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Office for Mac 2011 To Get the 'Ribbon' UI

Microsoft's controversial "ribbon" user interface will be coming to the Apple Macintosh platform when Office for Mac 2011 arrives sometime this year.

Microsoft provided fresh details about Office for Mac 2011 in conjunction with Macworld 2010, which is happening this week in San Francisco. In addition to the ribbon UI, Office for Mac 2011 will have a bevy of new Windows Office-like features and functionality, including co-authoring tools, Office Web Apps and "Outlook for Mac," which replaces Entourage. Microsoft's announcement did not specify exactly when Office for Mac 2011 will be generally available.

The sometimes maligned ribbon interface was introduced in Office 2007 and now is incorporated in a variety of Microsoft offerings. It has elicited mixed reactions among users.

"Any time you change a user interface, there will be users who are disrupted," said Sheri McLeish, an analyst at Forrester Research, in a telephone interview. "I think the jury is still out on the ribbon interface, but at the time it was introduced, there were few alternatives [to Office], so people have had to adjust to it."

In a telephone interview last year, Kirk Koenigsbauer, general manager for the Office Business Platform Group, said that Microsoft received "tremendous support for the Ribbon UI….This common navigational element makes it much easier to navigate multiple programs." Koenigsbauer made the statement after Microsoft rolled out its various 2010 product betas, including Office 2010, the Windows version of Office that is expected to be generally available in June.

Office for Mac 2011 will utilize features popular in the current Office for Mac 2008 version, including the "elements gallery," a floating pallet of formatting tools.

"I use, and actually prefer, Mac Office Word for my work," said Michael Cherry, research vice president at Directions on Microsoft, in a telephone interview. "It has a floating pallet of formatting tools that I find very convenient. The pallet does not exist in Windows Office Word."

Microsoft is replacing its Entourage e-mail, calendar and contacts application with Outlook for Mac when Office for Mac 2011 is released. In addition, Office for Mac 2011 will let users import Windows-based Outlook files (.PST) into the Outlook for Mac version, according to Microsoft's announcement.

"One of the best improvements in the new Mac Office is the ability to port .PST files from Outlook [Windows]," McLeish said. "That was a little known, but critical, feature that allowed Windows users to port contacts and files to other machines, or versions of Microsoft programs. In current versions of Mac Office you can only save those files locally."

The new co-authoring tools in Office for Mac 2011 will allow multiple users to work on Word, PowerPoint and Excel files from multiple locations and across platforms. Office for Mac 2011 will also connect to Microsoft Office Web Apps, allowing users to share Office docs through any machine with a browser.

"Microsoft Office is one of the best-selling applications for Apple computers," said Cherry. "This version, which looks to provide better compatibility with Microsoft products and across platforms, bodes well for users like me that use both types of computers on a daily basis."

About the Author

Herb Torrens is an award-winning freelance writer based in Southern California. He managed the MCSP program for a leading computer telephony integrator for more than five years and has worked with numerous solution providers including HP/Compaq, Nortel, and Microsoft in all forms of media.

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