Microsoft Office 2008

Microsoft Office 2008

Suite-Wide Features

The addition of the Elements Gallery features across the most-used apps makes Office 2008 far more usable than ever before. But the new default document formats are iffy at best.


Project Gallery

A familiar sight for current Office users. And not necessarily a welcomed one.


Like a vestigial tail or an appendix, the Microsoft Office Project Gallery is a long-suffering—and largely useless—element of the Office suite. Designed to let you quickly get started with a new document and manage your existing creations, this four-tabbed menu gives you a style-oriented view of the various templates you can choose from.


For those who have a hard time deciding which application to launch for a given purpose (duh, which one makes spreadsheets again?), Project Gallery takes the guesswork out of getting to work. It also gives you a one-stop shop for your recently created documents, regardless of which Office app you made them in. For most users, these features are superfluous to simply launching Word, Excel, or PowerPoint and getting down to business


New Document Format
In response to demand from various governmental organizations worldwide for an open document standard, Microsoft has changed the way Office saves its files. Microsoft Office Open XML (OOXML) is the new default file format for all apps in Office 2008 for Mac and Office 2007 for Windows. What this means to you is that you need to give some thought before clicking Save on a new document. Word’s new format, DOCX, is fundamentally different from the old DOC format you’ve been using for a decade, and older versions of Word won’t be able to open new DOCX files without first installing an update. Until everyone you know has either upgraded to Office ‘08 or installed the necessary update in their old version, saving in the new default format could be a bad idea. The same holds true for XLSX files in Excel and PPTX files in PowerPoint.


What this means on a larger scale is more difficult to say. The new OOXML format has met with fierce opposition from open standards advocates who say it’s too bloated, complex, and application-dependent for competing companies to implement (which makes it “open” in name only) and actually contains errors that could mess up your documents, such as getting the math wrong in your spreadsheets. At press time the new format had failed to receive approval from the International Standards Organization, which oversees such things. Make no mistake, though: with Microsoft’s persistence and the near-inevitability that Office 2008 for Mac and Office 2007 for Windows will be ubiquitous in a year or two, OOXML will most likely become the default standard for all documents, regardless of whether it ever gains approval from the ISO.


Microsoft Messenger

Office Messenger won’t replace iChat or Adium on the Mac anytime soon.


Love iChat? You’ll hate Microsoft Messenger. Microsoft just can’t resist bundling its own chat client into its Office suite, so don’t be surprised to find the Messenger icon in your Dock. Fortunately, Messenger doesn’t completely install by default, so you can just delete the icon and keep working if you don’t plan to use it. For our part, we know very few people in the U.S. who regularly use Microsoft Messenger; almost everyone we know is on iChat or AIM. We suspect this little add-on will do better in Europe, where Microsoft Messenger is all the rage.


Office 2008 Our Final Verdict

With its emphasis on making advanced features like charts and graphics readily accessible and easy to use, Office 2008 may be the first Microsoft product that seems to really get what Mac users want. The Elements Gallery makes Office 2008 not only more powerful than Apple iWork or Office 2004, but also simpler to work with. If you do only minimal work with your Mac, such as typing up the occasional letter or adding up a few columns in a spreadsheet, you probably don’t need to spend $400 to get Office 2008. If you do serious number crunching, write scholarly papers, or give presentations frequently, iWork just doesn’t come close to Office 2008’s capabilities.


COMPANY: Microsoft


PRICE: $399.95, $149.95 Home and Student Edition, $499.95 Special Media Edition

REQUIREMENTS: (Standard Edition) 500MHz G4 or later or Intel processor, Mac OS 10.4.9 or later, 512MB RAM, 1.5GB hard disk space





+ Add a Comment


I have three Macs at the house (iMac, MackBook Pro & the wife's new MacBook (white)) and while iWorks is fine and all I just need more due to my work projects. I am considering purchasing Office 2008 hoping it will make the transfer of worksheets and files easier. Anyone have any real experience with the product that could provide me with a heads up?



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Doug Nix

Usually I'm a pretty hardcore Mac|Life fan, but your review team really dropped the ball on this one.

Anyone looking for some more objective reviews on MS Office 2008 needs to check out CNET's reviews.

Thankfully I did, and saved myself some serious cash and headaches.





why do you need to spend 400.00 dollars when you can buy iWork for 79.00?



I must say, I'm shocked. Office 2004 is better than this most recent offering from Microsoft.

This makes me wonder where you're getting your information. There are so many tools missing from the suite, and basic functions like changing the x-axis in Excel scatter plots no longer works. For more than casual home use, Excel is now practically useless. Honestly, Numbers is at least equal, if not better than Excel 2008.

I think everyone should read the comments on the Mac Business Unit's website that developed this piece of junk. Microsoft's own website, and they are being flamed on it. And by every right.

Go ahead and check it out. and read the comments attached to the "Blog" section.

At most, this product deserved your "Weak" rating. This is the first time I've been disappointed in MacAddict/Life



Admittedly, I despise most Microsoft products- a major reason for my move to Mac this year. However, I have found it necessary to keep both iWork and Office 2008 on my Macs. Unlike what the earlier user posted, my experience is that Excel and Numbers are not in the same league. Numbers is a prototype, really, with so few of the necessary features that I'm afraid even to open an Excel sheet in it- it always messes up the formulas.

However, Word and Pages are comparable, and Keynote is far better than PowerPoint. So, I'm stuck using both suites. I'm also very glad to see Excel go beyond the 65,000 row limit on sheets, as I routinely deal with hundreds of thousands of rows for statistical work and constantly had to break them up to move them between Stata or SAS (for crunching) and Excel (for editing).

Let's just hope that the iWork team adds enough to Numbers and Pages to make iWork more clearly superior to Office, so that I can banish the last MS program on my computer.

Just as an aside, when I first tried to install Office, it conflicted with the auto-starting component of Adobe Acrobat Pro 8, resulting in the deletion of parts of Office on start up. It was fixed when I called about it, but funny that the only MS program on the computer caused the only serious error I've had with the Macs to date.

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