The new Mac Office 2011 that’s currently in development easily bests iWork ’09, and with every feature update demonstrates just how far behind iWork has fallen. The latest video preview only increases the value gap between the two office suites.


The new Mac Office 2011, currently in development, will easily best iWork ’09, and with every feature update demonstrates just how far behind iWork has fallen. The latest video preview only increases the value gap between the two office suites.

While the feature tease is minimal, the video shows off Sparklines, in-cell mini-graphs of visual data straight from Excel 2010 for Windows, as well as new PivotTable report designs and layouts. Office-wide, users will now have the ability to do “basic photo editing,” with options like color correction, as well as more advanced ones like background removal, but that’s the small stuff.

The big deal is Mac Office 2011 touts a level of compatibility with Office for Windows “that’s never been achieved before,” from the user-interface Ribbon of Office for Windows to the nuts and bolts of cross-platform document and data sharing. In Word, that means requiring pages printed in Word for the Mac and Windows be identical on paper. In Excel, arguably the biggest compatibility effort was the restoration of Visual Basic, version 6.5, same as the Windows version. Entourage has been replaced with Outlook and full support for Exchange. PowerPoint, well, with the exception of better cross-platform document compatibility, PowerPoint still looks to suck compared to the ease-of-use and pretty slides of Keynote.

Unfortunately, that hardly makes up for the rest of iWork for the Mac. Numbers, Pages, and Keynote are far less compatible when exporting in Microsoft Office formats, and none are as feature-replete. Worse, Pages, and especially Numbers, struggle with large documents. The problem with iWork is that it badly needs updating, but there is no guarantee of that happening this year, unlike Mac Office.

While it’s true iWork for the iPad was released this year, it, like OS X, is languishing in favor of iOS. iWork for the Mac is quickly approaching years between updates. While it’s fair to say that having the iWork team pivot to produce an iPad version is responsible for the dearth of updates, what’s the excuse for iWork.com?

Back in January 2009, when iWork ’09 debuted, a lot was made of the iWork.com beta, which let people view and share, but not edit documents. Eighteen months later, it’s still a beta, and you still can’t edit documents. Even worse, Apple has thus far failed to leverage iWork.com as the logical way to seamlessly synchronize documents between the iPad and Mac. Even the rumored iWork update is out of date, the most recent being “iWork ’10 for Dummies” placeholders being seen in at sites like Amazon France with three months left in the year.

Without an update to compete against Mac Office 2011, that leaves price as iWorks ’09’s best feature, $79 retail, $49 with the purchase of a new Mac. However, even on price Mac Office is competing better than ever before at $119 for the Student Edition, which includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and $199 for the Home and Office Edition that adds Outlook.

There’s a reason Mac Business Unit PR types can brag that Mac Office is on about 70 percent of Macs (a phenomenal adoption rate) and one that would only be beat by Office for the iPad. Please.

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  1. iWork has Arabic/Hebrew support, it’s not perfect but it’s there.
    Something Microsoft has been ignoring for years:


  2. I wonder if Office 2011 for Mac will actually work like other Mac applications? Every time I use Word, Excel or Powerpoint I just get frustrated because they don’t work the way all the other software does on MacOS.

    1. With the adoption of the Ribbon, what is essentially a giant toolbar, and the return of Outlook, I’d say Mac Office is more like Windows Office than ever before. I actually think this is a good thing. Like it or not, it’s a Windows Office world, and it’s a lot cheaper to buy Mac Office than Windows 7, Office for Windows, and maybe Fusion or Parallels, too.

      1. “It’s a windows office world?” Even if that ridiculous statement meant anything, that’s no excuse for disregarding OS interface standards? Even on Windows, the ribbon is not well-received. Shoving it down people’s throats doesn’t make it any more likable, the same way that never worked for Windows.

