At this week's Macworld Expo 2010 conference in San Francisco, Microsoft provided an early look at some of the new features in its forthcoming Office for Mac 2011 desktop suite. The company said it is focusing on three things with this release: better compatibility across platforms, improved collaboration tools, and a refined ribbon-based interface that combines the Mac menu with the standard toolbar.
Among its newfound collaboration abilities is a new coauthoring feature that will allow users in multiple locations to view and work on the same file whether it's in Word, PowerPoint, or Excel. Another feature called Presence Everywhere aims to further enhance this experience by providing real-time status updates on who is working on a file.
Like the upcoming Office 2010 for the PC, Office 2011 will provide a connection to Microsoft Office Web Apps, the company's cloud-based version of the desktop suite, allowing users to access and share Office documents online. They will also be able to share files and collaborate on documents with other Mac and Windows users via Microsoft's SharePoint and SkyDrive.
Entourage will no longer be Office for Mac's email and calendaring client. Instead, it has been replaced by a Mac version of Outlook built in Cocoa "for the latest Snow Leopard integrations and appearance." It will work with the same .PST file format used by the Windows version to store messages and other items.
Unfortunately Microsoft isn't making pricing information or recommended system specs available this week. The company isn't providing a release-to-manufacturing target date either, other than to say the product will be on store shelves in time for this year's holiday season.