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Mac Office 2004

Like millions of others I use Microsoft Office every day of my life. I'm currently participating in the Office 12.0 beta programme. One way or another you might say I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Office fan.

But there has been a glaring gap in my Office experience bank for some time, something I resolved to put right in the light of several recent emails from forum members. I'm talking about MS Office for Apple Macs.

There are six computers in my office. All of them bar one are Windows XP machines, and they run my business with a little help from me and my colleagues. The one non-Windows computer is a G4 PowerMac, which I mainly use when working with one important client based in Hong Kong. The company's South-East Asia director is a Mac fan, and has furnished his entire HK office with iMacs – 300 of them in total. I need to work remotely on this network, and it seemed easier to join them, rather than fight them, so to speak. Hence the trusty PowerMac.

Like many of you, I enjoy my Mac, but I've been struggling recently with the software – my old version of MacOffice wasn't up to it, quite frankly, and it was time for an upgrade. Apart from that, quite a few of you have asked me to comment on MacOffice 2004. The software isn't exactly hot off the press – it's been available for some time, in fact – but it seems there are many who, like me, hadn't got around to it yet.

Enter the Microsoft press centre, that fine body of people who are unfailingly helpful and efficient. I've mentioned this before, but it's worth saying again: the Microsoft UK press office people are a credit to their company. I've lost count of the times I've left it far too near to my deadline to ask for an official Microsoft comment, or a telephone interview with a spokesperson, but the press office has never once let me down. They didn't let me down when I asked for a copy of MacOffice 2004, either. The software arrived two days after my request, and is now safely installed on my PowerMac.

"Enough of that!" I hear you say. "What about the software – what's it like?" Surprisingly good is the answer. It's early days for me (I'll be better able to respond after a week or two of use) but my initial reaction is very favourable. MacOffice looks great on the screen and is just as easy to use as the Windows version. I love the email/project management application called Entourage.

It's sometimes said that without MacOffice Apple would have been in dire trouble; the necessity for Mac users to be able to work in the same Office environment as their Windows counterparts is really a core requirement now. An Apple without a core? I wouldn't want one, and today I'm a happy bunny – a PowerMac running Tiger and MacOffice 2004 is a force to be reckoned with. Would I convert my office to Macs, like my Hong Kong client? Steady now, don't let's rush our fences. I love Windows XP, and I'm already an Office 12.0 convert, even this far from launch. But those G5 PowerMacs and big Apple cinema monitors really are the business when it comes to looks.

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