Microsoft has today announced a series of new "first-for-the-Mac" features in the upcoming release of Microsoft Office 2001 Macintosh Edition. The company claims that these new features will "simplify difficult tasks". The updated Office Mac Edition is scheduled to be available in the second half of this year.

"Our customers have told us that starting and completing projects is too difficult," said Kevin Browne, general manager of the Macintosh Business Unit (MBU) at Microsoft. "Extensive research and usability testing of Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2001 have helped us simplify the applications and the way in which everyday tasks are completed."

Projects, interfaces, QuickTime New features include a Project Gallery that acts as a task-based starting point for all the Office apps: Word, Excel and PowerPoint. "We've learned from customers that getting started and determining which application to use can be the most difficult part of a project," claimed Browne.

Microsoft has also attempted to simplify Office’s user interface. "In many instances, we simply wanted to make existing functionality more discoverable for our customers," Browne said.

The PowerPoint presentations application has also been revamped, including support for Apple’s popular QuickTime multimedia technologies. "PowerPoint Movies make it dramatically easier for anybody to create media-rich presentations and share them with friends, family and customers, even if they don't have PowerPoint 2001," said Browne.

Macworld previews new features For more details and screenshots of the new Office 2001 applications, see our Hot Stuff feature.

Microsoft may have been forced into releasing these further details after it recently had to slap down Mac Web rumours site, MacNN, for publishing details of the new Office 2001 applications on its Web site.

MacNN is still being sued by Adobe, after it released details of the forthcoming Photoshop 6.0 months before its eventual shipping date.