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Lunch » Tags » Software » Reviews » Office Mac Home and Business 2011 - (1 User/2 Installs) » User review

A Major Overhaul of Office for Mac, but Still a Poor Stepbrother to the Windows Version

  • May 27, 2011
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Before I start with the review, I would like to say a few things about myself and my experience with Microsoft Office products. I have been using various components of Microsoft Office for almost a couple of decades, on both Windows and Macintosh computers. Right now, I have a copy of Office 2008 on my Mac Mini , as well as Office 2007 on my Windows 7 (formerly Vista) laptop. I also occasionally use iWorks on my iPad, Google docs, and have had some experience with OpenOffice. I use word processing software on a daily basis, PowerPoint more or less regularly for the lectures that I give, Excel for various laboratory exercises, and Apple Mail or Outlook for part of my e-mailing needs.

I obtained my copy of Office 2011 through Amazon Vine products a day ahead of the official release, and have spent most of my first day playing with it and figuring out all of its new and noteworthy features. It is definitely a more than worthy successor of Office 2008, and a huge improvement across the board in almost every category. However, based on my experience, MS Office for Windows is still the gold standard in the category of business productivity software. This version of Office for Mac was supposed to be the first "real" Office in over a decade, and although it comes tantalizingly close to the equivalent Windows version, it is still far from a full-fledged clone. It will, however, make Macintosh computers respectable members of the professional business environment. The biggest improvement in that regard is the final inclusion of Outlook into the Mac version of the Office. Microsoft has also reinstated Visual Basic, which is

Some General Observation

Installation was very smooth and quick. There was no need to remove the previous version of the Office. The full install took up about 1.3 GB of hard drive space.

Office 2011 feels more powerful, more feature-rich and faster than its predecessor. The increase in speed is definitely noticeable, and if you use Office a lot in your line of work, this in itself will make it well worth the upgrade.

In terms of look and feel, the greatest new addition to all Office components is the introduction of Ribbon. Ribbon is an interface where a set of toolbars is placed on tabs in a tab bar. It is highly customizable, and it is context sensitive - various tasks have different ribbon configuration. Microsoft started using Ribbon in Office 2007 in place of taskbars. However, their ribbon has caused a lot of confusion since it was a radical departure from the usual taskbars. Even though the exclusive use of Ribbon declutters the look of various Office applications, it was not too intuitive to use at first. Office 2011 uses both the Ribbon as well as the taskbars, thus making a better and smoother transition to the new functionality. In this sense Office 2011 seems a hybrid of Office 2007 for Windows and Office 2008 for Mac.

One of the major behind-the-scenes improvements of Office 2011 is the return of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), which was missing from previous versions of Office for Mac. This will facilitate creation of event-driven templates for all of the components of Office 2011. However, the greatest impact of the reintroduction of VBA will undoubtedly be felt in Excel, especially in creation of more sophisticated spreadsheets.

In recent months Microsoft has come up with an online version of Office that is sophisticated enough for most of one's everyday needs, and is positioned to compete directly with Google Docs. Office 2011 is designed to take a full advantage of this new online environment, including online and real-time collaboration with remote colleagues, as well as ample (25 GB as of this writing) online storage in form of SkyDrive. It is possible to directly save and open SkyDrive files from any Office application, as well as drag-and-drop them using Microsoft Document Connection which comes as standard with this version of Office. Personally, I would have liked if it were possible to access SkyDrive through Finder, but overall I am fairly satisfied with its functionality.


One of the great new features is the publishing layouts. They turn Word into a serious desktop publishing tool, as well as a decent website editor. It will not replace Dreamweaver any time soon, but it will be more than effective for small-scale websites.

Word comes with many new themes and styles, which make publication of any sort of new document a breeze. Obtaining new themes and styles from the net has been streamlined, and can be done directly in Word itself.

Documents can now be viewed in a full screen view, which hides all the desktop background as well as both the taskbar and the Ribbon. The latter can still be accessed by moving the cursor to the top of the screen. Full screen is useful when you just want to concentrate on the document itself, whether you are reading it or writing a new one.

My biggest disappointment with this version of Word for Mac was the failure to include the blogging support. Ever since I discovered blogging support in Word 2007 this has been my favorite way of writing and publishing my blog posts. It brought together the full force of a powerful word processor with the simplicity of publishing with a press of a button. I was hoping that this feature will be incorporated into Office 2011, in which case I could start to completely rely on my Mac for all of my authoring needs. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. I guess it would be possible to use website templates to create my blog posts and then upload all the files and the generated html into my site, but this is a rather cumbersome hack to say the least. Microsoft may release a blogging add-on in the near future, but right now I am not counting on it.


