Microsoft's Mac Business Unit has released more information about its forthcoming Office 2004 for Mac productivity software.

The company has made an online demo (in Flash format) of the product available, in which the curious get shown a few until now unrevealed features by lead program manager Kris Barton.

The company's watchwords for the upcoming release are "manage, create and share", the company says: "The entire Office for Mac suite has been enhanced to provide you with deeply integrated tools that can help you manage, create, and share information more effectively than ever".

Microsoft is promising a Project Centre. This will let Mac users view all contacts, documents and notes related to a project in one place, accessed through any Office application.

The company is promising some Entourage improvements, including a three column view; this places the reading pane to the right of the email list and aims to let users read more of a message without needing to scroll through that message. Entourage will also offer better junk mail protection and an archiving feature that lets users export messages, contacts or schedules into an Entourage archive package.

New Word features include a notebook layout view which supports tabs, and allows users to flag entries and record sound into the document while users type.

PowerPoint users with stage fright may benefit from Office 2004's new Presenter Tools. Visible only on a presenter's Mac, these will include an on-screen clock (so you don't overrun) a thumbnail slide view and a notes pane.

The company has high hopes for its Mac product. Microsoft's former UK group marketing manager for home and retail products, Jonathan Hulse told Macworld last year: "We anticipate a growth in Mac sales over the next two to three years."

He clarified that this means Microsoft expects Apple's market share to increase, but said: "We don't expect a huge resurgence to the market share (Apple) had in the eighties, but we see the platform as heading in a positive direction."

Hulse said: "We see the Mac productivity software market growing. Our research shows that half of Mac users use Office, sometimes three or four times a day. We know Mac users depend on Office, and that's how we justify the major investment we are making in the product."

In January, the company revealed several upcoming new features, including:

A Project Centre (a "simple way to view and stay on top of all emails, files, contacts, meetings and tasks related to different projects").

A Notebook Layout View now features in Word. It looks like ruled notebook paper and lets users take notes, search and flag relevant information and tag recorded audio directly into the document.

Scrapbook gives users access to the things used most often. These could be text, logos, anything.

An Excel Page Layout View allows users to view and manipulate on screen exactly what they will see on paper. This includes margins, headers, footers and page layout.

Compatibility Reports give details of issues in Word, Excel and PowerPoint that may be problematic on another platform or with an older version of Office – and can automatically fix them.

Any customer who acquires Office v. X for Mac from January 6, 2004 until 30 days after the availability of Office 2004 for Mac can obtain the new product at no charge other then shipping and handling.

There will be three versions of Office 2004 for Mac:

Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac Standard Edition. This includes Word 2004, Excel 2004, PowerPoint 2004, Entourage 2004 and MSN Messenger Version 4.0.

Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac Student and Teacher Edition. This is the same offering as Standard Edition, but is available for a discounted price for qualified students and teachers.

Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac Professional Edition. This is the same offering as Standard Edition, but also includes Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac Version 7 with Windows XP Professional.

Microsoft will release more details about its Office suite "soon". "Next, we’ll highlight tools that are designed to help you create great looking documents and efficiently share information across platforms," the company said.