For anybody who purchases a new Mac these days the first question they typically ask is – how do I get Office on to this? And the answer has always been pretty disappointing – Office for Mac was available, and it was a horribly stunted version compared to the Windows counterpart. Office for Mac 2008 was a slow, unintuitive mess, especially after Office 2007 gained its Ribbon interface. In fact, I was pretty sure Microsoft was purposefully making the Office for Mac suite a stunted excuse compared to the Windows version. Who knows?
Office 2010 for Windows was released a few months ago and it is a brilliant version – the user interface is great, the built in tools have been improved and the speed has increased a lot, especially with start up with apps. In fact, after using Office 2010 at work, and then using Office for Mac 2008 at home you realize how slow Office for Mac was.
Luckily that changes with Office for Mac 2011. I have been running the Beta version for quite a while and I eventually also got hold of the final version, and clearly Microsoft’s Mac division has been working hard to fix Office. The interface has been made cleaner, more powerful, and they have finally made it up to scratch with the rest of the Mac experience.
The product range has been simplified – especially compared to the Windows SKU’s. There are only two versions available: Home and Student (single user package, R999; three-user family package R1299, and Home and Business (single user package, R2499; licensed for two machines, R2699). Both versions include Word 2011, Excel 2001 and Powerpoint 2011. But the Home Business version gains Outlook 2011 as well.
Outlook 2011 is significant because it replaces Entourage 2008, which was has always been a very poor mail, contacts and calendar app. I cannot even explain to Windows users how bad Entourage was – even trying to import a Outlook PST file was impossible with Entourage. Outlook 2011 is almost identical to Outlook for Windows, but of course uses the Mac user interface guidelines, so if you are a Mac junkie for years you will be happy.
Talking about PST files – Outlook 2011 does away with the PST archive system which creates one giant file, and instead stores each message, calendar or contact entry into a separate file (you can still import your PST file over from your PC if you would like). This is primarily to make Outlook easier to use with Apple’s Time Machine backup solution. This way only delta changes to your mail needs to backed up, and Spotlight can quickly index and access these files.
Overall it is very similiar to Windows in terms of features, but there are a few new features as well. Do you like the unified inbox on your iPhone? You can do the same in Outlook 2011. All your account’s inboxes can populate one inbox if you prefer. If you Exchange at work, make sure they are running Exchange server 2007, previous versions are not supported. This is not as devastating as it sounds – your Snow Leopard mail account has the same limitation. So if you can access Exchange through Apple Mail on your Mac, you will be fine… (Thats a subtle tip, you might not need the more expensive version of Office for Mac 2011)
One thing that always bothered me about the Word 2008 for Mac was that it’s files was not perfectly compatible with the Windows version, and vice versa. Often I would try to open a report that had a bit of formatting, only to see it not render correctly. Word 2011 also includes some pretty great templates – and they need to, because Apple’s Pages includes very stylish templates, but Office has the big advantage of being able to use a massive online library of available templates.
But perhaps the most significant improvement is the addition of Visual basic macros which is finally coming to Mac. I tried a few more sophisticated documents from my Windows machine and did not have any problems. Of course the security conscious Protected Mode is also carried over from the Windows version.
Word 2011 also gains the collaborative features from Office 2011, but it requires a file to be stored online using Skydrive, but you can also use Sharepoint if you have that available to you. Of course it requires the latest version of Sharepoint, and I was unable to test this functionality. Skydrive based collaborative editing was not perfectly realtime in my experience, but it was still very useful.
Word also sports a new Word Publishing Layout tool which gives you precise publishing tools to quickly design and perfect flyers, banners and page layouts. Publishing view also gives and innovative new way of handling the image ordering – using a 3D stack to move around objects.
A small, but potentially very powerful feature is the full screen writing mode which take away all distractions, and makes you concentrate on just your writing. Great.
Once again macro support is back, which is such an essential part of Excel, but was somehow ignored in the previous version. I was once again impressed by the range of templates available out of the box – for example the personal finance calculators. I was also surprised to see that conditional formatting is also finally available – for some reason it was skipped in the 2008 version.
The graphics portion of Excel is also finally up to par with the Windows version – graphs and SmartArt features look very good. Im not going to pretend to be a big Excel user, but I can honestly say it is finally good enough.
In 2007 when Microsoft debuted its ribbon interface, it was Powerpoint 2007 that got the biggest overhaul. Powerpoint 2010 on Windows improves even further on that by including very decent graphics tools – which does not require you editing an image outside of Powerpoint and then copying the image back.
