Mac-Windows compatibility headed to Office 2011

Microsoft Corp. today announced that the next version of Office for the Mac will include a pair of key features that debuted in the Windows edition of Office 2010 earlier this year.

Office for Mac 2011, which is slated for an October launch, will offer “Sparklines,” cell-sized Excel charts, and in-app image editing tools, two features that first appeared in Office 2010, the more popular Windows edition that hit the retail market last May.

Microsoft touted the new features as part of its attempt to boost compatibility between the Mac and Windows versions of the suite.

“What we’ve been able to do in Office for Mac 2011 is to bring a lot of power to bear to produce a professional-looking document that’s still compatible with Office for Windows,” said Kurt Schmucker, an evangelist with Microsoft’s Mac team, in a video the group released Wednesday.

Sparklines, which Computerworld reviewer Preston Gralla called the “most useful” among the changes to Excel 2010 on Windows, lets users drop in bite-sized charts or graphs into individual cells.

Microsoft pitched Sparklines and improvements to Excel’s PivotTables as compatibility wins for Mac users who need to share spreadsheet documents with co-workers running the Windows version of Office.

Previously, Microsoft has made much of the debut of a ribbon-style interface in Office for Mac 2011, another feature borrowed from the Windows edition.

Office for Mac 2011 will go on sale at the end of October; Microsoft has not yet set a definite date. however. Customers who purchase Office for Mac 2008 through Nov. 30 will be able to download a free copy of 2011 when it’s available.

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