Microsoft Office 2011 Q&A [UPDATED]

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Recently, TMO reviewed Microsoft Word 2011 as part of the new Office 2011 suite. There were some questions for Microsoft that remained outstanding at the time of the review, and most have now been answered. [The final three were added/updated here on Nov 10.]

Q: Does the MS Office 2011 Installer install a copy of Silverlight?

A: No, Silverlight is not installed.

Q: What techniques can you talk about that allow Word to launch so quickly? Were there any security compromises involved, for example, leaving a residual process running? Or memory tricks?

A: None of that. We built better tools and processes for analyzing the boot time sequence and for optimizing individual steps taken during boot. There are no security compromises; we did extensive work on performance across all of Office, but never at the expense of security.

Q: What’s the philosophy behind (the installer) leaving Office 2008 on the Mac? Is it that the new suite can’t properly edit with 100 percent accuracy documents created by the 2008 suite? Most updates delete the old version.

A: Word 2011 and Word 2008 use the same, compatible file formats. Office 2011 and Office 2008 can be run side-by-side if needed, for example Entourage 2008 could be run alongside the rest of Office 2011, if a user’s configuration does not use Exchange 2007 SP1 or later, which is required by Outlook 2011. [Author note: the Office 2011 reviewer’s guide reiterates that all previous documents created with Office 2008 can be accurately opened with Office 2011 apps.]

Q: If one wants to use Office 2008 for some reason, you’d launch the desired 2008 suite app, then use the File menu to load the document. No problem. But what if one wants the file association for old docs to remain with the old version? Get Info’s “Change All…” isn’t selective, so it would also affect new documents that end in .doc created with Office 2011. That is, one can’t selectively apply that preference to just new docs with extension .doc. However, one could use the .docx format for all 2011 documents exclusively of one want to retain a distinction, right?

A: You’ve described the Mac OS X’s document association correctly. When Office 2011 is installed, it should associate Office files with the new version. Unfortunately other than the steps you describe, there are no other means to change file associations.

Q: One problem with leaving both versions of the suite installed, with majors apps by the same name, is the result seen in the Finder’s contextual menu, like this:

Finder contextual menu

Finder contextual menu ambiguity

Do you have an suggestions?

A: Microsoft recommends removing Office 2008 before installing Office 2011 to avoid that ambiguity in the contextual menu.

Q. One of our authors has been an Entourage fan. But he notes that Outlook 2011 for Mac is missing the Resend and Redirect functions. Can you fill us in on that?

A: Outlook for Mac does not support these features at this time.

Q: Why does the installer ask that Safari quit before the Office 2011 installation proceeds?

MS Office 2011 Install warning

Installer warning

A.  Because the Office Installer includes fonts that replace existing fonts, and it’s not uncommon for the existing fonts to be in use by browsers and other running applications.  If any open application is using a font that is replaced by the Office Installer, that application could become unstable or display information incorrectly.  Browsers are where we see users run into this issue most often, so the Office Installer checks for running instances of Safari, Firefox, Google Chrome, and Opera (the top four most popular browsers on the Mac).

Q: What fonts are installed and where are they put? 

A.  To see the set of fonts that are installed by Office, you can look at the contents of the Fonts package in the Office Installer.  To do that, right-click (or Control-click) on the Office Installer, and then select Show Package Contents.  Then, in the Contents/Packages folder, double-click the “Office2011_en_fonts.pkg” package, which will open the Apple Installer.  Then, on the File menu, click Show Files.  Our fonts are installed to the /Library/Fonts/Microsoft folder. 

Q:  Is there an install log for the whole suite?

A: Yes. Since we use the Apple Installer, installation activity is logged to /private/var/log/install.log.  You can use the Console to view this log file.  You can also view the log during installation by pressing CMD + L.

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Lee Dronick

I too want to know why the installer needs Safari to be closed before installing Office.

I have been using Word 2011, not too bad of a program.


Q: Why does the installer ask that Safari quit before the Office 2011 installation proceeds?

