Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac is out. It’s a pretty beast. Like the Windows version, Office 2011 is loaded with features, compatibility, and a price tag worthy of Microsoft’s riches.
What if you want what Office does, but you don’t want the Office price? There are alternatives. There are always alternatives. In the case of NeoOffice, the alternative is plenty of familiar features, and no price tag.
Yet Another Office Wannabe: For Less
The claim to fame for Mac or Windows Office clones is multifold. First, they’re not Microsoft. Second, they look and function like Microsoft Office. Third, there’s no price tag.
Oh, and #4, they don’t do anything else that’s remotely original.
The Office wannabe business model escapes me. At least with NeoOffice, donations are accepted. The rest range from $50 per seat to free.
What do you get with your hard-earned donations (or, non-donations)? That’s more of an interesting question now than ever.
Basic Office For Less
At the very basic level, NeoOffice and friends give you some degree of compatibility with Microsoft Office files (Mac or Windows) and a somewhat familiar interface, all for less than the price of Microsoft’s latest Office.
Take the word processor component of NeoOffice. Doesn’t Writer’s toolbar look pretty much like the same component of every other free Office word processor, and vaguely familiar to what you remember of Microsoft Word?
Looks more than familiar, right?
What I like about Writer is the gazillion different text formats. You can save as ODF, NeoOffice, a bunch of Microsoft Word formats, RTF, XML, and some I didn’t even know exist.
What about the spreadsheet? If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, is it still Excel?
Again, very familiar to Office users.
NeoOffice comes with much more, including Presentation (similar to PowerPoint), a Drawing module, and a Database. Unfortunately, it’s not pre-loaded with sample templates (instead, you get a link to documents available online).
The key advantage to using NeoOffice is the same as other low-price or no-price Office-like suites. It’s like Microsoft Office, it’s like a Mac app, but that’s about it.
What’s The Future Of Office?
Unlike the other Office wannabe suites, NeoOffice is for Mac users, with specific Mac-like features and functions. Though priced right for the budget-conscious home or small office, I wonder about the future of such apps for the Mac.
Apple has declared Java more or less deprecated on the Mac. Future versions of Java for Mac OS X may have to come from someone else besides Apple.
Office wannabe apps are written in Java, hence the cross platform capability with Mac, Windows, and Linux PCs. Performance and the user interface of Java apps on the Mac is notably different (slower, quirkier, less polished) when compared to most popular native Cocoa apps.
Microsoft seems as committed to Office on the Mac as ever. Apple’s iWork Suite provides basic Office compatibility in a less expensive, less capable, but easier to use package.
The future of Office wannabe suites, at least on the Mac, appears bleak, stuck between a hard rock and a harder-than-ever place.