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Microsoft Demos Mac Office 2011 at Macworld 2010

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At this week’s Macworld Expo 2010 conference in San Francisco, Microsoft demonstrated a test version of its upcoming Office 2011 for Mac, although little new was revealed other than the lack of a full-scale beta test.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) officials showed off the next Mac version’s new “ribbon” user interface, and reiterated that the package will ship later this year.

The company had already made almost all of the information public last summer.

One new piece of information — there is no “beta test” per se in the plans. Instead, Microsoft is planning a “small private beta,” a company spokesperson told InternetNews.comin an e-mail.

Macworld 2010is not owned by Apple (NASDAQ: MSFT) which, for the first time in the show’s history didn’t participate. The event is a production of IDG World Expo.

Users of the new version of Microsoft’s productivity suite will be able to collaborate with colleagues running Office 2010’s — the next PC version of Office — Web Apps. The Web Apps are “webified” versions of Office’s four main applications — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote — that will run in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari browsers.

“You’ve told us that working together across platforms is a priority to you and that’s why we are making Office for Mac 2011 the best, most compatible productivity suite on the Mac,” Eric Wilfrid, Mac Business Unit general manager, said in a statement.

Additionally, Office 2011 for Mac will replace the Entourage mail and calendaring client with Outlook. The Mac version will import .PST files from Outlook for Windows, the company’s statement said.

The new version will also reinstate Visual Basic, which was removed in Office 2008 for Mac — a feature that many users lobbied hard to get back.

Microsoft has not yet announced pricing for Office 2011 for Mac, although the company last summer already cut the number of packages from three to two. The offering now includes only Home and Student Edition, and a Business Edition.

Microsoft officials also touted the Mac version’s unique take on Office’s ribbon user interface (UI). The idea is to preserve many features of Office for Mac’s existing UI so as not to confuse existing users.

“The new design is an evolution of the Office 2008 Elements Gallery and uses the classic Mac menu and Standard Toolbar giving you the best of both worlds. You can even collapse the ribbon and the Toolbar for more screen space or for the more advanced users who rely on keyboard shortcuts,” Microsoft said in a statement.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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