Well…I guess it wouldn’t really be a new toy per sé. For Debbie and Joy, and probably a few others, I’ll save you reading this techie post, …..blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah. Blah blah….. See, thinking of your well being :-)
As much as I love our iMac, as much as I like Pages in iWork, as much as I love OpenOffice as an office alternative, the world works in Microsoft Office. Office was pretty much the defacto standard a number of years ago with the only viable alternative being Corel WordPerfect. WordPerfect is still around but Office with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, Access, and of course Outlook is still the defacto standard today. We use the Office suite including Outlook at work, as do most of our customers.
Its not that Microsoft Office is the best out there, but it is the one that most are familiar with. There are things that Office can do that others can’t, but OpenOffice can do things that Microsoft Office can’t. Each has its own proprietary format too. That just makes things even more complicated. If you look at all the alternatives to Office, all of them say they are compatible with Office. Well…yes and no. For just simple formated documents, maybe. But add a few more complicated formating styles and you will see that it isn’t quite the same when you open them in Office. Add a few tables in Word, play with them in OpenOffice and save it back to a .doc, and open it back in Word and you will see that things are not exactly what you were expecting. In Excel there are a few differences too. For example, in OpenOffice you can Sum as many individual cells as you like. In Office, you are limited to 30. Both are not limited for of a range of cells though, so those aren’t a problem, just picking individual cells. I found this out the hard way when I was working on a spreadsheet at home and sent it to work. It wasn’t a work document but one I use for tracking our lottery funding for our department leads. I had to manually move a bunch of cells to another row in order to Sum the row. Hey, someone has to do it :-)
So, I broke down and got Microsoft Office through a program at work that our company has provided for us through Microsoft. Hey…when there are over 35,000 employees and you buy a lot of Microsoft products, I think you should get a few perks. It cost me $30.72 Canadian dollars for the Mac version. I thought it was supposed to be more, but maybe it is for the Windows version. Anyway, it is a pretty good deal in my mind. Looking at the features it came with, the equivalent on the Mactopia site is $399.95 Canadian for the Retail version or $299.99 Canadian for the download version.
The install was pretty much like any Mac install that has an installer package. For those using Windows you won’t know that for many Mac software installs, it is as simple as dragging the program to your Applications folder. And to uninstall them, you drag the program from the Applications folder to the Trash. Thats it. With an installer, it does it like a PC install in many ways. And, in typical Windows installs, Office automatically takes over as the default and associates all the files it can as Office files. Mac installs don’t normally do that. You have to do the association manually so that way you can try it before you decided to make it the default. Sigh….the default was OpenOffice. However, since I purchase the software and intended it to be the default, I am OK with it taking over….this time.
One of the first things you notice is that they have made the programs look a lot like Pages, Keynote, and Numbers in iWork. The interface is very much the same. If you are familiar with iWork programs, you will feel right at home. Interesting that they also use the floating window with all the formating tools in one place just like with Pages. I like that as everything is right at your fingertips. It also has something called Microsoft Project Gallery. It has many templates from which to start your documents; brochures, business cards, calendars, CD labels, coordinated forms, events, flyers, home essentials, labels, ledger sheets, marketing, resumes, stationary, etc. If you have used Pages on a Mac you will see that it has many of the same/similar templates and maybe some additional ones. I have iWork ’06 but I believe iWork ’09 has more templates than the ’06 version.
It also comes with Entourage. Entourage is the Mac equivalent of Outlook. I opened it and it started up a wizard to have it import all my email and settings from an existing email client. We have been using Apple Mail for quite a while now. Actually, we switched when Thunderbird was separated from the Mozilla project and they decided to concentrate on Firefox. Thunderbird has been kept up to date by another project. Oh well. Sorry…got off on another tangent. Anyway, after if imported my emails and accounts from Apple Mail, it wanted my passwords for the accounts. Wasn’t sure I wanted to do that yet so I didn’t didn’t fill that in. It imported most of my email accounts except one. Of course that one is the main one. It copied over the kids emails, but not the main one. That was odd. It also didn’t bring the rules that I had set up in Apple Mail. It has of course the Calendar function. If I was working from home and needed to connect to work, this would be very good. But, the Mac already has a calendar function, so wouldn’t be needing it. I don’t know if they sync or not as I didn’t try to find out. It has pretty much everything that Outlook has and one more feature. Something called My Day. It looks like a little pop out widget that syncs with the Calendar. Kind of cool, but maybe a bit redundant. I guess it is a smaller footprint than Calendar on your screen. I played with Entourage for a bit and even had it download some email, but decided I didn’t want to use it. I know that I would finally be able to read the Outlook/Express emails better in Entourage, but I would be concerned that it will be like its Windows version where it comes to security. One of the first things that Office did when it was installed was ask me to download a security update that would prevent someone from taking over my computer. I don’t have, or need yet, a virus scanner. I sometimes go online and do a scan at TrendMicro, but that takes all of 10 seconds. That being said, I do believe Microsoft is doing their best on security issues and have improved substantially from a few years ago. Even Macs, and Linux, have security updates. Kudos to Microsoft for trying their best to fix the problems that they created :-)
In the end I have a program that works with 90% of all the files that might be sent our way. Yes, OpenOffice did most of that too, but now the documents will definitely work on everyone’s system. Plus, now the kids will be using Office for any of their school work and will be more comfortable when they go university or college.
We got sent a file recently with a .wps extension. OpenOffice tried to open it, but it couldn’t. I thought it was a WordPerfect document, but in fact it was a Microsoft Works file. I found a free online converter and saved it to a .doc and then we could read it. IF I had Word, it would have opened it, but I just got Office yesterday, so a bit too late.
If you have anything to add, please do. If you have a question, please ask.