        Honestly, I don’t know why I read anything with your by-line. It comes out of the gate as opinion, opinion, opinion, and everything you write goes to supporting it. It’s a big old waste of time and I’m about to delete this stupid blog from my Google start page so that I don’t get sucked into any more of your ridiculous rants. You, sir, are what’s wrong with blogging today.

  3. Well I will wait to see. Because frankly, every other iteration of Office has “Blown Chunks”. While it may have a bag of features for power users, if it as awful to use as every other version has been then I will continue to use alternative (like iWork, which work just fine for 95% of the population) and does not make me want to pull my hair out in frustration every 15 minutes.

    1. I’m a little disappointed with the performance of Numbers and Pages, and stunned by the lack of a synchronization solution for the iPad. I think Mac Office 2011 will prod Apple to build a better iWork, and if Microsoft launches Office for the iPad I know that will happen.

  4. the major advantage in “mac office” is its compatibility with windows office
    U cant call that an advantage cuz Microsoft have to deal with its own rubbish>>>>(applications) to make the compatible
    and “iworks 09″ is able to export to “windows office”
    it’s not perfect that i can say but it’s been there since forever

  5. i have a fairly large spreadsheet that struggles in both excel and numbers… the diff is that numbers takes a fraction to load. i wouldn’t be surprised if apple are holding out to implement better compatibility after office.

    having said that we’re due an ilife update too or have all the apple sw engineers been diverted to fixing antenna signal bar algorithms?

  6. Er…this post makes no sense.

    You write, “The new Mac Office 2011, currently in development, will easily best iWork ’09, and with every feature update demonstrates just how far behind iWork has fallen”

    Er…iWork ’09 was released in 2009, quite a bit before Office 2011 will be released. You can’t expect an older product to out compete a newer (nay, not yet released!) product!

    In other words, instead of saying this “demonstrates just how far behind iWork has fallen” you should say this demonstrates how far ahead Office 2011 has progressed. You can’t expect a 2009 inanimate (non reproducing, non growing, because it is INANIMATE!) object to continue improving.

    1. that’s deep haha. but it can easily be said that iWork will have some catching up to do. Plus as much as I love Macs over the inferior PC, iWork is less user friendly than even the previous edition of Microsoft Office.

      1. I SO AGREE. Plus it stinks!

  7. By the way, I do quibble with the way language is used because what I was pointing out in the previous post does make a difference.

    By saying “demonstrates just how far behind iWork ’09 has fallen” you make the assumption or at least give the impression that iWork ’09 (or simply the iWork team) should have/ought to have continue improving on iWork. Yet, what you really are comparing Office 2011 to is an inanimate thing called iWork ’09 that stopped advancing the moment it was published and sold. So, of course, iWork ’09 has “fallen behind” because the moment it was published, it stopped advancing!


    1. Well, admittedly, I do scribble with the way language is used, originally titling the article: Mac Office 2011 No Competition for iWork ’09. However, setting aside the numbers, which are just there because of obsessive desire for symmetry, what we are talking about is a comparison between, presumably, actively developed office suites.

      So how long will we have to wait for iWork ’11? It’s a little surprising that the MacBu appears more nimble than the iWork team, especially when one considers how much more complex Mac Office is. Further, what is up with iWork.com? Is Apple trying to compete with Google on how long new products can remain betas?

      I’d like to believe we’ll see something next month, or in October with an iMac refresh, but I’m increasingly skeptical in this Age of iOS.

      1. Office 2008 has never been that great (it still loves to crash) and iWork ’09 is not typically an acceptable solution for scholars/academicians (of which I’m one). I think up until just recently, EndNote (a popular citation software for Macs and Windows did not work natively for iWork ’09 so I had to stick with Office 2008. Unfortunately, the Office documents formats are really still dominant in the academic world (at least in the humanities and social sciences; maybe less so in the sciences and engineering) so that’s what I stick with.

        I still hate Office 2008 and will not upgrade to 2011 unless I really have to. For now, my EndNote X3 and Office 2008 work okay (albeit with crashes from time to time) and I’m sticking with that ecosystem.

