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MacBU Keeping With The Times

Microsoft's  Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU) is readying a new version of Office for Mac users, but not before saving current users from falling into a time warp.

The unit has released an update of Entourage, MacBU's e-mail application for Mac users. The update takes into account the new March 11 start for daylight savings time (DST).

In a blog posted on the company's Mac Mojo site, MacBU developer Andy Ruff said the update "ensures that your calendar is updated to reflect the new DST rules and improves overall time zone reliability."

The U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005 dictated that DST be moved from the first Sunday in April to the second Sunday in March, beginning with March 2007.

The update applies to Office 2004 Standard Edition, Office 2004 Student and Teacher Edition, Office 2004 Professional Edition, Microsoft Word 2004 for Mac, Microsoft Excel 2004 for Mac, Microsoft PowerPoint 2004 for Mac and Microsoft Entourage 2004 for Mac.

MacBU also announced that it will ship a new version of Office for Mac -- Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac -- in the second half of 2007.

Office 2008 will include a version of the new ribbon user interface introduced with Office 2007 for Windows, called the Elements Gallery.

The Elements Gallery includes a Mac-only feature, Documents Parts, that can be used to create tables of contents and other desktop-publishing elements, such as a publishing layout view.

The new application also includes a home and small-business tool for use with Excel, as well as a time-management tool, called My Day, that can be used independently of Entourage to offer users a quick glance of their day's activities and priorities.

Office 2008 is "by far the most comprehensive, Mac-complementary productivity suite we've developed to date," said Roz Ho, general manager of MacBU, in a statement. "We focused on what our users want the most -- compatibility with PCs."

Ho also noted that the new version of Office for Mac will be "based in Office Open XML Format." This format was recently vetted by standards body ECMA International.

According to Ho, MacBU will provide converters for the current version of Office 2004 for Mac, allowing users of Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac to natively read Office 2008 files.

The converters will be available as a download from the MacBU site six to eight weeks after Office 2008 has shipped.