InfoWorld review: Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 gains ground

Microsoft's new suite for the Mac doesn't match Office 2010 for Windows, but a new ribbon interface, Outlook client, and SharePoint integration help close the gap

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Office ribbon comes to the Mac
When you open any of the applications in Office for Mac 2011, the very first thing you notice is the gallery that greets you. You can turn it off with a simple check-box click, but otherwise, it presents you with a variety of templates in which to create a new document and locations from which you can open an existing document. Once you make your selection, you're treated to the new ribbon view of the Office productivity world.

Windows-based Office users went through the Great Ribbon Migration a couple of years ago with the arrival of Office 2007. Office 2011 doesn't look exactly like the Office 2007/2010 interface (there's no "marble" in the upper-left corner of the window), but it's very similar. Depending on exactly what you do with the various Office apps, you may love or hate the ribbon -- or both, depending on exactly which task you're wrestling with.

If you tend to use Office for very basic tasks (authoring raw text, building straightforward spreadsheets, or creating rudimentary text-based presentations), then you'll probably find that the ribbon is a lot of unnecessary visual overhead. If, on the other hand, you are producing highly structured documents, collaborating with others, or building extensive visual documents of any sort, you'll probably fall in love with pieces of the ribbon interface.

The upshot is that the GUIs for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for the Mac are now much more completely in line with those on the Windows side. Now, it's important to note that this is the first released version of the apps with the new interface, and as we've seen on other significant occasions involving Microsoft releases, implementation can be a little rougher than we'd hope. I've looked at these apps in an earlier beta release, so I can tell you that progress has been made, and I expect that progress will continue to be made.

Office for Mac 2011 -- including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook -- now sports the same ribbon interface found in the Windows version of Office.
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