Microsoft ships major update for Mac Office 2008

Service pack gives Mac users better doc sharing via free Live Workspace

Microsoft today updated Office 2008 for Mac to Service Pack 2 (SP2), adding a tool that beefs up access to documents stored on enterprise SharePoint servers and Microsoft's free Office Live Workspace service.

Office 2008 SP2 is the first major update to the suite since May 2008's SP1.

Microsoft touted several stability and performance improvements to the Mac suite, including faster launch and scrolling for Word, and 24 per cent faster calculating in Excel. But it focused attention on the new Document Connection tool, which it first unveiled in January 2009 at the Macworld Conference & Expo. At the time, Microsoft was coy about a delivery date, saying only that it would ship the tool "later this year."

The tool is meant to make it easier for business users to share documents with colleagues running the Mac and Windows editions of Office, as it streamlines opening and saving documents to Office Live Workspace, the for-free online document access, storage and sharing service. At the same time, Office Live Workspace supports Safari 4.0, Apple's newest browser, as of today.

Microsoft also talked up Document Connection's improved access to SharePoint, the corporate-grade document sharing and collaboration server.

"With SP2, we are not only delivering on top customer requests mid-cycle, but also taking a first step in bringing Microsoft software plus services to Mac users," Mike Tedesco, a senior product manager for Microsoft's Mac business unit, said in a statement.

Last January, the company also promised it would upgrade Entourage this year as part of an effort to migrate to Exchange Web Services (EWS) for connecting to Exchange mail servers, and drop the currently supported WebDAV. A beta of EWS was released in January, but a final has not yet appeared.

Office for Mac 2008 SP2 is available for manual download from Microsoft's site, although users can also use the "Help/Check for updates" command within any of the suite's applications, or simply wait for the auto-update tool to offer the service pack.

The Mac version of Office will continue to lag behind the Windows edition. Although Microsoft has said it will ship Office 2010 for Windows in the first half of 2010, it has not set any timetable for the next version of the Mac suite.

Microsoft started Office 2010's first round of beta testing last week.

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Gregg Keizer

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