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Switching to a Mac: Microsoft Word and Office

Microsoft sells Mac versions of popular PC applications, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. If you frequently need to use files created by these programs, getting Word or the entire Office suite may be a wise investment. Microsoft Office 2008 for OS X goes on sale in early 2008. It'll be file-compatible with Office 2007 for Windows, just as Office 2004 for Mac was compatible with Office 2003 for Windows.

If you have to use Office 2004 on your Mac, Microsoft provides a program that converts the 2003/2004 files (such as .doc for Word) to the format (.docx) that the 2007/2008 programs use. Note that Microsoft Office 2008 won't support Visual Basic for Applications. An alternative is available from REALbasic.

You can buy Microsoft Word by itself, or you can buy the entire Office suite, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage, a Mac program similar to Outlook in Windows, but with somewhat different features.

Microsoft Office is pricey, especially if you're not upgrading from a previous version and don't qualify for the student version. TextEdit, which comes with OS X, can open files in Microsoft Word (.doc) format.

If you're planning to install Microsoft Windows on your Mac and you need to work with MS Office documents only occasionally, one approach is to install the Windows version of Office in Windows and use it there. If you use the virtual technologies for installing Windows, the Office applications can be used alongside Mac applications. You can also use a program called CrossOver Mac from CodeWeavers that runs the Windows versions of Office 97, 2000, and 2002 on your Mac without installing Windows. CodeWeaver's approach isn't always perfect. But if you're planning heavy use of Office, you'll be happier installing the Mac version.

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