I’ve spent most of my time with Excel, which has crashed on me more often than it should on its first day in use. It’s perhaps backhanded praise to say that Microsoft has made the crashing process pretty streamlined, providing a quick option to relaunch and recover work. When it runs, though, it runs smoothly, having been overhauled in such a way as to finally take on the look of a bona fide Mac OS X application. The fonts look smooth, and the subtle interface animations run quickly and with just a touch of flair. In many ways, this was what I had hoped for in the prior version, Office v.X, which, riddled with speed and display issues, had always looked to me like an A-for-effort port (from Mac OS 9) that completely lacked conviction.
Office with a View
Aside from the still-glaring omission of synchronization with the Mac OS X Address Book, I’m most of all delighted by the latest version of Entourage. By leagues, it feels more reliable and fluid than its predecessor. And I’m almost ecstatic about the new, improved Custom Views, which will next year have a parallel in the next version of Apple’s Mail program in the form of Smart Mailboxes. It looked for a while like Smart Mailboxes would erase the competitive edge that Entourage’s Custom Views held, since both allow for meta-views of messages across different folders. But the new version of Entourage has enhanced this feature to allow Message Grouping, a real boon to my working style. It’s this kind of innovation that has made me say many times that, all conventional wisdom aside, Microsoft’s Macintosh Business Unit is responsible for some of the best software available anywhere. Sometimes.