Maybe it’s payback for iTunes installs on Windows installing Safari smile

Lee Dronick

Maybe it?s payback for iTunes installs on Windows installing Safari

If it was payback it would install Explorer. Wait, oh yeah there is no longer a Mac version.

I am thinking that it installs bookmarks to Office 11 pages.


John, I also have a question for Microsoft: How come the home and student edition of Office only includes the UI in the language of the country it is purchased in? For example, I live in France, but my whole Mac runs a US version of Snow Leopard, and all my software adapts to this. All… except MS Office that cheerfully ignores the OS language and displays all its menus and dialog boxes in French (with no way to change this: you have the choice between French, French, and French).

This nonsense started, I believe, with the home and student edition of Office 2008. The question is very simple: WHY? Doesn’t it make it more cumbersome and expensive for Microsoft to do things this way? They have to produce different versions of the install disc for every country. Surely that’s more expensive than bundling all languages into a single installer? What do they do in Switzerland: one disk with three languages or three different language disks?

It gets worse: When I bought Office 2008 here in France at the time it came out, I didn’t know about this and only found out after I had installed the software and saw that there was no way to change the UI to English. The store didn’t want to take back the copy because the package had been opened. I contacted Microsoft, and they eventually told me that they were unable to exchange the product for an English version (!) as they did not have such a version in France (!!!). Instead, they refunded my purchase and told me to buy an English language version on Amazon UK! Is this crazy or what?

Right now, I have not bought Office 2011 yet for this very reason (though I had a hard time confirming that the French Office 2011 Home & Student edition is French ONLY. I haven’t seen this info mentioned in any review). In a couple of weeks I’m going to the US, and I’ll pick up Office there. But still, as long as you’re asking Microsoft questions, I’d be very curious to know what the rationale behind this seemingly crazy policy is.



John Martellaro

Daniel: Great question! I will point our Microsoft rep. to your question and see if they have a rational explanation.

Don Montalvo

What’s Microsoft’s reasoning behind appending to existing *.plist files (pref files)? Why not create new *.plist files instead, which would make packaging/deploying a LOT easier (read: things won’t break).

One day Microsoft will understand the significance of the Manifest Destiny…and will provide integrators/administrators with the proper manifest so we can push out necessary commands.

Microsoft Office 2011 is not ready for mass deployment. Not unless integrators/administrators want to put in the time to subsidize Microsoft’s engineers and cobble together the above stuff (if it’s possible to do).

Don Montalvo
Dallas, TX

Lee Dronick

“Q: Does the MS Office 2011 Installer install a copy of Silverlight?

A: No, Silverlight is not installed.”

Look in the Additional Tools folder of the Office 2011 folder, in there is a Silverlight webloc file, a web location. Clicking on it takes you to their Silverlight demo page. I had previously installed Silverlight so I can neither confirm or deny if the Installer includes Silverlight.

Mike D

Here’s an easy one for Microsoft: Why did they take away the preference that controls what happens when you delete an e-mail message in Outlook? In Entourage, when I deleted an e-mail message, it would jump UP to the next message (I could adjust it to go up or down). Now it only goes DOWN to the next one. Since many of us read e-mail listed by date received, and work from the bottom up, I have to hit the UP arrow every time I delete a message to get to the next one. Why delete this preference??


I too want to know why the installer needs Safari to be closed before installing Office.

Office 2011 installs some plugins for SharePoint and your browsers should be closed. For best results always quit all applications before installing Office. Same for Adobe apps.

Lee Dronick

Office 2011 installs some plugins for SharePoint and your browsers should be closed.

Thanks Diane


The one really big glitch I’ve found so far (and unfortunately did’nt become aware of it until after installing and importing everything from Entourage 2008) is the fact that they’ve actually left out syncing from Outlook; nothing but contacts can be sync’ed with my iPhone ? no calendar, to-do’s, notes etc! How this is possible ? and with no warning - is beyond my imagination.

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