Office for Mac

It seems obvious once you know that the answer is 'yes'. But here at Macworld we are often asked two key questions by Mac newbies: can you get Microsoft Office for Mac? And can you run Windows on a Mac?

The answer in both cases is a resounding yes, but the methodology is different. Here we explain how to get Office for your Mac and how to run Windows on a Mac. See all Mac productivity software reviews.

Can you get Office for Mac?

Yes, yes you can. In fact it's little known that Office for Mac was launched prior to the Windows product, as far back as 1989. Indeed, one of the oddities of Microsoft and Apple's sometimes adversorial relationship is the fact that Microsoft makes a lot of money selling products for Mac, and OS X wouldn't be quite so popular without the ability to run Office.

Office for Mac is a different program to Office for Windows, and it tends to update at different times. So, for instance, we're on Office 2013 for Windows, and Office 2011 for Mac. But Office 2011 for Mac offers a very similar feature set to the Windows programm. You get Word 2011, PowerPoint 2011, Excel 2011, Outlook 2011 and the rest. (See also our Office 2014 release date and rumours piece.)

Typically Office 2011 looks and feels like the Windows program. And, critically, Office for Mac 2011 is totally compatible with Office for Windows. So if you work and share files regularly with Windows users, the same Word and PowerPoint files will work on both platforms. See also Office for Mac vs Google Docs vs Pages: which is the best word processor for Mac?

Office for Mac 2011 versions and UK price

As with the Windows version of Office, there are multile editions of Office 2011 for Mac. You can choose to pay £79 a year of or £8 a month to licence Office 365 Home Premium. A single licence of Office 2011 for Mac Home & Business will set you back £219, and a cut down version of Office - Office for Mac Home & Student - comprising only Word, Excel and Powerpoint, will cost you £109.

Office for Mac 2011 system requirements

Here are the system requirements for Office for Mac

A Mac computer with an Intel processor.
Mac OS X version 10.5.8 or later.
1 GB of RAM recommended.
2.5 GB of available hard disk space.
HFS+ hard disk format (also known as Mac OS Extended or HFS Plus).
DVD drive or connection to a local area network (if installing over a network).
1280 x 768 or higher resolution monitor.

Can you run Windows on a Mac?

Windows on Mac

You can indeed, but it is a more involved process than is installing and running Office. For one thing you need to run Windows alongside OS X. This is a good idea anyway, as for one thing OS X is great, and for another the key benefit of Windows is the ability to run Windows software. But you don't also want to open the door to all the Windows malware in the world, and keeping Windows off to one side will help to keep your Mac safe. (Find out more in our piece: run Windows applications in OS X.)

Installing an additional operating system such as Windows on a Mac works via a process called virtualisation. You can do it through either Boot Camp or VMware Fusion, but the easiest option is to use Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac. It costs £69 but offers full control over both desktops and lets you install more than one extra OS, assuming your Mac has the resources to do so.

An Intel Core 2 Duo processor and at least 2GB of RAM (preferably 4GB) are needed to run Windows successfully. Remember that you’ll not only need this level of hardware, but plenty of hard disk space on your Mac too. You’re in effect running two PCs off a single one. For this reason, an MacBookAir with an SSD drive is probably not a good choice for dual-booting Windows 8 and Mac OS.

Switching between desktops doesn't even involve logging in and out of your current operating system - you just switch windows. Once installed as a dual-boot OS, you'll be able to drag items from your Windows 8 PC into the Mac OS and vice versa. You'll need a separate user account besides the standard Administrator account once Windows has installed on your Mac. This option is only supported on Parallels Desktop 7 (the latest version of the software); if you’ve got an older version of Parallels, you’ll need to upgrade at at cost of £34.99.

US and Canadian users can buy and install Windows 8 from within Parallels, while UK users will need to buy a copy and either install it from a USB drive or burn the ISO file to DVD. A Windows 8 licence will cost you £99.

We explain how in detail the process of installing Windows 8 on a Mac over on PCAdvisor.co.uk.