Similiar to Word, Powerpoint gets the new image ordering tool which shows you in 3D the layers used. This will take a lot of frustration out of image rich slides, especially ones using the new animation effects. MS has clearly taken a few tips from Keynote, because they do look fantastic without taking away the attention of your audience.
Powerpoint 2011 gets all these new editing tools – like the super easy to use background remover, but video editing options is not available in Office for Mac. I guess they realize that Mac’s come with Quicktime X or iMovie, which is plenty good enough right? Some people might say that Apple Keynote is still the best presentation software – which might even be true, but which office runs on Apple’s productivity suite? For me the major reason I ignored Keynote was that its export to Powerpoint functionaility was almost consistently useless. I stick to Powerpoint thanks.
Its sometimes difficult to get excited about something like Microsoft Office, but with Office for Mac 2008 Macheads have always felt a bit shortchanged. In fact Office for Mac was such a poor product for me that I used to use VMWare Fusion and then booted into Windows 7 on my Mac when I wanted to do “real work”. Office for Mac 2008 was that bad.
With Office for Mac 2011 things have changed – now Mac users can use Office without any limitations. The apps launch quickly, they are easier to use and they do not feel like immitations of the “real thing”. Perhaps the best part of Office for Mac 2011 is that Mac users can now also use Outlook 2011, which is still the defacto standard in PIM software out there. Sure, Apple’s Mail and iCal apps work well, but Outlook is still a polished, well rounded, integrated application.
If you are not too bothered about Outlook, the other apps are still great value for money if you take the Home and Student edition. If you are an Office for Mac 2008 user I cannot recommend this upgrade enough. You will be surprised at how good Office on the Mac really can be.
Finally! After being released on iPad a few weeks back, VLC is now available on iPhone as well, using a universal app. For those who do not know – VLC player is the “it can play any video format” open source player that is available on a variety of platforms. Doesnt matter what the video file format is, VLC somehow finds a way to play it…
VLC player for iPhone does require a bit of horsepower, because it bypasses the dedicated video decoding hardware on the device. So you will need at least a iPhone 3GS or later, and you can expect the battery not to last as long when you are playing files through the dedicated iPod app.
VLC uses the iTunes file transfer method – you simply connect your iOS device, go to the device in iTunes, select apps, scroll down to “File Sharing” and select the VLC player app on the left. Click on the “Add” button and then select the files you want to throw onto your iPhone or iPad. No need to transcode / convert files for use in iTunes. Most of the files I tested it with played without issue. After you are done watching files, you can simply delete them right on the device.
Go get it here.
Here at Bandwidth Blog we do love our Apple products, especially our iPhones and iPads. So this week I decided to ask someone not so infatuated with Apple to review the iPad. Albert from ZADroid is not an Apple fanboy, his allegiance lies with Android. I will be honest – I am not a pro on Android. I have used them, and like them a lot. But if you want in-depth knowledge regarding specific Android devices or the platform in general, you have to go look at ZADroid. These guys know what they talk about – and they are fanatic about Android. So if you are sick of fanboys reviewing Apple products – who better to evaluate a popular device like the iPad?
Albert is a developer, gadget geek, and all-round nice guy. He’s passionate about Android, and writes for ZADroid, a new blog that covers Android in South Africa. However, anything shiny and sufficiently technologically advanced puts a smile on his face. Above and beyond that, Albert loves the web and the technologies that drive it, good design, and original ideas.
So, thanks to a combination of pure blind luck and a massive helping of generosity, I am now an iPad user.
Now, I’m an Android fanboy (I run and write for ZADroid), so the reality distortion field that makes your average Apple consumer tear up at the sight of anything with a half-eaten fruit on it doesn’t really apply to me.
Will I be able to give you an objective opinion on the iPad? Probably not, but it may be more objective than what someone with a cupboard full of empty boxes from Apple can give you. (ed: are you talking about me?!)
“What about the Galaxy Tab?!” I hear you scream? Well, it’s way too expensive, and in my opinion, Android isn’t quite ready yet to power a tablet. We’ll see once I get to review one. For now, though, I have an iPad, so I may just as well use it.
I’ve been using the iPad for about a week now, and I must admit, it’s quite handy. Apple’s hardware has always been a notch up from anything else on the market, and the iPad is pretty solid, and pretty nice to look at. I don’t like the shiny glass screen and the fact that it is one of the worst fingerprint magnets I’ve ever seen. I think that it’s too heavy. However, the screen is gorgeous, bright and vivid, and very responsive. This is perfect for consuming things with bright colours, like movies and photos, but I find that trying to read a novel tires my eyes faster than I expected. So, I’ll probably acquire a Kindle soon for that purpose. I also think that a front-facing camera couldn’t hurt, but hey, that’s planned obsolescence for you. Oh, and the battery life is astonishing.
