1. It's time to say goodbye to Entourage. Outlook has finally arrived for Mac users. The good news: It's easier to send files and calendar invites through Exchange. The bad news: It won't sync with iCal or allow side-by-side calendars. New features include public folders, category syncing and Social Connector, which imports LinkedIn contacts and status updates from Facebook. Reed Sheard, VP and CIO at Westmont College, thinks that, overall, "if it works as advertised, it will save time on the support side."
2. It's features are Windows-like. The suite's applications are faster and have interfaces similar to the Windows versions. You can now view Word documents full-screen, and PowerPoint slides can be viewed and ordered in 3D. Also new: Completed PowerPoint presentations can be easily shared online. Still, devout Mac users may remain partial to Apple's Keynote application because it works on the iPad and allows smoother slide transitions. Excel's new additions include pivot tables; Sparklines, which graphs data in a single cell; and an improved print preview with a larger, more user-friendly format.
3. Compatibility's improved. Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, says the only compatibility issues would stem from programs that are more than two years old or that don't adhere to Apple policy. All file types can now be sent, imported or exported without having to first save a copy in the format for a previous version of a program. Outlook for Mac gets along fine with PCs in Exchange and cooperates with Spotlight (Mac's search bar), so you can find e-mails anywhere. Communicator, a new corporate chat client, works with other IM services.
4. It needs tweaking. The Mac wiz may be grasping for some features that aren't there, like autocomplete or clean-up-text commands, but everyday users should be satisfied. Some may prefer the formatting palette, with common commands displayed in a permanent row below the customizable ribbon tab, and those who don't have the option of collapsing it. Enderle says Outlook was "a godsend for IT managers but is still a bit mixed for the user. Anyone that uses [Office 2011] aggressively will see things that aren't cooked right."
5. It integrates with cloud services. Free cloud alternatives-Office Web Apps, SkyDrive (Windows' live file-sharing service) and SharePoint-can integrate with Office 2011 seamlessly, without altering any of your fancy formatting. Sheard says cloud apps offer "a more effective paradigm and coherent architecture" and because of that some users, like those on Google, may not be open to switching.
Follow Editorial Assistant Lauren Brousell on Twitter: @lbrousell.
Read more about office applications in CIO's Office Applications Drilldown.