One of the free (or almost free) Open Office-like suites, Microsoft Office for Mac, or Apple’s iWork. Assuming you prefer to pay for your office apps, how does iWork stack up against Microsoft’s Office 2011 for Mac? The answer? Good. Bad. And, it depends.
What iWork Does And Doesn’t Do
iWork is a trio of Mac apps that compete favorably with Microsoft’s new Home and Student package.
iWork’s Pages, like Word, does word processing. Numbers, like Excel, is a spreadsheet. Keynote, like PowerPoint, does presentations.
Neither suite of apps carries an email app (Microsoft new Outlook is available only in a more expensive package). Of the three iWork apps, Keynote is the most competitive with its counterpart, PowerPoint.
Keynote sets the tone of iWork vs. Office. It’s both powerful and easy to use. Even novice Keynote users can create attractive presentations without training. On the other hand, PowerPoint can be a bear, despite being the standard bearer for business presentations.
Pages is not really an Apple version of Microsoft’s Word. Ditto for Numbers vs. Excel. It’s not a fair feature fight. Microsoft wins in every category except these: ease of use, learning curve, usability, and satisfaction.
Word and Excel are power user personified, while Pages and Numbers are competent, friendly, usable, attractive, but not likely candidates for use in the corporate world or government agencies.
What Office 2011 Does And Doesn’t Do
In short, the Office 2011 for Mac is a marked improvement over Office 2008, but comes with a few caveats. Yes, it’s faster. Much. Yes, it’s still Office, but even more Mac-like than previous versions.
In is the Ribbon interface from Windows Office. Out is the Mac’s Entourage, replaced by nothing in the less expensive Office versions, and a Mac version of Outlook in the more expensive versions.
Also in Office 2011 for Mac is the dreaded and draconian Microsoft Product Activation that’s even more severe than Office 2010 for Windows. You get 15 days to try it out without activation, vs. 30 days for the Windows version.
The Windows version can be reset up to five times, which gets you nearly six months of usage before you must enter the activation key. Even then, Windows Office goes into a so-called Reduced Functionality Mode. Office 2011 for Mac simply refuses to launch after 15 days and that’s that.
Compare that to iWork’s apps which do not have an activation key or serial number.
A comparison boils down to basics. Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac is the best (arguably) Office for Mac ever (your mileage may vary—it’s faster and easier, but has a few bugs). It’s also more complex and complicated than ever.
iWork is easier to use in every respect, reads and writes most Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files (don’t get too complicated), and won’t knock on your door late at night if you install it on another Mac in your house.
I’m pleased that Microsoft sees value in a version of Office for the Mac.
Some businesses and government agencies require Office.
But Office is no longer the only game in Suite Apps Town. While you can’t get more for less, you can get less in iWork and feel like it’s more.
Can you replace Office with iWork? Yes. But it’s important to know what you’re getting and what you’re missing. iWork is easier to use, but not fully, completely, 100-percent file compatible with Office’s Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.
If you demand full compatibility (as compatible as Microsoft can be with its own products), stick with Office.If you’re not tied to Microsoft’s file formats, hate the complexity and over abundance of features that never get used, then try iWork instead.