Microsoft plans to make a new version of Microsoft Office for Mac available in the second half of this year. Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac will be available in Universal binaries — optimised to work on both Power PC- and Intel-powered Macs.

Mac-only features include a publishing layout view in Word, Excel-based ledger sheets for common financial management tasks, and My Day – a separate stand-alone application that offers a task list manager for at-a-glance schedule and task viewing.

“For more than two decades, Microsoft has been committed to delivering quality and innovation on the Macintosh platform while retaining unparalleled compatibility with PCs,” said Roz Ho, general manager of the Mac BU at Microsoft. “Office 2008 is, by far, the most comprehensive, Mac-complementary productivity suite we’ve developed to date. I’ve witnessed firsthand the progression of this product, and am excited to think about the possibilities that soon will be available to our customers when Office 2008 launches later this year.”

Office 2008 for Mac utilises the new graphics engine in Office for Windows, taking Clip Art to new levels with Office Art 2.0. The update will also offer an improved user interface with an Elements Gallery offering quick access to tools. One new tool is Document Parts, which automates some of the most common tasks such as adding a table, or headers and footers.

Like the 2007 Office for Windows release, Office 2008 for Mac will use the recently approved Office Open XML Formats. Currently Mac users cannot read and write Office 2007 documents because currently Office for Mac doesn’t support the format. Microsoft has promised that in spring 2007, it will release a public beta of the file format converters for Office 2004 for Mac, so users can read and write the new Office Open XML Formats.