      2. More nimble? Office 2008 came out on January 15, 2008. “iWork for the Mac is quickly approaching years between updates,” you say, but it came out a year later than the last Mac version of MS Office.

        How is the Microsoft MacBU more nimble than Apple when it takes them nearly 3 years to come out with an update, and it’s been less than 2 years since the last iWork update? Does time pass differently in Redmond than Cupertino?

      3. “It’s a little surprising that the MacBu appears more nimble than the iWork team…”

        How can you tell? Apple doesn’t release teaser videos of products. The last Mac Office was 2008, older than iWork ’09. How can they be more nimble if their last product release was older than Apple’s release and you have no details about Apple’s next release?

      4. I’d assert that the code base is much larger for Mac Office than iWork, presumably making it more complex to develop for. As a relatively new office suite, iWork needs more frequent updates because it is playing catch up in terms of features and performance. And then there is the iWork.com beta. . . .

        It’s these kind of unpleasant facts that lead me to believe iWork for the Mac is not a priority for Apple right now.

      5. Way to miss the point. iWork isn’t about ticking checkboxes on the most ‘features’ that users will never use. That’s not how Apple rolls.

  8. Office for Mac does have some neat stuff iWork doesn’t, but, after playing around with some of the betas, I found Office’s features to be still no match for iWork’s ease of use.

    (As a side note, I do not have much experience with Office 2011 in particular, but I have used a few betas of it and also its predecessors. If I rant about stuff Microsoft has fixed by now, please be so kind and ignore it, or mention it in a reply. Thanks!)

    OK, for instance, in PowerPoint, I can’t freaking type in how long do I want an animation to be! That’s a no-go for me. I like perfecting my presentations, I’m one of those people who keeps typing in different split second numbers until it looks just right. This, however, doesn’t work in PowerPoint. Really, Microsoft? Really?

    Also, while it’s sure nice to have a font selection menu, how about NOT forcing me to use ugly, ugly Times New Roman? It’s not just a hard-to-change default, no, it’s a bug since Word 2008 or before that makes any new text I type in a document automatically turn into Times New Roman text. If you haven’t been struck by it – well, I have. It is horrible. Somebody I asked about the latest Office beta said that, while Microsoft hasn’t fixed every bug from the previous beta, it’s actually OK, even with the bugs it still has. Well, I’d better go with a bug-free office suite, but thanks anyway, Microsoft.

    Another deal-killer is the fact that Microsoft, faithful to their usual method, changes the most prominent part of the interface (Ribbon UI! Whee!), but keeps almost everything else of it unchanged for decades. Like, for example, the nasty right click boxes. In iWork, I can do just about all of this from a single, floating Inspector window. Everything’s compact, right at my fingertips and in a single floating window. Some things, like fonts, have their own, more advanced, floating windows, but there’s maybe three of such windows. This type of UI really throws me off! Here’s a pic of what I mean:
    And here’s iWork’s solution (floating!):
    … and advanced, but floating:

    Finally, basic image editing? iWork’s image adjuster (it’s the third floating window I can think of at the moment, counting the inspector) is great, and Instant Alpha kicks Office’s Select Transparent Color’s behind with ease. Instead of selecting just one color, Instant Alpha removes multiple ranges of colors easily. Office 2007 didn’t have this one. Office 2011 better have it! Cropping (masking) is also very well-executed in iWork.

    Finally, I have to mention it’s a bit of an unfair comparison, seeing that iWork was released January 2009, as you pointed out in the article. Apple’s next iWork is highly likely to catch up with Office in terms of features; it has already done so in usability. Keep it up, Apple!

    1. In Powerpoint you can type how long you want an animation, but you are limited to two decimal places (100ths of a second). Not sure how many people need more precision than that. The real difference here is that when you are forced to move your presentation to a Windows machine, the animation continues to work. If you had started with Keynote, your animation would be gone.

