Review: Microsoft Word for Mac 2011

Word has improved quite dramatically in version 2011 for the Mac, and it’s not just the ribbon. Word 2011 comes with a mathematica/equation editor and a citation system. It has the ability to create macros and collaborate with others through Sharepoint or SkyDrive. Word 2011 is also quite powerful as a document design application; its layout functionality is impressive for a word processor. However, not everything worked as expected in the first and second point release.

Word supports writers with a very nicely designed full screen feature. It supports designers with an equally nice Styles guide that shows you where in the document which styles have been applied. Designers are further pampered with eye-candy — a good example is the objects reordering feature, which shows a 3D perspective view of layers in a layout. The layers can be dragged so the order changes.

Reordering layers in 3D

Collaboration is well supported through an integration with SkyDrive (which runs at your connection speed, so don’t expect high performance unless you have a very fast DSL line) or SharePoint. It’s further supported by a completely new change tracking system, which has a review panel that makes it easier to see changes and comments, but also with the optional ability to work with permissions, which make working with a document somewhat — shall we say: more complicated.

Scientific writers also get endnote and footnote capabilities and then there is the math system, which looks as if it’s based on MathType.

Unfortunately, some of Word’s most powerful capabilities don’t always work as they’re supposed to. For example, on my system, the Microsoft Equation Editor drop-down menu was empty — it didn’t show me any of the equations I was supposed to be able to use, although they were there. Using the Equation Editor also meant Word automatically switched to Draft mode, making it impossible for me to see how the equation would look when printed.

Worse yet, on my system, I was never capable of finishing the equation, simply because the font (Cambria Math) appeared not to contain the necessary symbols. Whatever the reason, the equation editor did not work on my system. This might be due to my system being loaded with all sorts of server and other software; I can’t tell. What I do know is that the Word programmers need to iron out some quirks in the Word application.

Other than some features that won’t work exactly as you’d expect, Word 2011 is a fantastic product. It looks great, it’s fast, very responsive, and a joy to use. The integration with SkyDrive allows you to tap into Microsoft’s online Word system, which gives you the same (basic) features as Word on the desktop — very useful for people on the road. Word also comes with an elaborate permissions system, which allows for secure collaborating.

The review pane groups searches, comments, and the document navigation icons

The new layout functionality is simply unparalleled, and combined with Word’s Themes allows for consistent design throughout different document types. As with all other Office applications, Word too comes with an elaborate templates/startup screen. And I must admit that most templates — in all Office applications — are very pleasing as well as very usable in both personal and business environments.

One thing that I personally would like to see added to Microsoft Word 2011 is the ability to directly export to ePUB. This is a feature that’s been added to Apple Pages ’09 only a month or so ago. I imagine it should be very easy for Microsoft to add the capability, given that Word’s file format already is a zipped XML file collection.

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