Publishing tools
Word’s new Publishing Layout view gives you greater control over how text and images appear in your documents.

It’s always been a bit frustrating using Word to create brochures, postcards, posters, or other types of documents that require arranging different elements on the page. Previous versions simply haven’t been designed to perform that kind of page layout magic. Word 2008’s new Publishing Layout view changes that dramatically.

Publishing Layout offers a bunch of tools for placing and manipulating text and graphics on the page. Like Pages, Word 2008 allows you to create template documents with image and text placeholders; you can drag-&-drop images and text into those placeholders, making it easy to turn those templates into new, fresh documents. You can also link text boxes so text overflows from one to another.

The image-editing tools in Publishing Layout aren’t as good as those in Pages. While it is possible to add masks and transparency and make minor adjustments to images in your document, the program is nowhere near as adept at it as Pages. Another thing I noticed: the longer I worked in Publishing Layout mode, the slower Word seemed to get when manipulating images or moving text boxes around on the page.

Bye-bye, VBA
Word 2008 adopts the new, XML-based .docx format for documents. That format makes Word 2008 compatible with the latest version of Word for Windows. Unfortunately, those documents can’t be opened in older versions of Word without the downloadable .docx converter from Microsoft. To bypass this problem, Word 2008 does allow you to save documents in the older .doc format using a Compatibility Mode.

More significantly, Office 2008 marks the demise of Visual Basic for Applications. In its stead, Word includes an AppleScript library. Unfortunately, according to Microsoft, Word’s AppleScript library isn’t nearly as complete as the VBA library was. In addition, while there are 30 Automator actions for Word, they aren’t that useful. Neither AppleScript nor Automator will let you record a string of events in Word and save them as a reusable script.

Word does a good job of merging data from a variety of sources, including text files, Office’s own address book, and FileMaker Pro. But, unlike Pages, Word can’t merge data from Apple’s Address Book app. I’d prefer a program that can merge data from any source. But, given the choice, I’d take Word’s missing Address Book merge to Pages’ missing everything else.