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Jewish World Review
August 24, 2007
/ 10 Elul, 5767
The end of Microsoft Office?
If Mark Twain once spoke of the "exaggerated" reports of his demise,
the same might be applied to Microsoft Corp.'s Office productivity
suite, but only slightly. As with Belshazzar's party guests, however,
it is possible to view the handwriting on the wall thanks to recent
Last week, Google, which apparently is bound and determined to take
over the online world, added Sun's StarOffice software to its
"Google Pack" of free applications PC users can download. StarOffice,
as discussed here previously, is a productivity suite which rivals
Microsoft Office's functions of word processing, spreadsheet,
database, presentations and graphics. It's very good, and very capable
on many levels. Both the Google Pack and StarOffice run only on
computers running Microsoft Windows; there's some Google software for
the Mac and OpenOffice.org offers a version of StarOffice for Mac
But the Mac side isn't bereft of alternatives: in addition to the
recently reviewed NisusWriter Pro, which I like, comes Apple's own
"IWork '08," , released on August 7. This bundle, which retails
for $79, offers new editions of the Pages word processor and Keynote
presentation software, as well as "Numbers," which is a basic
spreadsheet. That $79 price is about 20-percent of the cost of
Microsoft's Office 2004, the "latest" software the firm has for the
Mac, though a new Mac Office is due sometime next year.
IWork '08 is not the kind of robust, hard-charging office productivity
suite those of us who are "knowledge workers" wrestle with on a daily
basis. There are templates in Pages, and very creative ones, for
letters, reports, business cards and the like. But the layouts are
more "artistic" and in some cases less formal, than what you'd find in
Microsoft Word. The Numbers spreadsheet can do many things, though it
doesn't incorporate all of the "macro" commands that are found in
Microsoft Excel. Hence, while I could open and edit a corporate
expense report form in Numbers, the Excel printout was far better
since the Mac version of Excel read the Windows Excel "macros"
The Keynote presentation program is, frankly, in a class by itself.
I'll bet that each and every one of those PowerPoint slide shows we
sit through in business would be improved just by using Keynote, which
is brilliant in its simplicity and powerful in its effects. This
software alone is worth the $79 IWork price tag.
And while there may be some hiccups going from Microsoft Excel to
Apple's Numbers, there's less heartache going from IWork to Office:
each component has an "export" feature which will save a file into an
equivalent Microsoft format. Whether each IWork "effect" will
translate is a question I've not answered yet, but I imagine most
basic ones would move easily.
For those who wish to duplicate certain Microsoft Office macros in the
equivalent IWork programs, I'm guessing that trial-and-error, plus the
group collaboration which is the Internet today, will enable most of
But that's a small price to pay for the freedom and low-price of iWork
'08. The writing screen in Pages is remarkably uncluttered, which is
nice. Adding key features a text box, table or chart is a click
away. The same goes for photos, which is easy thanks to the media
"browser" included in the program.
There's a lot to like in IWork, if you're a Mac user; there's much to
admire in StarOffice for PC users. Both of these might make Microsoft
nervous, particularly IWork, with a very slick interface, stunning
features and wallet-friendly price.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2007, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com