It's Official

The press release went out at midnight, so I can talk a little bit about Mac Office 2004 in general and Mac Word 2004 in particular. Just a note on release terminology: some articles you’ll read refer to a “release to manufacturing” (RTM) date of April 14. In Microsoft speak, “RTM” has the same meaning as Apple’s “Golden Master,” and refers to the way that product development groups hand the final bits off to the manufacturing group for duplication and packaging.

Perhaps another way to put it is, RTM is when the development group behaves in a manner that’s reminiscent of a frat party. Fortunately there aren’t many fountains close to the building that currently houses the Redmond contingent of Mac BU, so there’s a good chance I’ll get to stay dry this time.

Anyway, for those of you who’ve been dying to know, yes, MacOffice 2004 does support long file names. In Word, we’ve also reworked the formatting palette, complete with a new “Styles” tab that will make working with styles much easier. We’ve also added a compatibility checker that will flag things in your document that earlier versions of either Mac Word or Win Word will have difficulty understanding.

Word’s support for Unicode is vastly improved, though Word still won’t do right-to-left languages. Omar, Dan and Dennis might sheepishly point out that Entourage handles right-to-left languages just fine, but, then, nobody cares if their e-mail messages print, and break lines, the same way that Outlook does. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who wants to get Mac Word to do right-to-left languages is welcome to try. You just have to make sure that Mac Word breaks lines of text exactly the same way Win Word does.

Speaking of which, Mac Word now uses the same line-layout engine that Win Word started using as of version 9, so not only do we guarantee we’ll break lines of text the same way, but we’ll position text within the line the same way that Win Word does.

There have also been a lot of under-the-hood changes to improve Mac Word’s compatibility with more recent versions of Win Word. For example, Mac Word 2004 supports Win Word’s new table styles, and Mac Word sports an improved version of Win Word’s method of displaying interlineations when tracking edits.

The bad news is that Mac Word 2004 doesn’t support XML. Also, because the new Information Rights Management feature in Win Office 2003 is based on some Windows-only Active Directory authentication and identity features, we were not able to put together a solution for Mac Office 2004 that will enable Mac users to read Win Office 2003 documents that have IRM protection turned on. Both of these, however, are high on our list of things to do in the immediate future. Exactly when they’ll be available, I don’t know.

I’ve already talked about the new Notebook Layout View. We’ve also done some nice little features like “auto recovery” and “paste recovery,” both of which provide you with a way to change the way Word’s done something after the fact. It replaces the common Undo/rummage about for another way to do the same thing, process that we’ve seen a number of users go through with some of Word’s automatic features.

There are a number of folks in the media who are working on product reviews, and I don’t want to steal their thunder. So, look for more complete descriptions of some of the work we’ve done in the major Mac media outlets.