updated 03:15 pm EST, Thu February 11, 2010
Update focuses on cross-platform collaboration
Following Microsoft's announcement of Office for Mac 2011, MacNN had a chance to speak with senior MacBU officials regarding the new software and the possibility of an iPad version. Microsoft has primarily focused on optimizing its Office suite for cross-platform use, extending file compatibility for collaboration across Windows and Mac machines.
Aside from file compatibility, Office 2011 for Mac will also bring a revamped interface that adopts several elements from the Windows version. The ribbon layout is designed to provide easy access to the software's more advanced functionality, in a similar way to Office for Windows, although it can also be collapsed.
At first glance, many of the enhancements might appear to diverge from the Mac-focused interface of the current version, however MacBU claims the update will still provide a variety of features differentiating it from the Windows variant.
Although the ribbon has dominated the interface of Office for Windows, a close look shows several aspects, including visual previews for Styles, which still maintain the appearance of a Mac interface. Many of the Mac-only features have yet to be announced, although the company expects to release additional details in the future.
Microsoft's information rights management (IRM) technology is currently only supported on Windows machines. As Office for Mac 2011 is focused on collaboration without worrying about compatibility issues, the updated Outlook will enable users to send documents using the IRM system to prevent accidental distribution to unauthorized recipients.
The upcoming version of Office, along with Microsoft's cloud-based services such as SkyDrive and SharePoint, will allow collaborators to simultaneously edit projects. While working on a Word document, the software will show which users are currently editing the file. To avoid interference between users, each paragraph is locked until the editing is finished. The interface also provides easy ways to chat with collaborators currently working on the project, or send e-mails to others, without requiring a second program.
The MacBU officials also hinted at an iPad version of Office for Mac. Developers are said to be considering several options such as a full version, lite version, and more. It is unclear if the company intends to optimize its web-based Office apps for the iPad, or if a native app is on the way.
Office for Mac 2011 is expected to be ready by the fourth quarter of this year. The company has yet to confirm specific plans, including a launch time-frame, for an iPad version.