Software-wise, I’m at both ends of the spectrum. I’ve always appreciated the (mostly) consistent nature of iOS. It’s also the first platform where you’ll see new, sometimes brave, but intuitive, user interaction design. The keyboard is much better than I expected it to be, too. So, there’s that side of the coin. On the other side, I find iOS clunky to use. Way too many taps to get somewhere simple in a lot of cases, and no hard back button, makes for a frustrating experience. Example? The arse-backwards way of attaching photos to an email.
The notification system sucks. It has been said before, but needs repeating, because it sucks so hard.
No multitasking. Not much more I can say about that. Sure, the update in November will add multitasking to the table, but it isn’t multitasking as we know it from desktop computing (although I understand and appreciate the technical reasons for this). We’ll see.
iTunes for SA. I’m sorry, but I don’t feel like jumping through all those hoops that’ll get me a (T&C violating) US account. So, yes, I’m satisfied with the content South Africans can access. No games, movies or music, but I’m not much of a gamer, and there are ways around the other issue.
So, all in all? I like it. It has its shortcomings, but show me a modern piece of technology that doesn’t. I don’t see it as essential, and I wouldn’t spend my own money on it (maybe when the third generation arrives I may feel differently about that). That being said, I have found a place for it. I do find myself using the iPad instead of my netbook for quite a few things. To me, it’s all about consumption, which is something the iPad caters for exceptionally well. When I need to do something that requires a bit more complexity than the iPad can handle, I pick up my Android phone, or head on over to my desktop.
Does the iPad replace an existing piece of technology? No, but it does seem to fill a niche I didn’t realize existed: instant gratification via ease of consumption in a world of information overload.
After watching the Apple‘s Back to Mac event (yes you can go download it on iTunes under podcasts), I thought I might give my opinions as well. Once again a person gets the idea that these events are perfectly orchastrated – every single slide and sentence was perfectly in tune with the bigger picture of the day. Steve made it very clear that the technology they perfected on their mobility front has creeped back to the Mac as well, be it software or hardware.
First off – I do not really care about iLife all that much. Sure, its a nice multimedia suite when you buy a new Mac, but it really is aimed at non-pros. iPhoto is still not as good as Picasa, and as long as Apple insists on using its ridiculous iPhoto library file structure, I will not use it. Garageband has also gotten a few improvements, but the true standout of the day was iMovie. You can still do all the same things you did in the past, but this time round they added Movie Trailers. Using simple guidelines a user can make very convincing spoof movie trailers. I would recommend you go look at them.
The event also focussed on the next version of Mac OS X: “Lion”. (Something struck me though – how does a person top the name “Lion” in terms of cats? Maybe its the last cat name prototype?) The biggest change to Lion is that it will take some of the ease of use of iOS back to the Mac. First off – the Mac Appstore. Now I realise people might throw up their arms thinking Steve has also locked down the Mac as well, just like he did with the iPhone. That is not the case at all – users still have the choice of getting their software from other sources as well, but people who don’t want to go trawl the internet looking for a specific app now have a very easy way of searching and installing the app.
The Mac Appstore will work almost exactly the same as on iPad and iPhone, and it gains all the same ease of use features. The Top Apps and Categories buttons are still there, but perhaps more significantly, you will also now have a centralized area to update all your apps with one single click. No more using third party utilities or going into every app and trying to update them.
On the hardware front Steve announced the new Macbook Air – and it’s a beauty. While very similiar to the old Macbook Air in concept, the new version takes a lot pointers from the iPad. The inside is almost all battery, with Apple doing away with the standard hard drive “shell” convention. They added the flash memory directly to the tiny motherboard. Stand out features are the full unibody construction, instant on, 15 second boot up time and very good battery life. The machine can be used for wireless browsing up to 7 hours on the 13 inch model, with up to an amazing 30 days of standby time while the machine is sleeping. The 11 and 13 inch models both have reasonably high res screens for their size as well.
My only problem is that Apple still gives only 2GB of RAM as standard. You can configure it with 4GB of RAM, but you have to add it as a custom build to order. So dont count on iStore carrying the 4GB of RAM yet. Maybe they will surprise us – because 2GB of RAM is getting a little cramped these days.
