Office v.X For Mac Inside Out
Book Review

Microsoft Office: mac v. X Inside Out
Tom Negrino with Kirk McElhearn and Kate Binder

Microsoft Press
ISBN 0-7356-1628-0
$44.99 US
$64.99 CA

So, you have flexed your credit card, and purchased (or upgraded to) Microsoft Office v. X for Macintosh. After all, it is the Mac equivalent of the biggest, baddest, most popular office productivity suite in the PC world. You come home from your dealer, or get the package from the delivery truck driver, and rip the box open, only to find a CD-ROM disk and packing slip.

That’s all.

“There’s gotta be more,” you say, as you rummage around in the suspiciously slim box. Unfortunately, the User Guides that you look for are nowhere to be found. You install the software, and try out the various parts: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage. The on-line Help file answers a few of your questions, but it does nothing to answer the bigger question: “How do I USE this thing?

Welcome to the Death of Documentation. This phrase, coined by TidBITS publisher Adam Engst, reflects the fact that comprehensive user guides, even for many complex software suites, have become a thing of the past. Paper has been replaced with on-line help. Read the article to get a better feel for the pros and cons of the trend to on-line help.

The yawning gap left by software publishers’ failure to provide paper documentation has been well-filled by many book publishers. Buyers spend big bucks to buy software, and then they can’t learn how to use it, so they run to buy a book. Tom Negrino, Kirk McElhearn and Kate Binder have the book for you.

Microsoft Office: mac v. X Inside Out is my current recommendation in the Macintosh Office v. X help book category. Covering Word, Entourage, Excel, and PowerPoint, its 975 pages keep it from the “boat-anchor” category (just barely), so you can actually read this from an easy chair. The book is targeted at the Intermediate/Advanced level user, not at the raw Macintosh beginner; it won’t tell the newbie how to run a Macintosh. But, if you put this book to good use, you’ll have a solid grounding in Office v. X.

A word to the wise: don’t feel that you have to read Microsoft Office: mac v. X Inside Out (hereafter referred to as MOIO) from cover to cover, as I did. Users who are upgrading from earlier Office versions will best employ MOIO as a reference book. The excellent index and table of contents make finding particular topics easy, and the material is presented in such a way that small subject areas stand on their own.

My one kvetch with the Word material came from the my reading it from cover to cover, as opposed to using it as a reference to find specific information. I felt the section on Word never really presented the user with the best overall strategy to create a document. Chapter 2 Creating and Managing Documents covers the essentials, but I felt that someone new to Office v. X could use a broader discussion of the ins-and-outs of documents, sections, chapters, master documents, etc, earlier in the book, rather than later.

My experience with the other Office components is minimal, compared to my expertise in Word. Reading the Excel section gave me a great overview of all the powerful features that I never knew how to use. The advanced user will find plenty of detail in MOIO on AppleScripting spreadsheets, and a solid foundation of PivotTable information. The Solver is discussed, but not in great detail.

As I knew virtually nothing about Entourage and Powerpoint before reviewing MOIO, I was glad that I came away with the feeling that I could use the applications after one reading of the book. I might even have to abandon my current calendaring application in favor of Entourage. If I ever get a corporate job, MOIO will help me attain true PowerPoint-jockey status.

While the Office v. X book field is not yet jammed with entries, Negrino, McElhearn, and Binder’s Microsoft Office: mac v. X Inside Out will be stiff competition for any new competition. I strongly recommend it for both new Office users, and for upgraders.

MacMice Rating: 4.5 out of 5

David Weeks

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