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Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac: Service Pack 2 – Review

Disappointingly minor changes in this update, mainly focussed on Keynote software may disappoint some users

Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Service Pack 2 is a no-cost upgrade that provides only modest improvements to the productivity suite.

Microsoft’s service packs for Office are primarily evolutionary, and this one is no exception. IT managers should have little problem deploying the SP; indeed, during my tests, installation was no problem. However, there is no uninstall option, so I advise thorough pre-deployment testing in environments that use heavily customised Word templates, forms and Excel workbooks.

Office 2008 for Mac SP 2 focuses on the PowerPoint component of the suite. Microsoft Entourage for Mac 2008—the suite’s much-maligned e-mail client—gains automated features for connecting to Mobile Me and Windows Live Hotmail accounts, while SharePoint users will be able to use the new Document Connection tool to ease file access.¬†Microsoft has made some bug fixes to Word, and has tweaked Word and Excel for improved performance.

Minor Improvements

Compared with Keynote, Apple’s slide presentation application in its own iWorks suite, Office for Mac PowerPoint just barely keeps up.

I was able to change the default theme in PowerPoint, but that’s just a basic boon for presentation buffs. Also new in PowerPoint is the ability to add path animation to a slide. Making text and other elements fly around the screen adds a little pizzazz to presentations, but it is hardly the kind of sizeable advance in product features I expected. That said, adding the path animation element is simple to do, and anyone with a passing familiarity with slide production will be able to master the feature in less than 5 minutes.

During tests, PowerPoint for Mac was able to retain the formatting of a slide presentation created in PowerPoint 2007 on my Windows XP system. Significantly, both slide decks correctly displayed text in Arial font; previous versions of the Mac version had sometimes converted such text to Calibri.

Word and Entourage

Word 2008 for Mac now retains the formatting of numbered lists. From Microsoft Office 2007 for Windows running on a virtual PC, I opened a numbered list created in the Mac version of Word, and everything displayed correctly. Aside from this minor change, Word is relatively unchanged from its previous state.

Entourage, the Outlook equivalent in Office for Mac, has new account creation wizards to help with Mobile Me and Windows Live Hotmail integration. During tests, the wizard helped me create an account linked to Windows Live Hotmail service. SP 2 is required for organisations that intend to use the Web-based edition of Entourage.

Cameron Sturdevant is technical director at eWeek

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