Mac Users Face Hurdles with New Office Versions

By Daniel Drew Turner  |  Posted 2007-05-29 Email Print this article Print

Companies that use Microsoft Office on both Macintosh and Windows PCs will have to deal with cross-platform compatibility issues with the new Office 2008 productivity suite.

With the introduction of the new Office 2008 productivity suite for Mac OS X, planned for late 2007, companies that rely on Visual Basic for Applications scripts and macros on Macintosh and Windows clients will lose transparent cross-platform compatibility.

This will happen because Microsoft is abandoning VBA script and macro support with the introduction of the new productivity suite.

In addition, the recently released Office 2007 for Windows introduced a new default file format, the OOXML (Office Open XML) .docx format, which is not compatible with Office 2003 on Windows and Office 2004 on Mac OS X. OOXML will be the default file format for Office 2008 also.

As a result, Microsoft and others are scrambling to offer options to regain at least a limited degree of compatibility for future Office users.

Companies that currently support a mixed Mac and PC environment won't have to confront this problem as long as they continue to support the current Office 2003 and Office 2004 suites. But they will have to confront the cross-platform compatibility issue when they decide to upgrade their applications and computers.

But to give customers a new path to compatibility, Microsoft's Mac BU (Macintosh Business Unit) released in late May a "provisional" stand-alone, drag-and-drop file format converter tool for Mac OS X.

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This tool allows users to convert Office 2007 docx documents to the RTF format. The company has also said that this tool will be updated later this summer to become a built-in feature of Office 2004 and will allow users to open of Office 2007 Excel and PowerPoint files. This update will be delivered as part of the automated Office update process.

In addition, Apple declined to confirm or deny recent rumors that the upcoming Leopard version of Mac OS X will include a version of TextEdit, the built-in word processor, that could open and save to the .docx format.

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