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Editorial: Microsoft is the best Mac developer ever
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NewsPoster
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Oct 22, 2015, 03:17 PM
 
We're not kidding. Microsoft is the best and the most important Mac developer outside Apple itself. Yet, we had to make it clear we're serious, and you did give us that funny look until we said the word "important." You're thinking okay, you can accept important, but unfortunately, you struggle with the word "best," because without question you have had problems with Microsoft software. Settle down, because tomorrow at precisely this time, we're going to examine how Microsoft is the worst OS X developer ever, but today, let's celebrate.

Make no mistake, Microsoft warrants celebration. Name any other big-name developer who has stayed with Apple for as long. There is the Omni Group that goes back to NeXT days and there is Nisus Writer that has been gathering ever more word processing fans since Methuselah was in shorts, but Microsoft Word is long and it is broad. There aren't many Macs in the world that don't have Microsoft Word on them in one generation or other, and if there are any that can't read and write Word documents then they're the ones mounted in server racks.

Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word is close to ubiquitous and that means Microsoft is too. More than a billion dollars has been spent by Microsoft on making Word excellent –– now, now, we said we'd leave the criticism to tomorrow –– and Word began on the Mac. It very quickly went to Windows, and for the longest possible time it has been the PC that has seen the newest Word features first. It is still the case that there are features on the PC version of Word that the Mac has never seen, but then Windows doesn't get AppleScript.



Maybe you have to be a reasonably intense power user to rely on AppleScript, but at one point Microsoft took it away and the roar actually made them reverse that decision. The ability to script Word and make it perform repetitive text tasks on one or some or many or all of your documents is enterprise-level geeky but if it matters to you then it really matters.

What's great about Word is that whether you are a CEO with RSI, or a poet with a haiku, the same word processor works exactly as well for you both. What's particularly great is that you can be both! You can be the formal business man or woman now, and over the lunchtime be writing poems and novels. The same tools are there for every writer, and Word can become as familiar and reassuringly comfortable as a favorite pen.

Microsoft Excel

We could practically have written for the entirety of this article "Microsoft Excel QED." Excel is so good and so crucial to so many Mac businesses. Back in the 1990s Microsoft ran an ad that said Excel was being used by 99 percent of all businesses so "What are we doing wrong?". Where everyone has Word and, okay, most people complain about it, a gigantic number of people have Excel and practically all of them adore it.

Again, Excel started on the Mac. Yet it was then so immediately, instantly popular on PCs that it was common for people to update to the newfangled Windows solely to run it. That's not that they swapped from DOS to Windows because they liked Excel, it's that they continued on DOS, except when they wanted to run Excel. Windows was sometimes referred to as Excel's run-time environment: it was the wrapper you had to have in order to get to the good stuff in the spreadsheet application.

Microsoft Office overall

Microsoft wasn't the first company to use the name Office, and it wasn't the first to bundle its major tools together, but it was the first blockbuster hit. By offering Word and Excel together for less than either cost on their own, Microsoft increased sales of both and also got Outlook and Powerpoint into businesses across the world.

Outlook is a behemoth of an app that mixes its primary function of email in with calendars and To Do tasks: it can be the center of your entire Mac-using life. It's particularly great when you're on a network, but the power it offers businesses is there for individuals too, so Outlook has surely the best email rules in the business.

Design

True, this is new. Microsoft does make some wincingly bad design decisions. Reminders have popped up over the years that Office was from the makers of the Fisher Price-like Windows interface. Even very recently, it was possible to open Word and switch on so many menus and toolbars, that you were only able to see half a sentence of what you were actually writing.



Yet that was then and this is now. The Ribbon toolbar in Word, Excel and the rest is not has brilliant as Microsoft claims –– you still find yourself having to hunt for the tools it's supposed to put in front of you –– but it's slicker and easier to use than before.

Then just take a moment to look at Microsoft Word and Excel on iOS. It did take years for Microsoft to cave in and release versions of the suite for Apple's touchscreen hardware but when they decided to do it, they didn't hold back. There is a strong argument that even though they are a little hampered and have fewer features, the iPad and iPhone versions of Word are the best that it gets.

Away from the familiar Office there are now so very unfamiliar designs as Microsoft Translate. That's a genuinely beautiful iOS app for translating languages. Just beautiful.

We come to praise Microsoft... today

So it's got talented designers working hard now, and it has always had many, many people designing and making its software. Even if most of Microsoft's engineers foolishly believe Windows is the better platform, the work they do making Word function on Windows directly leads to improvements in the Mac one these days. Plus, although we've had times when Office for Mac seemed likely to die –– and times when if it had done, Apple would've died on the spot –– Microsoft has stayed the distance.

