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Evolution by Microsoft

I've recently upgraded my copy of Microsoft Office from v.X through Office 2004 to Office 2008, and I've been pretty surprised at the steps forward that have been made, especially in the last step.

Here's Office 2004, as exemplified by Word 2004. This was the second version of Office written for Mac OS X, and cleaned up a lot of the glitches in v.X (things like long file name support, and slightly improved stability). The application was a Carbon one, which means that it was built with tools developed for compatibility with OS 9 originally.

Word 2004
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Now, I like this version, as it pretty much mirrors the Windows XP version of Office 2003 (which I have at work), but is still slightly easier to use.

And here's Office 2008, as exemplified by Word 2008.

Word 2008
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Under the hood, there are a lot of changes here. The application is a universal binary (supporting Intel and PPC chips) and it has been recoded in Cocoa, which is the native OS X way to build apps. However, the bit that has really surprised me is the fact that the interface has been cleaned up so much. All of a sudden, it feels like a Mac application, rather than something that was cloned from the PC version. The clutter has gone, and it feels a lot more enjoyable to use. Ok, so you can't quantify this easily, but I'm really impressed. It looks like the twin pressures of OpenOffice/NeoOffice(*) and iWork 08 have forced an evolution on Microsoft.

Wow! And they dropped the home user price below £100 for 3 licenses! For once I'm impressed with Microsoft!

*Okay, I know that many of my techy-friends would prefer to see me with Ubuntu Linux and OpenOffice, but my only defence is I love the Mac interface, and if the commenting tools were better on OpenOffice, I'd use it happily. But they didn't cut the mustard when I tried them a month or two back.