Parents and Mac switch, regarding Excel
October 21, 2008 9:52 AM   Subscribe

My parents just bought a MacBook to replace their ailing old PC laptops. They do their business management in Excel 2003 on those machines, but want to switch to 2008. This process is apparently an exercise in frustration.

I got this note from my dad:
"We (mum & me to some extent) NEED help... tutorial, functional cross reference or something the like to make the adjustment from ms excel for pc to excel for mac. The adjustment is proving very painful for use with business stuff so I need to solicite your help for transitioning."

I already suggested querying mactopia & other forums, but can anyone recommend any other resources for this?
posted by wumpus to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I use Excel for the Mac at home and teach classes in Excel on PCs and I find that for the older versions of the software, they're actually pretty much the same for most functions. The problem as I see it is that the new version of Excel is more like a whole new program than an update or an upgrade; it's not a Mac problem. I have trouble myself and I can pretty much use anything.

So, this is a tangential answer to your question but maybe you could spring for a copy of Office 2004 (unless they need the newest version for some reason) and see if that doesn't make their problems go away?
posted by jessamyn at 10:04 AM on October 21, 2008

Office for the Mac is laid out in the Mac way.
If they want something that is more familiar to them, get and set it to save as .xls (excel 97/2000/2003) format. That way they have the same toolbars and ways of editing properties (right clicking on a cell and going to properties, as opposed to the Mac way where you select the cell and there is a separate properties window that is always open).
posted by ijoyner at 10:15 AM on October 21, 2008

Different approach. To save some frustration to you and them you could simply have them buy a copy of VMware Fusion and install a copy of Windows XP and the version of Excel they are familiar with.
posted by pdxpatzer at 10:17 AM on October 21, 2008

Another option is to purchase Crossover Office which is a Windows Emulator that runs windows programs in Mac. You'd install crossover, then put in your windows office disc and install it. Crossover is also useful if you need Internet Explorer in Mac and don't want to deal with a virtual machine (VMWare).
posted by ijoyner at 10:19 AM on October 21, 2008

Office 2008 for OS X no longer supports VBA. If they run any sort of VBA scripts then they really need to decide if OS X or Office 2008 is truly for them.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:26 AM on October 21, 2008

If you want to see how they'd feel about the older version, hunt down the install CDs that came with an older Mac. You should be able to install the trial for MS Office 2004. Of course, that's stuck in PowerPC coding so it's slower and less responsive, but I don't let it bother me because I'm not keen on upgrading. They could even try iWork, but I'm worried they wouldn't like Numbers, because I hear it's fairly different than Excel.

CrossOver Office or VMware Fusion may also be a solution. Full on virtualization may be overkill, but if they have other Windows apps they want to run, it may be worth it to just buy VMware to begin with rather than Wine layers. They could, in theory, uninstall Windows from one of the old laptops and use that license and copy for VMware (Correct me if I misinterpreted the EULA, other people).

I also cringe to say this, but if they really don't like transitioning to OSX, you could install Boot Camp and have them use Windows on the Mac full time. Ugh, I really want a shower after saying that.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:01 AM on October 21, 2008

The only things that won't work on the Mac with 2008 (according to Microsoft) are the macros. There's no way to fix this, that functionality has been removed and won't be replaced until the next version of Office (unless they change their minds). In my own experience there are also some minor, uncommon software bugs with the Mac version of Excel, but the biggest issue for me is the program interface is godawful. Office for Mac has always been messy, cluttering up everything with floating toolbars and windows; the new version sort of fixes this but is still really crappy compared to the Windows version, even compared to the Office 03 Windows version. It's not a "Mac-like" program, and it isn't a Windows-like program, it's a beast unto itself. The Formula bar for example floats free, and you are 100% unable to do anything about this. Some UI features you CANNOT turn off or rearrange. There are also a significant number of differences in the keyboard shortcuts, such as the "edit cell" command - F2 in Windows, something like [ctrl]+U in Mac. Why? Who the hell knows.

Microsoft devotes very little resources to the Mac business unit, and it shows. Office 2008 is usable, but it's got some ugly bugs (especially if you use Spaces).
posted by caution live frogs at 1:45 PM on October 21, 2008

This may not directly address your parents' problem, but storing their business documents via Google Docs may allow them to use a reliable spreadsheet system that they can access from anywhere no matter what kind of computer they have.
posted by MaxK at 5:11 PM on October 21, 2008

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