Microsoft has unveiled its Microsoft Office 98 Macintosh Edition Tuesday, showing beta demos of the suite and outlining the product road map.
Due by the end of the year, the suite features: Word 98, Excel 98, PowerPoint 98, Outlook Express, and Internet Explorer.
To further integration between the old Mac Office suite and new Windows versions, a converter for Mac Word 5.1 and 6.0.1 users to open Word 97 for Windows documents has already been made available on Microsoft's Website.
The Access database product, available in the Windows suite, is not included in the Mac version. Microsoft says the markets that Apple is now targeting - education and the creative professional - are not high-end database users.
At the recent Macworld Expo in Boston, Bill Gates said the Mac office suite is "more advanced than what we've done on the Windows platform" and will require no setup. The beta already delivers on that promise, with the new installation procedure.
Users simply have to drag the Office folder from the CD-ROM to the hard drive icon, and the program installs itself. No application launches and the system files are placed in their proper areas. This feature is not yet available on the Windows products.
IS managers can customise the contents of the install folder, and also add company templates or documents before pushing the install out to their client machines.
Microsoft, which drew criticism from Mac users for its previous port-and-tweak Mac applications, did an online survey of Mac users to learn what makes an application "Maclike." The survey yielded these top four characteristics:
-- Integrates well with other Mac applications and the system, cited by 40% of the survey takers;
-- Users can intuitively figure out how to perform the job they want to do, cited by 34% of the survey;
-- Dialog boxes and interface controls look and behave like those of other Mac apps, said 34% of survey respondents; and
-- Easy and flexible installation, said 21% of the respondents.
"We're not taking a lowest common denominator approach. We're taking what users need and optimising it for the Mac platform," says Matthew Price, group product manager for Microsoft Office.
The suite also features the first appearance of self-repairing applications, which Microsoft touted at its recent Windows 98 platform briefing. If a user deletes necessary files for an application to function, the program will reinstall those missing components from the CD-ROM before continuing.
Office also integrates with popular Macintosh mail clients to enable users to easily send Office attachments in email.
The file formats and toolbars used in both Windows and Macintosh suites will be the same between platforms, the company says.
Microsoft's Office for the Mac site is at http://www.microsoft.com/macoffice/.