The biggest news in the Mac world is the availability of the new version of Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office 2004 was just released and offers substantial improvements over earlier versions. In its earlier iteration as Office X, Office was the pre-eminent productivity suite on the Mac platform. The new version substantially improves on its predecessor. Significantly, some of the new features will greatly facilitate a lawyer’s work. Accordingly, it seemed most appropriate to devote the MacNotes column in this issue to what is, essentially, a product review of Office 2004 with a focus on the improvements that will most significantly help lawyers.
The Standard version of the Suite includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage (the Mac’s answer to Outlook for those of you just coming over from the Windows’ side). A Professional version, due out by the time you should receive this review, will add Virtual PC 7.0 to that mix. Pricing on the Standard Suite is $399 for an initial acquisition or $239 for an upgrade from an earlier version. Don’t even think of buying the programs separately as (a) Entourage cannot be purchased separately and (b) the economics don’t make sense: PowerPoint and Word sell for $229 as a first purchase, while Excel lists for $299. Each of the three sells for $109 as an upgrade. Accordingly, if you plan to get any two of the programs, you will pay les than full price for the second and the rest come along at no additional charge if you get the full suite.
I have listed some of the key new/enhanced features of the component programs of the Standard version below (I have omitted a discussion of Virtual PC 7 as I have only seen a beta version of the program and features may change by the release date; additionally, I am under a confidentiality restriction as to features. All I can/will say at the present is that I have been testing Version 7 with Windows XP Professional; it installs easily and smoothly and appears to work better and faster than its predecessors.):
The most significant new feature is the introduction of the Project Center. Because it technically comes as a part of Entourage, I will discuss it in that section of this column. Note, however, that you can access the Project Manager directly from every program in the Office Suite. Generally, this feature offers significant functionality to lawyers as it allows you to keep all critical information respecting a project connected for easy and immediate access.
Notebook. The biggest change to the Word program is the addition of the Notebook view. Designed to appear as a spiral notebook with lined paper, this feature gives you a fast and efficient way to collect and rearrange information into a traditional tabbed notebook format. The notebook accepts both text and audio files. You will likely find it quite useful for trial notes, deposition notes, or for organizing research in preparation of a brief or other memorandum. Long ago I adopted the practice of using a Trial Book to organize my materials for trials and arbitration hearings. That book (which historically was a ring binder) contains pleadings, deposition transcripts, trial memoranda, witness lists, examination outlines, motions in limine, paper for my trial notes (and the notes themselves during the trial) and anything else I think may help in the trial, except for evidence, which I traditionally kept in a separate binder. More recently, I have taken to moving portions of that information to the computer. Deposition transcripts, trial notes, PowerPoint presentations, and the like have existed on my computer for the last few years. I am in the process of using Word’s Notebook to create an entire trial book, tying everything together again in a single document.
Tracking Changes. Microsoft has substantially modified the tracking changes features in the new version. Changes include the ability to track changes by each of several reviewers and to easily accept or reject each of the changes in the original document. This enhancement will facilitate the review and collaboration process in document preparation.
Formatting Palette. Improved, more control, and easier to use. Additionally, the palette turns transparent when it is open and not currently being used, allowing you to see files/folders underneath the window on the desktop. The Add Objects panel allows easy incorporation of a variety of graphics, clip art, pictures and even movie clips. It makes all document creation work easier.
Formatting Options. Cutting and pasting in a Word document brings up a small book icon that allows you to choose formatting options for the pasted addition. You can retain the format of the format of the source, adopt the formation of the destination or insert text only and then format.
Navigation Pane. The new Navigation Pane opens up thumbnails of pages in the document that appear on the left side of the page and facilitate moving around the document.
Toolbox. Clicking the toolbox icon opens a panel that gives you the ability to check compatibility of the current file with other versions of the software, create and use a scrapbook, access Encarta for general research, or access the new Project Center, which is a feature of Entourage.
Presenter Tools. The introduction of Presenter Tools marks the biggest advancement to this powerful presentation program. If you use PowerPoint and do any significant amount of presentations, this feature alone justifies the cost of the upgrade. Now your audience sees only the main slide while your screen shows you the main slide, a timer showing elapsed time and your notes below the main slide. On the left of your screen a moveable window shows all slides in the presentation. Also, when you move the cursor over the main slide on your screen, it appears to the audience as well so that you can get by without a separate pointer.
Enhanced Animations. Adding animation is easier with this version. The built-in options for animation have been expanded. Emphasis effects have been added to allow you to change display appearance of text and graphics. The Custom Animations dialog box also has been improved, making the process easier as well. These enhancements will help add some additional power to make your point. The additions include 3-D effects in transitions, making PowerPoint more competitive with some of Keynote’s features.
Toolbox. (See Microsoft Word for discussion, but note the absence of the Encarta option).
Formatting Palette. (See Microsoft Word for discussion).
Charts. The most significant changes to Excel occur in connection with the creation of charts. New templates offer very powerful and impressive options, including 3-D to make your charts stand out when you incorporate them into the PowerPoint you plan to use in your closing argument.
Toolbox. (See Microsoft Word for discussion).
Formatting Palette. (See Microsoft Word for discussion).
Project Center. While technically a part of Entourage, the new Project Center ties to all programs in the Office suite; you can directly access the project center from any program in the Suite. In my opinion the Project Center represents the biggest single improvement to the Office Suite from the lawyer’s perspective. It provides a means of doing reasonable management of litigation and other matters on the Mac. The Project Center offers a means of consolidating information about a single project so that you can find it all in one place and get a good overview and perspective. You can define a “Project” as a litigation matter, a transaction, an estate, a client (or for that matter just about any other type of activity that you find convenient in your personal or professional life.
You can tie contacts, calendar information, e-mail, Word documents, PDF files, and other documents to the Project, and the computer will display the information relating to the project separately from other calendar information. It will also include events and to-do notes in the master calendar. Note that for the calendaring to work properly you must either enter the event or to-do from the project center menu initially or enter it to the master calendar and then import it to the project center. Information added to the master calendar will not automatically appear in the project center. Another word of caution, if you settle a case, don’t simply delete the project file thinking it will remove all calendar information from your master calendar—it won’t. You must go to the project and delete each of the calendared items (events and to-do items) separately to get them off of the master calendar. Then you can delete the project.
You can share specific tasks in a project or the entire project with others in your firm by selecting the “sharing” feature and turning it on. Sharing does, however, require that you store the information on a file server, but if you do not have a file server in your network, you can set the program up so that your own computer functions as a server for this purpose. Note, however, that if you use a different computer as the server, Entourage will generate e-mail invitations to those sharing in the project, advising them of how to access it. If you use your own computer, it will not generate the email, but others who can access files on your computer can access the information. (Be sure to store it in a shared folder).
E-mail Filters. Entourage now includes a variable sensitivity spam filter that has proven reasonably effective in identifying and excluding spam.
E-mail Views. You can now modify the manner in which you see the e-mail screen. You have the choice of reading e-mail at the bottom or on the right side of the screen, depending on what works best for you.
E-mail Notification. If you install MSN Messenger, turn Entourage on, and minimize the Entourage window, a pop-up message informs you of the arrival of new email. The notification includes the sender’s email address and a hint as to content.