The Macbook Air is already available in the US, iLife ’11 is already available and OS X Lion is coming in “Summer 2011″ – thats June 2011 for us…
Microsoft has launched its Office for Mac 2011 desktop suite in South Africa, with a strong focus on collaboration and social networking tools that it says will allow users to work with colleagues and friends anywhere, anytime, and across platforms. After more than two years of hard work, Mac users will be happy to hear that Office for Mac 2011, the latest version of the productivity suite, will be in stores in 100 countries including South Africa by the end of October 2010.
Over 1 billion PCs and Macs run Microsoft Office and Office for Mac – making the Office franchise the most used productivity suite worldwide. The latest offering for the Mac builds on Microsoft’s drive towards allowing you to work the way you want, where you want.
Speaking at the launch in Sandton yesterday afternoon, Lance Thorp, Entertainment and Devices Lead, said that more than ever before, Office for Mac 2011 brings the familiar productivity tools and features of Microsoft Office to a suite of applications that work brilliantly on the Mac. “With the many new exciting feature additions and improvements, this version is shaping up to be the best of Office for Mac yet”, said Thorp.
Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 adds rich new features to the familiar Office applications, helping you to manage your home and business the way you want, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Most notably are the improvements to Outlook. Outlook for Mac 2011 lets you see your calendar from within your email, as well as allowing you to read and save related emails in a single thread.
Reliable compatibility with Macs and PCs running Office around the world ensures you have the right tools to create, share and collaborate with virtually anyone, anywhere. The new Office Web Apps let you post, access, edit and share Office documents from where you want with nearly any computer with a browser, allowing you to co-author a document with multiple people in multiple locations.
Messenger for Mac 8 enables you to communicate in real-time with audio and video support, and Remote Desktop for Mac 2 so you can drive your Windows-based PC from your Mac.
In store from 26 October locally, the suite will come in two editions at retail, both available with either a single user license, or a multiple user option – Office for Mac Home and Student 2011 (ERP: R999- R1299) and Office for Mac Home and Business 2011 (ERP: R2499- R2699). For better alignment across platforms, the Office for Mac 2011 pricing and edition options, map closer with Office for the Windows operating system.
On 20 October Apple is hosting a “Back to Mac” event with their familiar cryptic invitation card shown above. You can clearly see the Lion in the background. True to Apple’s codenames which stick to the cat family names. Past codenames included Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard and the most recent Snow Leopard. Will the next won be called Lion? I really do not expect them to announce a launch date, but just give a preview, similiar to what they did with Snow Leopard. My big expectation for the next OS X is multitouch. Cannot wait to see a touch enabled iMac, but only if it has the recently patented hinge we wrote about earlier. If you have a look at the Apple logo in the invitation, you will see that it’s on a hinge, so maybe that hints at the new hinge patents. But I really doubt they will upgrade the iMac by now already, but maybe in future.
So what else can we expect? Well the Macbook Air hasnt got an upgrade in more than a year. The standard Macbook Pro has also seen its last upgrade in April 2010, and the XServe hasnt gotten any love since April 2009. I also expect a bigger focus on enterprise features for new Macs and new versions of OSX Server, with better iOS mobile device management coming in future (or at least I am hoping for that).
By the way – if you are planning on buying any Apple hardware, take a look at the MacRumors: Buyers Guide. It shows the upgrade cycles for all hardware and gives recommendations on the purchase timing of the hardware you are interested in. For example their guide clearly states to not buy a Macbook Air at present. Its not a great feeling buying an expensive computer only to see it being upgraded 2 weeks later…
Give us some feedback – what do YOU expect to see on 20 October?
These days the Appstore on iPhone has become so massive that its pretty tough to find the best apps for a certain task. Whether its productivity, games or entertainment, you cannot simply go and download the most popular app of the week. While the popularity of an app might be indicative of how good it is, in many cases the top selling app in a week might be merely doing so well because it is on sale, or its just a “fad”.
Luckily there is now a source to quickly find the very best apps out there. No searching through Top 25 lists, just the very best.
Here is how it works:
Applications are nominated throughout each month by our knowledgeable (and good-looking!) committee members. Once each month, our committee will then vote on the nominated applications and induct, at most, 12 applications into the App Hall of Fame. Those inducted applications will be displayed on the site for all time as a reference to app lovers new and old.
Their first twelve apps have just been announced:
I have to agree with their choice for the first month, these are all great apps – I personally use Evernote, Twitter and Shazam. But I dont care about the games. While I do play Angry Birds and Flight Control, games typically fall in the “flavour of the week” category for me. Here is hoping they focus a bit more on actual useful apps as well.
While I am on about this – here is my own personal App Hall of Fame (excluding the ones mentioned already):
Pretty interesting observation made by Brett Jordan here. This takes into account the Apple’s most popular product 10 years ago vs now: