Dual-boot Mac: which version of MSOffice, 2007 or 2008?
May 29, 2008 9:16 PM   Subscribe

Dual-Boot Macbook; OSX (home)/ Windows (work). Need MS Office on both without rebooting. Office 2007 on the Windows partition + Parallels seems to make the most sense. Anything I should know about?

This macbook is going to have a split personality as far as I can maintain practically. Most of the time it'll be in Home mode, booting to OSX, - but I will have to access its work personality daily, and I don't want to have to reboot to do so.

I will need functional access to Office, specifically Outlook (or Entourage, if I got Office:Mac 2008) to access work's Exchange server and/or sync with a WM6 smartphone (Outlook->MissingSync->iCal isn't cutting it for me).

Seems silly to pay for it twice, and it appears that with Parallels, I can run the Windows version in OSX while the reverse doesn't seem possible.

Any performance issues I should know about? Am I missing some crucial idea/hack/OMG NO I tried that and it gave me fits?
posted by bartleby to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Good idea. MS Office for Mac is crippled -- no MS Access, and a good deal of the functionality of Excel is broken, too. More may be wrong; I'm not expert, and these are the only two things with which I've collided.

You can make MS Office work in Mac. Since you're already in Parallels, it makes infinitely more sense to run the native version in its native OS to take advantage of Access and full functionality in other applications.
posted by gum at 10:00 PM on May 29, 2008

Agreed. If you need it for work purposes, you might as well use the same apps as everyone at work is using. Office 2008 has no visual basic support, so if you use any VB macros in Excel, you'd be out of luck.
posted by pmbuko at 10:05 PM on May 29, 2008

Let me recommend that you at least look at VMWare for your virtualization, as well. It can also run off your Boot Camp partition - you may want to check out some comparative reviews - lately it seems VMWare is the better virtual machine driver. I certainly prefer it. You may too.
posted by birdsquared at 10:07 PM on May 29, 2008

You'll want to check whether Parallels can connect to your smartphone -- it has trouble with some peripherals. As for performance, all you really need to do is make sure you've maxed out the RAM in your MacBook. Otherwise, you should be fine.
posted by jjg at 10:10 PM on May 29, 2008

Mmmm... random anecdotal comparison:

After a test drive of VMWare and Parallels on a pretty fast and RAM-heavy iMac, VMWare was the clear winner. I rarely buy expensive software and I still shelled out for it.

Parallels, on the other hand, hiccups likes a drunken sailor on my machine. Also, I'm not a big fan of its intrusive install/GUI.

Granted, I'm not a power user, but it seemed that even basic programs launched faster on VMWare.
posted by themadjuggler at 11:05 PM on May 29, 2008

Thanks all, but now I have an advanced question, after the VMWare notes:
Parallels will let me run JUST one or two apps direct from the Windows partition, without running a whole XP virtual machine; whereas VMWare has to run a whole XP VM created from an image of the Windows partition to run any app in OSX?
I get that VMWare is better virtual machine software; but it seemed that Parallels would let me run a single application "through a hole in the partition wall" instead of a whole VM; sorta like a WINE for OSX. Do I misunderstand?
posted by bartleby at 11:26 PM on May 29, 2008

Do I misunderstand?

Yes. Parallels, VMWare, Virtualbox, etc. are all virtual machines, which allow Windows to run within a "box" - an application within the native environment. WINE is different, but you get that already.

You still must boot Windows within Parallels in order to run any of your Windows apps, but one new-ish feature that each of the three I mentioned all have is the ability to make the Windows desktop transparent, overlayed onto the native desktop.

So you see your Dock and Mac folders or whatever is on your desktop underneath your Windows apps as though you were using WINE. The difference is that you also get your Windows taskbar - many people put it along the top of the screen. It works pretty well - I've been using Virtualbox to run Windows within Linux for a while.
posted by dammitjim at 12:18 AM on May 30, 2008

My 2 cents: I have a MacBook Pro, 4 gigs RAM, Office 2008, Parallels (on Boot Camp) and Office 2007. I've also run the VMWare trial version to compare it with Parallels. I don't use either Outlook or Entourage (nobody should have to use either, in my book) so I won't touch on those here.

VMWare's implementation of the Start menu annoys the hell out of me. It's buried in the OS X menu bar at the top of the screen. If you used Windows previously, it's really non-intuitive. Parallels maps the Start menu to the cmd key when Parallels is selected, and shows the taskbar rather than making it part of a menu. If you ever boot directly into Windows, Parallels also seems to be less inclined to rearrange Windows desktop items for no reason (VMWare resizes the desktop at random, which moves icons around, whereas Parallels always keeps the desktop full-screen and just doesn't draw anything except the taskbar when in Coherence mode).

However, I've had some issues with Coherence that eventually made me opt to always run Parallels full-screen, in a separate Space. It honestly works better that way for me.

Office 2008 is a minor improvement over 2004 in some ways and a major step backwards in others. PowerPoint is actually better. Excel is crippled by the removal of VBA if you need to use files with macro functions, but it does support larger numbers of columns and rows. It also helpfully makes the Formula bar an undockable, floating window. Word also loses all plug-in functionality without VBA (which for me means I need to keep Word 04 installed to use EndNote). On the plus side MS is going to add VBA back in, but you'll need to wait a year or two and then buy Mac Office all over again, what a bargain. Oh, don't forget that Microsoft helpfully made sure that keyboard shortcuts for common formatting tasks often differ substantially between the three programs for no logical reason. Couple those annoyances with the sudden total system freezes (admittedly have not seen this since the SP1 update landed, but still) and random inability to switch apps with Expose (Office programs will sometimes just refuse to gain or lose focus), and you have yourself a world of fun.

Office 2007 runs reasonably well in Parallels but can be a bit slow at times. (To be fair, it isn't any slower than Word 08 runs natively; 08 often gives me delays between typing and actually showing the characters on screen.) I have no issues opening anything from my Home folder using the Parallels file sharing. The biggest drawback to using Office 07 in Parallels is that it constantly reminds you just how awful the Mac Office user interface really is. 2007 takes a short time to grow on you, but everything is pretty easy to find, and the Ribbon interface is vastly superior to the damned floating Toolbox in Mac Office. I absolutely cannot understand why the Mac BU didn't adopt the same interface. The simplicity and single-window design of the 2007 UI seems much more Mac-like to me than the current mess of multi-window floating crap they have insisted on using.

One common feature in both Office versions: Cell highlighting in Excel is done using an extremely light color. It is nearly impossible to distinguish a selected cell from an unselected one. Yes, this is true on both Mac and Windows office versions, and no, you can't change it on either platform. Thanks, MS. Using something other than the system default color for selected items is such a great idea.

Final verdict: I hate having to open another OS to run something I use as often as Office, but 08 is a steaming pile, so it is likely worth it to just run 07 in Parallels / VMWare, especially if you need to share anything with Windows users or if you use programs like Access which are deemed unnecessary for those "creative types" that use Macs. Office 08 is expensive (read: costs as much as Office 07 + a Windows upgrade license, for fewer apps than are included in 07 and less functionality for the ones that are there) and essentially nothing but a disappointment. If I had actually purchased the program* I'd be on the phone screaming at Microsoft for my money back. There's a slim chance that Office 2010 (or whenever it is released) will finally make Mac Office a legitimate software suite for doing actual work, but don't hold your breath. Mac Office hasn't been equal to the Windows version since the days of Word 6.0 or so. Unless Microsoft spins the Office division off as a separate company, if you use a Mac you are basically a third-class citizen in the minds of the MS Office team.

My interim solution: I keep NeoOffice installed when I want to do something that Mac Office won't allow me to do, and when I also don't have the time to wait for Parallels to load up. Surprisingly NeoOffice has more intuitive shortcuts than Mac Office (a keyboard shortcut for "paste special"? Why Excel hasn't had that for years is beyond me) and by default displays documents at the same zoom level as Windows Office so that opening a Word doc from a colleague doesn't immediately force you to zoom in to 150% just to be able to see the microscopic text. It is far from perfect but it's proved more reliable than Mac Office in the short time I've been using both.

*I got everything except Parallels for free as my MBP is a University-owned system, so thank god for site-license software.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:25 AM on May 30, 2008

VMWare's implementation of the Start menu annoys the hell out of me. It's buried in the OS X menu bar at the top of the screen.

Or it's in the taskbar if you turn that on. Which you should; it's very convenient.

If you ever use two monitors, the true multi-monitor support in the recent Fusion 2.0 beta is verra nice. Parallels has multi-monitor support, but it just makes all your Mac monitors look like one big screen to Windows.

Parallels does seem to have better integration with the Mac; you can set up files on your Mac to open in Windows apps and vice versa. Fusion doesn't do that.
posted by kindall at 8:00 AM on May 30, 2008

If you are looking for a WINE type program - look into CrossOver.
posted by birdsquared at 11:31 PM on May 30, 2008

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