The biggest and most noticeable changes in Excel that will affect majority of users are in terms of new visual aids and presentation styles. Now you can pepper even your datasheets with visual icons, graphics and other tools that help present the information in a much more intuitively accessible ways. Excel 2011 also uses Sparklines, a tool that highlights trends in your data. As mentioned earlier, you are now able to use VBA for more advanced data analysis and table formatting features. VBA is cross-platform compatible and your work should look and feel the same whether you are using it or viewing it on a Mac or a PC.


Aside from the new look and feel that it shares with other Office 2011 apps, the new PowerPoint seems to have undergone the least amount of change. There are many new templates and visual tools, but some of these (such as video recording) are very limited in their usability. PowerPoint now allows you to directly publish your presentations online, even without Windows Live account. You can share the link to the online presentations with others, and they can view them directly in their browsers. However, it doesn't seem that all browsers are supported, and some of the more media-intense PowerPoint presentations may not play accurately.


This is by far the snazziest and most user-friendly version of the Outlook that I have ever used. This is also probably the only Office component which truly feels native in OS X, which may be the reason why it feels so user-friendly. As mentioned earlier, Microsoft did not include Outlook as a part of the Office suite since 1998, and relied instead on a much weaker Entourage for its desktop mail client. This version of Outlook works well with both regular email accounts (such as Gmail, Hotmail, etc.) although I did have some trouble figuring out the correct server/account/password syntax. The same holds for the exchange server connections: most of the trouble usually stems from the obscure documentation for the particular exchange server that you are attempting to connect with. Once you are up and running, though, it is as smooth of a mail client as they come. The bad news is that this version of Outlook is only compatible with Exchange Server 2007 or the later editions. If your company still uses Exchange Server 2003 (or an earlier version) you will not be able to use Outlook with it.

Other Apps

Some other apps that are of interest are the already mentioned Microsoft Document Connection, as well as Microsoft Messenger and Remote Desktop Connection. Microsoft Document Connection is very useful for storing various files onto SkyDrive, including non-Office files such as pdf documents. However, even though SkyDrive comes pre-configured with folders titled "Music" and "Pictures" I was unable to upload jpeg or mp3 files. This is rather odd, but hopefully it will change in the future.

I don't really get to use Microsoft Messenger all that much, but from what I can tell this is more or less the standard version of the app, with a few small tweaks here and there.

Remote Desktop Connection is a neat way of connecting with Windows machines on your local network. However, it does require that you are familiar with what sorts of computers you have connected locally, as well as that all of them are set up correctly for network-sharing.


This is definitely a major upgrade of the Office for Mac, and if you are a power user getting the latest version of this product is a no-brainer. This is especially true if you collaborate on documents and projects with others a lot, or need Outlook for your e-mailing needs. However, if you are more of a casual user you will perceive Office 2011 more as an evolution than a true leap forward. You will probably do just fine for now by sticking to Office 2008.

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About the reviewer
Bojan Tunguz ()
Ranked #50
I am a benevolent rascal. I love lounging in bed on a Sunday morning. Rainy days make me melancholy, but in a good kind of way. I am an incorrigible chocoholic. I hate Mondays, but I get over it by Wednesday. … more
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About this product


With over 1 billion PCs and Macs running Office, Microsoft Office is the most-trusted and most-used productivity suite around the world. And Office for Mac 2011 is here to help you do more with your Mac on your terms. Use Word to create dynamic papers, Excel to format your data quickly, PowerPoint to help engage your audience and take your ideas further, and Outlook to stay close to your contacts and calendars. And since Office for Mac is compatible with Office for Windows, you can work on documents with virtually anyone on a Mac or PC. It's the easiest way to create, share, and access your documents from almost anywhere.

2-Pack Version

Licensed for one (1) user for install on two (2) Macs. A single pack license is also available.

What's New and Improved
Outlook for Mac 2011
Manage your email and calendars with features that simplify staying connected and up to date.
Word for Mac 2011
Powerful writing tools help you create outstanding documents, then store, edit, and share your work easily on the web.
Excel for Mac 2011
Clarify your financial picture with easy-to-analyze spreadsheets you can post online to view, edit, share, or coauthor with your team from virtually anywhere.
PowerPoint for Mac 2011
Create powerful, professional presentations that engage and inspire your audience, and present online as effectively as in person.
  • Outlook for Mac
    Keeps you connected to e-mail, schedules, calendars, to-do lists, and contacts.

  • Ribbon
    Access favorite commands quickly, and personalize your workspace.

  • Office Web Apps*
    Post, edit, and share files ...
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