It has been almost four years since the last revision of Microsoft Office for the Mac, and Macintosh users can be forgiven for getting a little impatient. We heard all the buzz about the radical interface makeover for Office 2007 for Windows, and we wondered what user-interface goodies might be waiting for us.
While we waited, alternatives presented themselves. Apple's Pages, part of the company's iWork '08 suite that arrived last autumn, challenges the standard conception of word processing by blending in a generous helping of page layout. And open-source suites such as NeoOffice have duplicated and gone beyond what Microsoft Office has to offer.
After all that, what would the granddaddy of office suites have in store?
Well, it's safe to say that no one will really be startled by the way Office 2008 has turned out. The weight of history is too great to allow any really radical changes. There are established expectations of what users should be able to do with the programs, legacy documents that need to be able to opened and a world of Windows Office users whom Mac users need to exchange files with.
As a result, instead of drastically rethinking its Office suite, Microsoft has focused - mostly successfully - on making what's already there more accessible and easier to use. If there were features in Word, Excel or PowerPoint that you never knew about or just couldn't figure out how to use, chances are Office 2008 will either help you find them or help you use them.