Microsoft Office 2004 To Ship Next Month

The latest version of Microsoftis Office software for the Mac will hit store shelves the third week of May, Microsoftis Mac Business Unit announced Tuesday. As previously reported, Office 2004 adds a number of new features, including a project center for improved collaboration and a new note-taking mode within Word.

MacBU product manager Jessica Sommer says the company is scheduled to send the latest version of Office 2004 for Macs to manufacturers on April 14th and end up in the hands of retailers by mid-May. Retailers, including Appleis online store and Internet retailers such as MacMall, Amazon.com, MacConnection and MacZone will begin offering the software for pre-order today. The product will be available in French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Swedish languages.

The new software will cost the same as the previous version. Last year, the company cut the price of Mac Office by US$100, to US$399, for the standard version.

Office for Macs currently sells for US$149 for educators and US$499 dollars for the full professional version. As part of a "technology guarantee" program it announced in January, those who purchased the software since January will get a free upgrade. For others, the upgrade to the standard edition will cost US$239 and US$329 for the professional version. The student and teacher version is not upgradable.

Office 2004 is not a radical departure from its predecessor, but does add some new and unique features. A new Project Center allows users to associate tasks, e-mails, files, contacts and schedule information in one convenient place. Using the Project Center Wizard, users can define a watch folder to look in for project material, and also define e-mail addresses or subject line information to include in a project. One can also share the project using .Mac, as well as backup a project to other media.

Word has received an update in the form of a Notebook Layout view. This view offers such benefits as a tabbed multi-document interface, improved searching and tagging of important information, and even a spiffy voice annotation feature. Compatibility Report, allows a user to specify the target Office version and platform of any recipients. The report will flag any version or platform specific features which may impact portability, and even try to fix them if possible.

The company also has updated its PowerPoint templates and added new transitions to give Office-created presentations a new look and feel.

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