Microsoft delivers first update for Mac Office 2008

Patches Excel, fixes two-dozen bugs, but some users complain they can't update

Microsoft patched the latest version of Office for Mac Tuesday to fix more than two dozen problems, including a security snafu revealed just days after the suite launched in mid-January.

Some users, however, have reported problems getting their machines to "see" the update.

Dubbed Office 2008 for Mac 12.0.1, the update patches three vulnerabilities in Excel, the suite's spreadsheet application, that were noted yesterday when Microsoft rolled out its usual monthly security fixes. But the update also addresses a slew of other bugs and quirks, including several that went public almost immediately after Office 2008 debuted January 15.

"This update fixes an issue that could give a local user who does not have administrator permissions access [to] Office 2008 program files," said the accompanying advisory posted to the Microsoft support site.

Two months ago, Joel Bruner, a Chicago-based Mac consultant, noticed the permissions glitch and posted information about it to his blog. Microsoft acknowledged the problem, then later in January told users how to work around it.

Microsoft also claimed that 12.0.1 includes numerous performance, stability and reliability improvements -- it called out 24 items in a bullet list -- in all four of the applications that make up the suite: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage.

The applications, notably PowerPoint, should open faster, said Microsoft, an answer to users who have complained about the programs' lackadaisical launch speeds. Also improved, said Microsoft, is Entourage's synchronization with other applications and with Exchange servers.

But on Microsoft's Office support forums, some users complained that they were having a tough time getting the update installed. For several users, the Microsoft-built Office updating tool -- which was itself updated only recently -- wouldn't show them 12.0.1.

"I've run it manually, and it shows no needed updates," said a user labeled as "Zerocool" in a message Tuesday. Several others chimed in with identical experiences. Those users turned instead to the stand-alone installer, which weighed in at 114MB, to apply the update.

Others, however, reported that they were unable to apply the update no matter what they tried. Still more beefed that sync issues continue to exist.

One user put it bluntly. "I was chugging along on Office v.X for years with no problems," said someone identified as Ernie. "I wish I had never updated to Office 2008. It has NOT been worth the hassle. I'm now seriously thinking of just ditching MS Office and using the built-in Apple apps [ Apple's iWork '08 suite is not 'built-in,' but costs US$79 -- Ed. ] because this is not worth the time and irritation.

The Office 2008 for Mac 12.0.1 update can be downloaded from Microsoft's Mac-specific Web site.

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Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

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