      You do realize that Powerpoint has not used that particular floating palate since office 2004. In my world, the Apple inspector is the spawn of Satan. I suppose it would be fine if I sat and figured it out, but digging through it is generally pretty miserable, and I have no idea why Apple feels I want to dig through the Apple font inspector to go from 10 to 12 point font. It is just primitive.

      Office 2011 has a new “remove background” feature that is more effective than the one in my current version of keynote (iWork 09). You press the button once and it calculates what it required to remove the background. It then leaves you to make final tweaks. In iWork 09 I push and pull the circle to tweak what colors are eliminated. When separating a glass container from a blue background, the Powerpoint approach is able to separate the bottle in one click, just leaving the shadow behind.

      When developing complex presentation I often want to hide follow up slides and then link to them. This is easy in Powerpoint, but impossible in the current version of Keynote.

      In Keynote I do not understand why I must pick the presentation size when it is supposed to dynamically adjust.

      In Keynote I can create some very interesting and fluffy animations, and transitions, but not one of them remains when I open the presentation in the classroom because the iWork export to Powerpoint strips all of those.

      If I work in iWork, I cannot collaborate with people in the University who use office because they are not bidirectionally compatible.

      These are not measures of how good or bad Office and iWork are because they are for different things. iWork is not yet suited for large documents in technical environments, particularly Office environments.

      1. “I have no idea why Apple feels I want to dig through the Apple font inspector to go from 10 to 12 point font. It is just primitive.”

        Did you perhaps close your Format bar? When in a text field, you can change the text formatting right there, no need for the Inspector.

      2. I know about the format bar. It was a welcome addition in iWork 9, but it is not a standard feature of Apples Applications. Most still rely on the inspector metaphor.

      3. To each his own, I guess. For me, iWork is my absolute favorite. Bug-free and easy to use.

        The fact that PowerPoint lacks some of Keynote’s effects means a flaw in PowerPoint, not Keynote. At least Keynote does have PowerPoint export – PowerPoint doesn’t have Keynote export.

        The PowerPoint beta I used (the latest one, I’m pretty sure!) had five or six animation length presets. If this abomination is gone now, that’s good.

  9. So long as MS continues to ‘best’ the competition, people will continue to believe that their products make a good information *delivery* system – and the world will continue to suffer. Screen captures in Word files and photos in Powerpoint files will continue to be a blight on society.

    Such a shame PDF turns out to be as big an attack vector as MS itself. Time for a new layout standard?

  10. iwork fans continue to be totally wrong on Powerpoint.

    PP 09 (and 08) FAR beat our keypoint. I never thought a MS product would be easier to use than Apple, but PP is far better organized and more efficient to use than Keynote. Gave up on Keynote for good last year.

    Word still beats pages hands down.

    Numbers can be good for somethings…using numbers for grade books is really handy compared to excel…but its a dog with large amounts of data.

    1. Let’s see….

      I’ve never, as in NEVER, as in not ever seen an effective PowerPoint presentation. I have seen Keynote presentations obviously made by people unfamiliar with the software, but never one that actively works against its purpose to the degree that PowerPoint is rightly infamous for. Keynote may not have all the bells and whistles and complexity masquerading as capability of PowerPoint, but it was designed to be used, and to create a variety of reasonably effective presentations. This is largely accomplished by not encouraging the usee to load a hundred bullet points and arrows onto each slide.

      The real winner for me is this: every Keynote presentation that I have ever made has been favorably received, usually involving an increase in my income. That effect is distinctly opposite to my experience for well over a decade in PowerPoint.

    2. As soon as Powerpoint can handle inserting pdfs into documents like Keynote can it will finally be ON PAR with Keynote. As it is if I want to include math typeset in LaTeX into Powerpoint I have to use rasterized graphics that look absolutely terrible. What is the alternative solution? Using the terrible Office equation editor? The stuff that comes out of that doesn’t event look like real math. It’s ridiculous that in 2010 MS still doesn’t support inserting PDFs.

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