For those who have to work in a mixed environment or share complex Office files frequently, this next release of Microsoft's Office for Mac (January 2008) is hotly anticipated.
When Apple switched to Intel processors in 2006, Microsoft had a huge task to change their software code so that it would run natively on the Intel-based Macs. Instead of upgrading the current version, Microsoft decided to focus on the next version. The current version of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) works on the new generation of Macs using Apple's built-in emulation technology called Rosetta.
As a user, you never see this emulator but you can feel it at times with sluggish responses. And if you only have 1 gig of RAM, you may notice other programs running sluggishly as well. In fact, I have noticed that PowerPoint runs at turtle-speed when it has graphics inserted from the PC version. So slow in fact that many times, I run the PC version of PowerPoint in a virtual machine which is so much faster.
However, the next version of Office for the Mac promises to run natively on Intel-based Macs which should mean increased speed and performance.
But it also promises better compatibility with PC originated files. In most cases, the current version works with the majority of documents just fine but once in a while, some formatting or graphic would trip the mac version up. For instance, if someone put a 4 color picture (CMYK) instead of a 3 color (RGB) picture, the image would show up as a black box on the Mac.
PowerPoint is the worst transgressor cross-platform as Flash and Windows Media files would work in the PC version but would not work on the Mac. And then if you inserted a QuickTime video into a Mac version of PowerPoint, a PC user couldn't play it. Managing cross-platform issues sometimes posed an ugly challenge and as a minority Mac user, I hated to ask my PC associates to make compromises. My short term solution was to run the PC version of PowerPoint inside a virtual machine running Windows which ran faster. Go figure.
So we'll see what the next version holds. Microsoft said that cross platform compatibility was a top priority during development of this new version coming in January. Time will tell but from what I've seen so far, it is a must-have upgrade for someone like me that spends most of the day using Office.