Microsoft shows off Office for Mac 2008

Office for Mac 2008 is to be the first major change to Microsoft's office suite for the Mac in four years

With its sights firmly set on gaining a stronger foothold in Apple territory, Microsoft's has shown off the latest update to its Office for Mac suite. looks like it could take the Office world by storm.

Microsoft PR sent out details of a special website that offered the press and developers some insight into how Office 2008 for Mac is coming along. The site gives a visual explanation of each feature in the new Office suite, which will represent the first major change to the Mac version of the software in roughly four years.

New features galore

Features such as the My Day scheduling tool are highlighted by alterations made to individual Office tools such as Word's Publishing Layout View for creating newsletters and flyers.

Much like Office 2007 on a Windows machine, the new Ribbon interface at the top of the screen, which supplanted to old menu system, will make somewhat of a comeback on Office 2008. The Ribbon system will change depending on the immediate context and Microsoft continues to claim that it will make the user experience more enjoyable.

Regardless of its appeal to developers, the company has realised that a simple Mac port appeals to Mac users, so a few changes were made to reflect the more image-conscious Mac interface.

"A feature can be the coolest feature in the world, but its usefulness is degraded if no-one can find it," Microsoft representative Markus Mielke said. "One of the most compelling results [of the Ribbon] was that their users liked seeing graphical representations of actions because it helped them visualise what they were about to do."

In order to bring the two design ideas together, Microsoft added something called the Elements Gallery. Elements Gallery incorporates the tabs and button strips of the Windows interface, but has a common set of buttons and still features the traditional Mac menu bar.

In essence, the interface will allow users to be given the option of using both a contextual interface as on the Ribbon, and the common actions found on current Mac versions of Office.

Interestingly enough, the new Elements Gallery has moved from being just a Word change, to an entire Office-wide feature.

Microsoft expects Office for Mac 2008 to be available early next year.

"It's almost time to let our software out into the wild," Mielke said.