Microsoft to Ship Office for Mac 2011 on October 26, Pledges Speediness

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by Jacqueline Emigh

Microsoft has set October 26 as the launch date for Office for Mac 2011, while also previewing two new features in the newly ribboned suite and promising faster apps than those appearing in Office for Mac 2008.

Now slated to leave beta testing less than a month from now, Office for Mac 2011 will be the first version of the Mac-based suite to include Microsoft’s controversial ribbon user interface (UI). As alternatives for users, though, the product will also offer traditional Mac UI elements such as the menu bar and standard tool bar as alternatives.

On Tuesday of this week, Microsoft announced online that pre-orders can now be placed on Amazon.com, and that all three editions of the suite will ship at the end of October as previously pledged in August.

Microsoft Office for Mac 2011

New ‘Full Page’ and “Dynamic Reorder’ features
Microsoft also started previewing a “Full Page” view in Word 2011. “Full Page” actually consists of two views, one optimized for reading and the other for writing.

“Dynamic Reorder,” another newly introduced capability, “gives you the ability to interactively re-order all of the layers in a document or presentation,” members of Microsoft’s Mac Mojo Team wrote in a blog post. It is “one of the most visually impactful features” in the new suite, according to the team members.

Microsoft promises performance increase
As Office for Mac 2011 heads toward commercial availability, Microsoft has also made sure performance has been boosted over Office for Mac 2008, the Microsoft bloggers contended.

“In fact, improving performance was a priority across the suite. We hope that you will notice this right away with the launch speed of each app and overall speed throughout the applications,” said the Mojo Team.

Microsoft sees the product as the Mac-based counterpart to the Windows 7-enabled Office 2010. Yet meanwhile, during the long beta cycle of the Mac suite, some Mac users indicated that the ribbon UI slows them down.

The ribbon interface “is cluttered, with huge icons and [it] takes too much screen estate,” complained a user named Burst, in a comment posted to the MacStories blog.

The ribbon, though, will only complement and not replace the “signature” Mac menu bar and standard tool bar, according to Han-yi Shaw, senior lead program manager at Microsoft. The ribbon will appear in Word, Excel and PowerPoint above the content display area but below the Mac Menu bar. Users will be able to collapse both the ribbon and the standard tool bar.

Over the past several months, Microsoft has also presented Web-based previews of other new features in Office for Mac 2011, such as new icons aimed at reflecting the Aqua appearance of Mac OS X, new splash screens for apps, and a Template Gallery.

The least expensive edition of the new suite, Microsoft Office for Mac Academic 2011, will be priced at $99, but it will only be available to higher education students, staff, and faculty.

Pricing will start at $119 for the Home and Student 2011 edition, and at $199 for Home and Business 2011, an edition that will add Outlook for Mac as a replacement for the earlier Entourage mail client.

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