Software Review: Microsoft Office 2004 Professional, Page 2

The latest version of Microsoft’s venerable Office suite for the Macintosh does a better job of delivering elegant functionality than any release since the days of Word 5.1. Is it enough to enable Mac OS X-based practitioners to interoperate seamlessly in a Windows-dominated world? And is the full Office suite necessary for the typical mental health professional in private practice?

Overall Assessment and Gotchas

Overall, Microsoft Office 2004 Professional is a real winner. Yes, it’s increasingly possible to use open source alternatives to achieve similar tasks, but as much as I support open source software, the fact of the matter is that under Mac OS X, the open source alternatives to Microsoft Office run nowhere near as smoothly and cover nowhere near the same feature set as the de facto standard from the Redmond giant.

If your practice environment is such that you actually need all or a large part of the capabilities of Microsoft Office — and particularly if you need to exchange Office documents with colleagues or clients — this software suite can make your life a great deal easier. If you regularly publish articles in print, where submissions in Word format are the standard, or if you regularly make presentations and can’t get by with cheaper alternatives like Keynote, Office may be close to indispensable.

Despite being very impressed with the suite overall, I experienced one unforgiveable ‘gotcha’ from the software. Since we always use products in a real private practice setting for several months before writing reviews of them, we sometimes notice things that other reviewers might not. In this particular case, Microsoft issued two separate software updates during our testing period, and it was the first of these which hit us with the ‘gotcha’. (I haven’t installed the second yet…)

What happened?

Well, when first installing the suite from disc, the installer offers the choice of where to install the application files. Although the default is the ‘Applications’ folder of the Mac’s startup disk, the installer makes it easy to choose a different location. In keeping with my practice of separating data, applications, and system software on different disk partitions, I chose a location on a second partition to install the software. All went smoothly: the applications were correctly installed on a second partition, while various support files were correctly installed on my first partition. So far, so good.

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However, when it came time to install the first update from Microsoft, this installer did not understand that I might have made use of the option in the first installer to place my applications somewhere other than on the same partition as my system software. Like the most poorly-behaved misfit from deep in Microsoft’s Mac-challenged past, the updater first wiped out my original Office applications before discovering that there was no system software available to update on that same partition and declaring that it couldn’t complete the update.

The Office installation was gone.

Although the whole thing was fairly easy to recover — it was simply a matter of reinstalling the suite and then copying it all to the default ‘Applications’ folder before trying to update it, and then copying it back to where I wanted it — there really is no excuse for this kind of obnoxious behaviour from an installer. Nobody should have to reinstall an entire suite of applications simply because an updater doesn’t recognize the options made available by the original application installer!

In any event, I remain a big fan of this version of Microsoft Office. Just beware of those incremental updates, and all will be fine!

Office System Requirements and Pricing

Microsoft Office

Of course, all this capability built into Microsoft Office comes at a price — a hefty price. I’m not sure whether anyone actually pays full retail prices for Microsoft Office, but the published retail prices (in US dollars) are:

  • Office Professional: The entire Office 2004 suite for professional users who need Virtual PC Version 7 with Windows XP. $499 full/$329 upgrade.
  • Office Standard: The entire Office 2004 suite for home and business users. $399 full/$239 upgrade.
  • Office Student and Teacher: The entire Office 2004 suite specially priced for qualified educational users. $149 full (no upgrade pricing available).

More details are available from Microsoft.

System Requirements for Office 2004 for Mac Standard Edition and Student and Teacher Edition

To run Microsoft® Office 2004 for Mac Standard Edition and Student and Teacher Edition, your computer must meet the following requirements:

  • Processor: G3, Mac OS X-compatible processor or higher
  • Operating System: Apple Mac OS X version 10.2.8 or later
  • Memory: 256 MB of RAM
  • Hard Disk1: 450 MB for a recommended install, 630 MB for a full drag-and-drop install
  • Drives: CD-ROM drive (or connection to a local area network if installing over a network)
  • Display: 1024 x 768 or higher—resolution monitor displaying thousands of colors
  • Mouse or compatible pointing device

Additional items or services required to use certain features:

  • Modem: 14.4 Kbps or higher.
  • Internet Access: Internet connection through either an Internet service provider (ISP) or a network. Internet access might require a separate fee to an ISP; local or long-distance telephone charges might also apply.

Note: You will need to uninstall the Test Drive version of Office 2004 before you install the complete version.

1 The hard disk should be in Mac OS Extended (HFS+) format, the default format for Mac OS X. Although you can perform a drag-and-drop installation of and run Office 2004 from a hard disk that is in another format, Microsoft does not currently support such a configuration. To determine the format of your hard disk, see the Devices and Volumes tab of Apple System Profiler.

System Requirements for Office 2004 Professional Edition

  • Hardware: 700 MHz native* PowerPC G3, G4 or G5 processor
  • Operating System: Mac OS X version 10.2.8-10.3; Mac OS X version 10.3 is required for the Power Mac G5
  • Memory: 512 MB of RAM
  • Hard Disk1: 3 GB of available hard-disk space
  • CD-ROM or DVD-ROM: CD-ROM drive (or connection to a local area network if installing over a network)
  • Input Devices: Mouse or compatible pointing device

* Upgrade cards and accelerators are not supported

Additional items or services required to use certain features:

  • Modem: 14.4 Kbps or higher.
  • Internet Access: Internet connection through either an Internet service provider (ISP) or a network. Internet access might require a separate fee to an ISP; local or long-distance telephone charges might also apply.

1 The hard disk should be in Mac OS Extended (HFS+) format, the default format for Mac OS X. Although you can perform a drag-and-drop installation of and run Office 2004 from a hard disk that is in another format, Microsoft does not currently support such a configuration. To determine the format of your hard disk, see the Devices and Volumes tab of Apple System Profiler.

System Requirements for Virtual PC for Mac Version 7

To use Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac Version 7, users need the following:

  • Hardware: A 700 MHz native* PowerPC G3, G4 or G5 processor
  • Operating system: Mac OS X Version 10.2.8; Mac OS X Version 10.3; Mac OS X Version 10.4.1 or later.
  • Free Hard Disk Space: 3 GB
  • RAM: 512 MB
  • Display: 1024 x 768 resolution monitor displaying thousands of colors
  • Storage: CD-ROM drive (or connection to a local area network if installing a network)
  • Peripherals: Mouse or compatible pointing device

* Upgrade cards and accelerators are not supported

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