MS office for a Mac vs. Win XP+MS Office on a Mac?

So I think I’m gonna get the 20 inch 2Ghz iMac, as I’m not much interested in reviving my aging Dell . I’m very excited. My question though … Would anyone recommend one way or the other either (a) buying MS office for a mac (I’ll use excel, access, outlook, and word at home) or rather (b) buying a copy of windows and running the Office 2003 I already have on the mac, via windows…?

In addition to my lame ass job, I’m a full time grad student, so I would be eligible for student copies of either, assuming they’re available for me.

I’m personally not very fond of the way MS Word is set up for the Mac. It’s a bit different than the Windows versions that I’m used to.

All the people I know with cross-platform experience w/Office say Office:Mac is a really good product.

I don’t know myself. I’d type out formatted documents in raw RTF or HTML in a text editor before I’d use Word, I absolutely detest Word. And have never found a purpose in life for PowerPoint (as with GarageBand, it’s just one of those apps I have zero need for).

I can only speak for Excel. On the Windows side, you get OLE support. On the Mac side, you get AppleScript. Advantage: MacOS. On the Windows side you get deeper levels of keystroke equivalents for useful commands, while the Mac version is cleaner and feels more streamlined but more often requires you to use the mouse. Advantage: Windows. It’s a great piece of software on either platform, probably Microsoft’s best product overall. For the most part, you can edit the same workbooks back and forth in Windows and MacOS, and for the basics you’ll easily forget which platform you’re using because it won’t make a difference very often one way or the other.

If you’re an Access user, be aware that there’s no Mac version at all. (I’ve heard that there’s a Mac version of the Access-equivalent in OpenOffice, and that’s it’s compatible with MS Access and can use its files, but I’ve never seen or used it). Mac folk use FileMaker, which is a better database on both platforms anyhow.

If you buy Windows, you’ll also need a program called Parallels* (c. US$80.00) and another copy of Office. Office can only be installed once.

Or you could use something called Boot Camp (free) that would require you to restart your computer to switch between Windows and Mac programs. You can’t run Windows programs and Mac programs at the same time. Parallels allows you to have a window within Mac that runs Windows. It’s well worth the 80 bucks.


That should just say “Parallels” with no asterisk. And Boot Camp is an alternative to Parallels, for which you would still need to buy a copy of Windows XP and MS Office.

Boot Camp
Good review of Parallels
Good overview of Boot Camp


I use a PC at home and a Mac at work (until my new Mac laptop comes in, then I’ll ditch the PC). I have Office installed on both of them, and I like the Mac version a lot better. With Windows, whenever I use office it just annoys me to no end; no matter what machine I’m on it takes forever to load, that stupid paperclip is always enabled, and it likes to freeze up while it does stuff like add pictures or save (it always unfreezes, but five seconds of freezing is annoying to me). I don’t have any of those problems on the Mac.

If you buy a Mac it usually comes with Office installed, but it doesn’t come with Access, so if you’re a database user I’d get Virtual Windows or something similar.


Uh, since when? I know that sometimes Apple will ship out new Macs with a time-locked demo version of Office, but I’ve never heard of a full-blown unrestricted Office as part of a standard Mac configuration.

Get the Mac version. Switching between Windows and Mac apps is a PITA, something you should only do when no superior alternatives exist. There are a lot of miniscule differences between the operating environments (things like shortcut keystrokes and such) that can be very distracting when bouncing from one to the other. Office for Mac is actually a really good product, making up in polish and usability whatever it might lack in raw features next to the Windows version. And I believe you can get a very nice deal on the education version of the software.

(J/c … what are you planning to use Access at home for?)

I think the Mac version of Office is a better program than the Windows one. In addition, if you switch between the two OS’s, you won’t be able to copy/paste, or easily attach files for emailing, or all kinds of things. Just not worth it.

May I suggest NeoOffice, instead, though? It’s free, and it’s worked for everything I’ve ever needed to do in Office.

How regularly do you need to use Office programs?

Running Windows XP via Bootcamp on a Mac (which works perfectly for me) in order to access Office XP will involve turning off your Mac, rebooting and selecting manually to startup Windows. Then when you’re done with Word or whatever, you will need to reboot again and startup in OS.10.Whatever.

If you only use Office every now and again like I do, running Windows on your Mac will be fine.

If you use it very regularly but also want the Mac interface around you most of the time, use Office:mac.

This is the beauty of Parallels. It allows you to have a window on your screen with WindowsXP in it. You can run OSX and XP at the same time! I’m getting a MacBook Pro, and Parallels will be the first software I install. Anyone considering BootCamp should read the review I linked earlier. The ability to run both OS’s without rebooting for only 80 bucks sounds like pure nirvana to me. Then again, I’m a geek.


It does look like the Mac version just might sound like the best option. I’m learning Access, and would prefer that the baseball and football contests/standings I do each season be done in access and not excel, for better querying and what not. Access would be perfect, actually. So it’s not oodles upon oodles of information, but not best suited for Excel either.

On the other hand, this Parallels program looks great, Mayo Speaks!. It’s just another $80 though, and I didn’t think about the regular Office '03 I already have not installing/activating a second time. Is that true?

Would all my games run on Windows via Bootcamp or Parallels (such as Sim City 4, Civilization, Rise of Nations, etc)? Hmmm.

If you’re just learning Access, do yourself a huge huge favor and get FileMaker and learn that instead. (Unless, of course, you need to bone up on Access for employment or potential-employment reasons).

Good, Access sucks anyway! But are we talking about FileMaker Mobile 8 or a different version? Note the one review at the bottom of the page of the first link.

OK, I see, you’re probably indicating File Maker Pro 8.5, but that’s $300, on top of the new mac, on top of buyin Office for a Mac, etc., where I already have Windows office '03 at home, and could run it either through Parallels or BootCamp…? Decisions, decisions.

If I bought a Macintosh, one of the benefits would be the use of the operating system, and security would be one of the big pluses (the MacOS having less opportunity to be attacked by various kinds of malware.) I would only use Windows when absolutely forced to. The Macintosh version of MS Office is recognized as being equal or superior, so I see no reason to get the Windows version, unless there is that one feature that is a must-have for you, that you can find in the Windows version and not the Mac OS version.