The new version of Microsoft Office for the Mac – currently in beta version – is a "substantial improvement" over previous Mac Office products, a top US reports.

The Washington Times report suggests the new version is similar to the latest Windows version, and when saving a file can provide a "compatibility report", to check that the file will open easily and properly in other versions of the program.

"New features in PowerPoint will give Apple's Keynote some competition", it says. These include new Presenter Tools. The presenter sees an on-screen clock, a notes pane and thumbnails of the entire presentation. The audience sees a full-screen display of the actual slides."

It continues: "The plusses of Entourage so far are enormous. A Project Center allows users to group email and files by project and creates an alias to the project folder on the desktop. It also offers a three column view with the email reading pane to the right of the email list."

One Mac-only feature is reported to be Entourage archiving, allowing users to create and save a periodic Entourage backup.

Demos of the new software are available on Microsoft's Web site.