We mean this. We just also mean to say it now because we had planned to write a Living With Microsoft Office 2016 feature after these months of using it and we're not going to. Maybe later. For now, though, and just for now, our experiences with Word and Excel 2016 mean we are just compelled to say that Microsoft is the best Mac developer ever.

Wait until tomorrow, though.

--William Gallagher (@WGallagher)
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Oct 22, 2015 at 07:43 PM. )
     
twistsol
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Oct 22, 2015, 05:28 PM
 
Helix is the only code free Mac based relational database front end and server. It's been available on the Mac continuously since 1984 having been owned by half a dozen companies over the decades. QSA Toolworks took up the struggle of keeping this weird project alive and managed to move Helix to OS X, and through the Intel transition on a shoestring budget.
Acknowledged Macinotsh bigot!
     
Czarembo
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Oct 22, 2015, 07:06 PM
 
Unbelievable that MS didn't implement speech through the edit menu. Seems pretty simple, since Apple implemented it. I'm dyslexic and something simple to read the screen would have been so G*&(*(*& simple!
     
ElectroTech
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Oct 22, 2015, 08:30 PM
 
I have stopped buying and using Microsoft products about 5 years ago. I will not start using their unintuitive backwards, upside down spaghetti code software in the foreseeable future. I have been using Apple's iWork suite and other Java based products to great satisfaction.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Oct 23, 2015, 12:28 AM
 
Then I think you'll like the second part of this series, ElectroTech.
     
quebit
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Oct 23, 2015, 02:59 AM
 
I disagree with most conclusions in the article, other than the fact that Microsoft was first on the Mac, and then on Windows ... those are historical facts, that many people don't know. However, even with Microsoft being at the pinnacle of their craft relative to their previous attempts at software, they're still not the best Mac App developer by a long shot.
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There are far better examples in the past and present. There is no doubt about the utility/necessity of Microsoft Office it today's IT landscape, but it's certainly not based on worthwhile merits .... MS Office is a necessity BECAUSE of Microsoft's EVIL attitude and business practices (the same is true of AutoDesk).
[br]
Microsoft's own marketing during the 90's used to claim that the best spreadsheet on the market was Lotus 123, and they strived so hard to beat them, not by producing better software, but by sleazy business practices and blackmail. This was also true of WordPerfect.
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Lotus Resolve was a far better spreadsheet (only available on NeXT), but it got killed because of lack of support, as Lotus had to put all their wood behind the Lotus 123 arrow.
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Even today, most IT organizations will concede that Lotus Notes is far better a product than MS Exchange, but MS Exchange and Outlook are ubiquitos in the same spirit that Honda Civic are ubiquitous :-)
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And as far as them being a good "developer", i.e a "model citizen" in the developer world, that's also not true either. They've never been compliant with native API's, they've rarely embraced all the features of the host OS to the user's advantage (until very recently) and they've almost always chewed user interface guidelines, and native API's in favour of their own home-brew stuff (something that Adobe started copying).
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They produce some of the most crufty and bloated software in the entire industry (iOS versions are an exception), with various reliability and security issues; they use proprietary file formats in order to exclude competitors, and they're generally expensive.
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OS X and iOS have a lot of great developers, who are in the business of supporting the users to have the best experience on their computer. People like OmniGroup, Bohemian Coding, Flying Meat, Nisus, Wolfram, MarketCircle, Devon, etc, are far better .... granted they're not big brand names, but they certainly produce far better software than Microsoft.
     
quebit
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Oct 23, 2015, 02:59 AM
 
I just absolutely hate this commenting platform. It's totally and utterly stupid.
     
Flying Meat
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Oct 23, 2015, 12:24 PM
 
I use Office for 2 reasons: Because my organization pays for it. It's generally the expected document formats.
To be sure, I do not use ALL of Office. Just Word, Excel, and Powerpoint (shudder). Mail, Calendar, Messages,.. are fine for my needs.
All software has it's drawbacks, either within the specific purpose, or when you try to use the information in another realm. For the most part, I use Textedit, or TextWrangler, but i interact with other user's documents periodically, and want to introduce the least amount of damage possible.

(For informational purposes, I am not affiliated with the very fine software folk, Flying Meat. It's just been my username since the game Unreal Tournament.
     
TigerN28763
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Oct 23, 2015, 08:05 PM
 
Word 1 was first in DOS 1983.
     
   
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