Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac

Apple and Microsoft have long had an uneasy truce going on. Microsoft dominates the operating system market with Windows, and Apple’s OS X is the second-biggest kid on the block.

The CEO’s of the two companies regularly poke fun at one another in important speeches. The truth of the matter, however, is that they need each other: Apple’s iTunes dominates the music player market, and you’ll struggle to find a company that doesn’t run on Microsoft Office: Microsoft Word, Powerpoint and Excel makes the business-world go ’round.

It’s four and a half years since the last time Microsoft updated Office for Mac – back in the dark ages when eMacs were still around, and the G5 processor was cutting-edge technology, so it was well over-due for an update.

Let’s admit it: Office software is hardly the sexiest thing you could possibly install on your computer, and yet, it’s a necessity for most of us office-bound wage-slaves. Nonetheless, it’s good to see that Microsoft have gone the extra mile to inject some more useful functions into their suite. For one thing, stability has improved a lot, especially on intel-based Macs, but ‘the absence of crashes’ is hardly a feature.

We’ve got a load of great new toys across the Office range – Microsoft Word comes with a new functions making it much easier to keep track of bibliographies (great for students and scholars), fancy newsletter designs (great for amateur typographers), a useful way of dealing with formatting palettes (great for everyone) and a brand-spanking new design which makes it all feel a little bit more Mac-like.

Excel stays pretty much the same, with a few templates thrown in for good measure, but then, Excel has pretty much been king of the hill when it comes to spreadsheets for the past, oh, 20 years or so. Why change a winning formula?

Powerpoint is the de-facto standard for presentations, which is pretty damn depressing, considering that this is the one piece of Office-suite software where Apple has Microsoft well and truly licked: Keynote runs circles around Powerpoint in just about every way.

Of course, a few things have changed since 2004, other than Mac going Intel. Most importantly, the Office market has hotted up quite a lot, with quite a few cheap and free options becoming available. NeoOffice, and StarOffice are completely office suites, and it’s possible to move all of your document-editing on-line for free, too, with applications like Google Documents, Zoho Suite and ThinkFree Office. In addition, Microsoft is getting stiff competition from Apple’s own iWork, which retails at only £55 – a sixth of the price of Microsoft’s office.

Don’t get us wrong: Microsoft Office 2008 is a fine piece of software, but we can’t help but feel thoroughly ripped off by Microsoft: if Apple manage to charge fifty quid for a software package, so can Microsoft – especially because the latter have the economy of scale to pull it off.

Sadly, for the office-rats among us, Excel is a must, so we’ll begrudgingly stomp off to the shop to fork over our hard-earned, muttering curses under our breath. If you don’t need Microsoft Excel, buy iWork instead, and spend the money you save on an iPhone…