updated 08:55 pm EST, Thu January 3, 2008
Word 2008 preview
Users eagerly await the release of Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac, especially those that use Intel-based Macs, as this will be the first incarnation of the suite to include Universal application support. The suite has been redesigned to be more "available" to users, introducing a number of new elements, as well as reconfiguring old features to make them more obvious to new and regular users alike. While Office 2008 doesn't ship until the start of Macworld on January 15th, Microsoft has provided MacNN with a preview of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage ahead of the announcement.
Word is almost certainly the most frequently used application the world over, finding use in both business and home environments for reports, letters, and fliers, among other document types. Users are now able to quickly and easily construct rich documents using Document Elements, Quick Tables, Charts, SmartArt Graphics, and WordArt; these options are readily visible from any document underneath the various formatting buttons.
Document Elements offers a wide selection of literary elements, such as cover pages, table of content styles, headers and footers, and bibliography variations. Elements are easily added, requiring only that the user click on the desired item, and it will automatically insert itself into the document. Elements can be customized by either modifying the existing parameters for generated graphics, or by adding in your own images.
Word's Publishing Layout View allows users to create documents in a method similar to how Pages works in Apple's iWork suite. Written content wraps around images when placed in a body of text, while templates allow users to create their documents around a starting point. Guides cling to elements, enabling users to create uniform designs and layouts for flyers, catalogues, or other stationery.
The Notebook Layout View allows users to take free-form notation in a well-organized manner. Creating a Notebook presents a default three-tabbed page with a "plus" tab that generates extra sections. The Notebook section is a welcome addition for students and professionals, enabling those users to quickly generate paragraph- or point-based documents with hand-drawn pictures and diagrams. Notebooks can have a number of different styles as well, changing the appearance of tabs, rings and pages.
Word's redesigned Mail Merge Manager provides step-by-step assembly of documents for use as a mailer, or where multiple recipients are expecting a letter. Word presents a small floating window with six sections that represent different levels of customization. Once all of the desired fields are complete, Word sends the document to Entourage to be distributed.
Microsoft's Mac Business Unit have made numerous improvements to Word, and in the process, have made it more accessible and Mac-like. The new Open XML file format adds a lot of versatility and customization to documents, while the lack of macro support makes Word more secure against macro virus attacks.