here.

So anyway, I went out and bought iWork ’06. I switched to native Apple apps all around. Instead of Entourage (Outlook for you Window users!) for calendaring, contact management and Email – I switched to, Address Book, and iCal. Instead of Microsoft Word, I used Pages. Instead of Powerpoint, I used KEynote. The only thing I was missing was an Excel replacement – so I kept Office Mac 2004 around. In fact, at that point, I would have still bought Microsoft Office simply because I needed Excel.

That all changed in iWork ’08. Numbers was added giving me a full featured spreadsheet. Keynote got better. Pages rocked. There was no reason to use Microsoft Office anymore. So I didn’t. I uninstalled (Read: I just dragged it to the trash can. Forget about the Add/Remove programs nonsense).

Now the difference between iWork and MS Office is minimal for most users. It’s not a lightweight poser. The apps are full featured and is compatible with MS Office. Office probably still offers additional perks that iWork doesn’t have. It’s always had way more features than anybody else.

Now, Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac is out and it really does look good. The problem is there is no free demo. Since I bought Office 2004, I am eligible for the upgrade price of $239.95.

Here’s the problem. iWork ’08 costs $79. I own iWork ’08. For me, buying it was a no-brainer. But assume for a moment that I did not own it. I could try it out. Apple offers a 30 day free trial of iWork ’08. Microsoft trial of Microsoft Office 2008. Nah, sucka!

Which is odd.

Because Microsoft still offers a free trial of Office 2007 for Windows, it does not seem to be decision of corporate intent. It just seems that the Mactopia people are tone deaf.

If the MBU people at Microsoft were smart, they would recognize that NOT offering a 30-60 day trial of their product is tantamount to Product suicide. Hey, your main competitor is giving their product away for 30 days and the total cost of ownership is $79. Microsoft Office is way more expensive and, let’s face it, more Mac users are inclined to use Apple products than Microsoft so they should be doing whatever they can to get crossover customers.

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

19 thoughts on “The Problem Microsoft Created: Mac Office 2008”

  1. I totally agree. I love iWork ’08 and hate that the office programs continually crash AND there’s not a good update for it.

    The only drawback I have currently is people I work with track changes in Word Docs.

  2. Mac Office 2008: EPIC FAIL.

    If you don’t need macro support, there is absolutely no point in paying for Office anymore. Sorry. Fact of life.

    iWork t0tally pwns – and would likely pwn on Windows, too.

  3. Sadly for those stuck in the corporate world being mavericks running OS X we need to still suck it up and run Office lest they make us run Windows just to share documents.

  4. I bought Office 2008 (I essentially got it for free after a day after Thanksgiving rebate deal and Microsoft sent me the 2008 Special Media Edition or whatever), it’s significantly faster – but other than Excel (which now doesn’t work with some of my macros so I still have to plug in the external drive that I have my VMWare partition for Office 2007 stuff I access like twice a year), I would agree that Office is largely replaceable.

    I do still adore Word when compared to Pages. I just like Word better — Entourage sucks less but it is no Outlook. I’m truly shocked they don’t have a demo or trial available to users so that you can try it out. Although there is always the unofficial trial, that is um, shady, but sometimes necessary. Not that I know anything about that or anything.

  5. I wish iWork saved to ODF..

    Aaron, on a side note… I believe Paul’s Name & Email were automatically in this comment form when I first clicked through from google reader… It was strange, and after a refresh, it was gone.


  6. I “bought” Office 2004 twice… the second time came on Black Friday when I picked it up for $120. Microsoft had two promotions going on – $100 rebate and a free copy ($7 shipping) of 2008 Extreme Edition when it ships. Of course, MS is taking it’s sweet time with that “up to 8 weeks” to deliver it and I still haven’t seen my software. However, I heard Exchange support is still crippled and that Entourage is using OWA hooks. “Real” Exchange support was the only reason I wanted to upgrade, but now I don’t care so much. Maybe I’ll ebay the software when it gets here and buy Pages.

  7. Aaron, Having just switched to Mac’s this past summer I held out getting Office. But I found it was too much of a pain to keep duplicate copies of everything (ie. .pages for my use & .doc to send to clients).

    So I broke down got Office 2008 a few weeks back and am very happy with it. Of course it defaults to a new document type, .docx which kinda defeats my purpose of compatibility. I just went in and changed the default to the old .doc type and all is well.

  8. I’m a huge fan of Pages and Keynote, but find I still have to keep a copy of Office around because Keynote doesn’t always do a good job importing PowerPoint decks, particularly if they’ve got data imported from Excel.

    The Apple suite of tools are simply elegant and uncluttered, and tend to be more intuitive, IMHO.

    I suspect MS is banking on the fact that many Mac users are still working in a Windows dominated world, and if corporate says you need Office, you need Office. Still, the lack of a demo is puzzling.

  9. Numbers is great except that it bogs down with large multi-calculation spreadsheets and the lack of any external import capabilities. Numbers is very intuitive to use as well and provides a much more dynamic capability for creating nice documentation sets. If Apple could get AS into Numbers the way VB helped Excel (and figure out why it craps out on large spreadsheets) it’d be the clear winner… until then…

    Excel 08 handles the large spreadsheets sooo much better but the removal of VB and the data analysis (not to mention that most Add-in’s still assume a Windows directory structure to operate) just leaves it as the better performing alternative to Numbers. Both situations totally blow.

