Office for Mac 2011 Coming Oct. 26

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I always have such high hopes for Microsoft Office for Mac. “This time it’ll be better,” I think, and then, without fail, it isn’t. That’s when I end up just switching to Windows using Boot Camp whenever I want to use Word, and Microsoft’s nefarious plan becomes apparent.

Office for Mac 2011 looks to break that track record, and we won’t have to wait long to find out if it does. The official Office for Mac blog announced yesterday that the new version will be available for purchase starting Oct. 26, roughly a month from now. You can pre-order your copy now at Amazon, as well.

Among the new features is Dynamic Reorder, which allows you to reorder the layers in a document or presentation on the fly easily, something that came out of user feedback. Microsoft is also clearly paying attention to usage trends, since it also introduced a new Full Screen view that mimics much simpler products like WriteRoom that are designed to take the distractions out of writing. All you see is a white page on a black screen.

I’ve had a chance to test out the beta version of Office 2011, and I have to say that my early impressions are overwhelmingly positive. I haven’t had cause to jump into my Boot Camp partition since installing it, for instance (except to play Civilization V, but that’s a totally different post).

Office 2011 also sees the arrival of the Ribbon, Microsoft’s new navigation scheme for the productivity suite. It’s a welcome addition, since I always found using the floating formatting window really counter-intuitive and generally frustrating.

Menu and interface improvements aside, Office 2011, even in beta form, offers tremendous improvement in terms of stability and performance. I haven’t had it crash on me yet, and it opens and loads much faster than Office 2008. At the very least, the impression of intentional hobbling on Microsoft’s part is definitely gone.

While I’m probably going to stick with iWork as my main productivity suite, since my end products usually take the form of PDFs and I like their fancy-pants templates, I’ll actually be glad to get my hands on the final version of Office 2011, for those times when Apple’s offering isn’t an option.

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