One of the questions I get asked a lot is “what’s the cheapest way to get Microsoft Office for Mac?” Whether you’re a Windows Switcher, a student or home user, chances are that at some point you’ll have to work on a Microsoft Word, Excel or Powerpoint document, and to do this you need Office for Mac (or iWork).
The short answer is if you’re a student or using it for non-business purposes get Microsoft Office Home and Student Edition. You can buy it with licences for one or three computers and it’ll cost around £70-85. Note that this version does not include Outlook, so if you need to connect to a Microsoft Exchange Server for email/contacts/calendar you need to buy a different licence.
If you intend to use Office for Mac for your business, or need Outlook to connect to a Microsoft Exchange Server, you’ll need to buy Microsoft Office Home and Business Edition. Again there are single or multiple licence versions available starting from around £165. Outlook 2011 for Mac is really really good. If you’ve suffered using Entourage with Exchange in the past you’ll absolutely love it.
The last option is to buy Apple’s iWork software instead. iWork lets you import and export Word, Excel and Powerpoint files and does a pretty good job. But make absolutely no mistake. It’s not Office. It looks nothing like it. If you need complete Mac/Windows transparency, don’t make the mistake of buying iWork. However if you need to open or create the occasional Work, Excel or Powerpoint compatible file it does a decent job.
Pages, the “Word Processing” part of iWork actually makes a pretty acceptable Desktop Publishing program and is much easier to use than Word in my opinion, but Numbers is frankly a poor “Spreadsheet” substitute for Excel. Keynote is absolutely brilliant, blowing Powerpoint completely away for creating beautiful Presentations.