- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2008

In a perfect world, the skies today would be bright and sunny, the temperature warm and the climate friendly.

Flowers would blossom, birds chirp, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average would soar to heights unknown in history. We’d also solve global warming and sort out the Republican and Democratic primary fields. The Redskins would select a worthy successor to coach Joe Gibbs.

Also — and this much you can actually count on in the real world — Microsoft would introduce Office for Mac 2008.

Such a product might seem mundane, but it is essential to getting work done.

If your work involves the creation or use of knowledge, such as letters, reports, memos, spreadsheets, presentations, etc., then you need what Microsoft is selling. Today, Microsoft beats the world with a Mac product beyond compare.

If you use a Mac, the answer for productivity has been something with the Microsoft name on it, especially since the WordPerfect folks, sadly, ceded the Mac contest.

While some versions of Mac Office have had their quirks, Office 2008 is a splendid release overall. It’s slick but not too overpowering.

This suite delivers great integration, compatibility and ease of use.

I spend most of my time with a word processor, and here Word 2008 combines the usual friendliness of the Mac interface with the nice touches found in last year’s release for Windows, Office 2007.

The click of a button reveals a “ribbon” of document options, including such “elements,” as Microsoft calls them, as a cover page, table of contents, header, footer and bibliography. If you’ve ever struggled with APA, Chicago, MLA or Turabian styles for a bibliography, this feature alone is worth the upgrade.

Word 2008’s graphical features will delight many. Creating a table or chart is very quick and easy: just a couple of mouse clicks and you’re done.

There are six different hierarchical charts alone from which you can choose: Organization devotees will have a field day.

Crucial in Word 2008, indeed with all of the Mac Office programs, is the level of file compatibility with Windows users.

Here, Word 2008 is outstanding: You can set a default to save files in the traditional Word “.doc” format, or the newer XML-based “.docx” style. The program will open, and edit, each of these, along with numerous other formats.

I share files continuously with Windows-based Word-using colleagues, and during about a month of using beta versions of Word 2008, I’ve had nary a complaint, formatwise.

My second most used program is Microsoft’s Entourage 2008, which delivers a lot. Finally, it integrates with Apple’s “Spotlight” search engine, making searching for documents and contacts easier.

Sadly, as with Apple Inc., Microsoft still cannot offer what I’d call a valid reason why e-mail users on Macs can’t specify delivery or read receipts on e-mail, as their Windows (and Thunderbird-using) brethren can.

But that’s a small, albeit perpetually annoying, failing. Entourage is good stuff for information management, and I can recommend it highly.

Read Mark Kellner’s Tech blog at www3.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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