    OO Calc isn’t all the way there either but it’s much closer than Number and Excel.

  10. I installed Office 2008 about a week ago on my dual PPC G5 and I absolutely hate it. I want my old Office X back! I cannot even go back now, because none of the updates go back that far.

    The new Word is not terrible, but lacks a few things. Powerpoint is terrible – they took out a lot of features I previously used all of the time and it crashes frequently. There are many known bugs – Cut, copy, paste does not work at all in the notes pane, it just crashes the application; Trying to export to a quicktime movie crashes the application; and so on. I cannot believe that Microsoft released it in its current state. I am afraid to even try Excel, but if they have indeed taken out the data analyis features, it is pretty much useless to me.

    Not sure what I am going to do at this point, because I am in grad school and office is required for many of the assignments. But I do not ever want to go back to a PC!

  11. I bought Office 2008 a week ago. I hate it, too. It’s the worst app I’d ever installed on my mac. It felt so Windows-like.

    I was so unlucky, the the dealer offered to take it back – I’ll get my money back! After these bad experience, I became a fan of Pages an iWork ’08. It is much better and faster than Office.

    I think, Microsoft doesn’t offer a trial, because of the amount massive bugs. No one would buy such a bad program.

    Perhaps, this is a re-switch-tirck: Useres who really need a MS office-suite would use a PC again.

  12. good grief. excel 2008 for mac is a disaster. and the rest of office is buggy too. hopefully uninstalling ’08 and reinstalling ’04 won’t be too painful.

  13. I only want excel for my mac. I am trying to adequately “see” large pages of graphs which neo office and numbers can’t quite interpret! Any suggestions?

  14. I bought a copy of the Microsoft Office for Mac 2008 for 10 dollars shipping.(Special Promotion that I found on the Internet.) I did it because I wanted to work with a small Office Environment that uses Exchange 2007 for \”IBM;programs. Has anyone else had difficulty transferring Outlook\’s calender, and contacts into the new Mac Environment. Also working with Exchange Server is there a good teaching tool to take a person through the process.

  15. I agree with most of those who have upgraded from Office 2004 to Office 2008. I use a PPC G5 and the resulting loss of performance has been an unmitigated disaster. Bugs all over the place – try Paste Special of text from document in Adobe to Powerpoint – paste it as a MS Object results in the text \”;Bug Workaround;\” being inserted!!!! My main gripe however has been with Excel, the lack of data analysis tools makes it useless for most college/science students and MS will lose out big time as a result in this community. Graphs (for someone like me who regularly looks at 4096 + data points) are so slow to update and edit in Excel it is nothing short of embarrassing. To be fair most of these problems are associated with non-Intel macs (things are a little better on my new iMac) but Excel graphics are still abysmally slow even so. Still a large amount of bugs cropping up with time and crashes are a daily event. I will be removing Office 2008 and going back to 2004, if I can find the disks. I have as a result switched from Excel to Igor Pro which is useful intermediary between Excel and MatLab.

  16. I use Office 2008 at work. It doesn’t crash for me. There is the occasional colour substitution, missing VBA and the odd missing feature in Excel. calendar not tentatively accepting meeting requests before we upgrade the mail server and there no embedding fonts. Te rest is absolutely fine for 99% of users.

    Office 2008 wasn’t built for power users in corporate environments – i.e. provide a key reason for keeping Windows install base. Its for home and mainstream users who like mac’s cos they are shinny or run art/music packages.

    have you installed the latest patch from MS? I think you’ll find most of the initial ‘undocumented features’ have been fixed.

    If you’re still bitching i suggest you just don’t use it. You’re not forced too. Neo/OpenOffice is free.

  17. Very true. I just recently switched from a PC to an iMac . I found this article by actually looking for some software to use that Office has. I will try iWork out. Since switching to my iMac I have only looked back at Windows when needing Visual Studio 2008 since I do web development and programming. I am in the transition to Dreamweaver for Mac but the sad thing is that Adobe Dreamweaver is lacking the version that Visual Studio can use. We are up to almost 3.5 and Dreamweaver still uses .NET 1.1?Anyways I thank you for showing me to iWork and I hope many others users will switch to Macs. After re-installing my PC OS many times I decided to switch. Macs are a little more expensive if you are used to buying a PC. For the amount of disk space, graphics, and ram that comes on a Mac you could get almost double for a PC. The truth is though is that a MAC will run just as fast with half of what a PC has running Windows.Specs: 250gb hd, 4gb mem, 2.4ghz dual-core process, 20″ screen, and a wonderful operating system that has yet to crash or cause any problems! Oh yeah I have a beautiful monitor and one cable plugging it in and thats all! Not a tower, monitor, and a 08450345 cords.Why am I running 4gb? Because I need to dual boot to do programming in Windows (since I am a Windows Developer) LOLOh and I forgot to say! Macs actually send you an operating system disk instead of giving you a “recovery partition” and making you pay for an OEM disk!

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