Office for Mac Mutters

When I got my first Mac nearly three years ago[1], I bought the Home version of Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac. This wasn’t too expensive at the time, and was licensed for up to three machines, which oddly enough is how many Macs I currently have.[2]

I don’t really use office apps at home that much – I have a couple of spreadsheets, I write the occasional document, and that’s about it. I could use Apple’s own iWork suite for all that, really, but it’s just a little easier to transfer documents to the office suite I use at work, so I tend to keep using Excel[3] and Word rather than Numbers and Pages. I don’t have a need to make presentations, so PowerPoint and Keynote aren’t relevant to me.

One thing in Office 2008 that I don’t use is the Entourage mail client. I did give it a try for a while, but it has one major flaw when used on Mac OS X. It doesn’t play nicely with Time Machine, as it keeps all its content in one honking big database file, in a similar way to the PST files used by Outlook on Windows. As Time Machine works on the file level, keeping that database backed up is a bit of an issue.

But now there’s a shiny new version of Office for Mac, which loses Entourage in favour of a Mac version of Outlook. And would you believe it, Microsoft have wised up to Time Machine, and data is now stored in separate files, allowing nice incremental backups, and indeed message-level restores.  Sounds good, and when it was announced I was pretty sure I’d get hold of the new version of Office and have a good play with it.

However, it wouldn’t be Microsoft if they didn’t get something wrong[4]. They like to sell different editions of Office, you see. I think they do this to make sure everyone is as confused as possible, rather than to maximise income. Office 2011 comes in two varieties, a “Home and Student” version which contains Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and a “Home and Business” version which adds Outlook, the ability to connect to Exchange server, and the legal right to use it for commercial purposes. OK, I can see the logic in having a “not licensed for business use” version and selling it at a reduced price. I can even see that leaving out business-friendly things like Exchange connectors makes sense. But the idea that Outlook is somehow something that only business users will be interested in strikes me as ever so slightly bonkers. The previous “Home” version included Entourage, so why doesn’t the new one include Outlook?

It’s a little tricky to compare prices of the two versions – Apple’s own site shows a three user pack of the Home version at £109.95 and a single user pack of the Business version at £189.95, or two licences for a slightly painful £239.95. A bit more digging shows Amazon having single user packs for both at £75 and £169.95, which suggests that you’d have to really want Outlook a lot to fork out for the Business version.

By comparison, Apple’s iWork suite is a wee bit cheaper – £71 for one computer, or £87 for a “family pack” that’s licensed for up to five computers in a single household[5]. No arbitrary restrictions on what you use the software for, no product activation, no licence codes.

I think I’ll be shunning Office 2011 somehow. I can think of better uses for the money.

[1] Time flies, and all that…
[2] Though I don’t need office apps on the Mini, which is just used for the Tiggercam and running a Windows XP virtual machine which I still fire up on occasion
[3] Though I’m currently giving Numbers another try for my main spreadsheet.
[4] And I’m saying that with my MCSE, mumble years experience of managing networks head on rather than my Mac head..
[5] Which is quite a lot for most families…