Over the past few days we’ve been playing around the latest beta release of Microsoft Office for Mac 2011. Many of the changes made are hard to appreciate without actually seeing the application suite in use, and for that reason alone we have assembled a massive gallery of screenshots. On the other hand, images can be meaningless without a bit of an explanation so we’ve put down a brief summary of our initial thoughts. You can check them all out after the jump.
Across the board, each application has had its UI completely overhauled as Microsoft has made the wise decision to redo the entire layout of the application suite. Instead of the awful configuration found in Office for Mac 2008, 2011 draws from both Office 2007 and Office 2010 for Windows. In fact, it did such a good job that we can’t think of a reason why someone who is used to one OS wouldn’t be able to jump into the other and get work done in Office. One of the main reasons for this is Ribbons. Microsoft has finally conceded that people don’t like using the attractive but horribly implemented Toolbox found in previous versions of Office for Mac. Yes, the option to use the Toolbox is still there, but it’s no longer nearly impossible to get away without using it. One nice thing we will say about the Toolbox is that if you’re heavily into incorporating multimedia into your documents, the Toolbox is now fully integrated with iPhoto, iTunes, Photo Booth and Garage Band. It works phenomenally well. Speaking of things working, Excel finally has working support for macros. We can’t even tell you how happy this makes nerds like us. But back to Ribbons. They just make life so much easier. Basically every option you could ever want to use is attractively presented to you through the ribbons. What this does is allow you to save yourself an awful lot of time navigating the menu bar, hence why Microsoft calls the Ribbon a “Fluent User Interface”.
Sadly there is a pretty big weak link in Office 2011: Outlook. It seems that Microsoft simply sacrificed brains for beauty. Don’t get us wrong. It’s definitely the best and most powerful email client we’ve ever used on OS X, but after using it for 10 minutes we honestly gave up on it. Why? Because it simply requires more work to get simple tasks done than on the Windows version. It sucks to say it, but given the choice between using the new Outlook for Mac and virtualizing Outlook for Windows, we’d go with the latter any day. We’ve got more that 50 screenshots lined up for your eyes to feast upon, so check them out, ok?