Telecommuting with OS X Part II – Working with “The Office Suite”

The ubiquitous Office Suite. You can’t escape the Word document, the PowerPoints and everyone’s favorite, the Excel spreadsheet. Now that you’ve learned how to connect in to your workplace, you need to be able to access your documents and your email.

First we will deal with your documents and then move on to getting your email to work.

Microsoft Office: Mac
The easiest way to access your files without problems is to just use Microsoft Office for Mac. Sure, its expensive and rather bloated but it works. Not worrying if the document you emailed your manager looks the same on their computer as it does on yours is priceless. Now that Office 2008 has been released, you don’t have to deal with the dreaded .docx file incompatibility. If you are still on Office 2004, download the “beta” converter from Microsoft.

Office XML Converter

Note: Even though the beta has expired and a notice may pop up, ignore it (don’t click on it) and just drop the file in to convert. It will convert to .RTF format which you then have to reconvert to .DOC (within Word) if you want to use it as a Word file.

Apple’s iWork ’08
Apple’s office suite will also work with Windows Office documents. As far as advanced features such as complex graphics and formatting, there may be minor glitches. For basic documents, spreadsheets and presentations, it will get the job done. Whether you choose iWork or Office 2008 depends mostly on what level of compatibility you need.

As far as my experience with iWork, I find that Pages will convert Word documents seamlessly, although formatting may require some tweaking if there are graphics involved. Keynote has an advantage over PowerPoint in presentation appearance and slide transitions. For complex spreadsheets, Excel still has an advantage.

Also, it needs to be noted that neither iWork nor Office 2008 supports VBA macros. If you use these heavily, your best bet is Office 2007 (Windows) running under Parallels.

Open Office
The open source office suite also deserves a mention. While performance and compatibility may be sporadic depending on your use, it actually is a viable option. Again, depending on your organization and the level of compatibility you need, you may want to look into either Open Office on the Mac or the Java based NeoOffice.

As someone who has used NeoOffice for a while, it does work well, however formatting sometimes can be tricky in documents. Also, I found it to be a bit slow and resource hungry as it is Java based. If you want a free, open source alternative to both Microsoft and Apple, this is the way to go.

Next Page: Getting your emails.

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