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 2011: Upgrade sooner or later?
There are two additional apps that come with Office 2011 that I haven't discussed. The first is Remote Desktop Connection, which will be important for those who need to manage Windows servers or support Windows desktop machines in an office setting. It works well once the underlying network properties are set up correctly, and it offers the same interface and experience as the Windows version. There's also a new Messenger app, which will be nice if you use Microsoft Messenger a lot and haven't already fallen in love with one of the many other instant messenger apps for the Mac. It's there, but I don't consider it a major selling point.

If you use Office in a business or academic setting or you just want more from Office on the Macintosh, then Office 2011 is a solid step forward. It's important to note that it, like most Microsoft software, is likely to become more stable, more fully featured, and more, well, workable in fits and starts over the next year or so.

If stability and predictable user response are important to you, you might wait a few Patch Tuesday cycles before diving in -- or a couple of months of limited trial before rolling out the new suite to an entire company. If you're an individual user who's at home with beta and early release software, there's no reason to hesitate. Even with a few rough edges, Word 2011, Excel 2011, and PowerPoint 2011 are significant upgrades to their Office 2008 for Mac counterparts.

Outlook 2011 is better than Entourage too, though it perhaps has the longest way to go before becoming a fully realized product. If Microsoft can solve the performance issues, and the company's partners can link it to the rest of the world (by porting over all the extensions that work on Outlook for Windows), then Outlook for Mac will be a "must" application. Until then, it's a definite maybe.

Office for Mac 2011 brings Macintosh users most of the Windows Office 2007 experience with an important bit of cloud computing thrown in. That means Mac users are still left behind, but they're now within the same generation of technology, even if there are many features that still separate the two software worlds.

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