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Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)

Microsoft releases Office 2008 SP1, says VBA to make return

Microsoft on Tuesday released Service Pack 1 for Office 2008 and also provided a glimpse at its roadmap for the Mac productivity suite by announcing the return of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) in the next version.

Since its release at Macworld Expo 2008, sales of Office 2008 for Mac have "soared," the Redmond-based software giant said, "selling faster than any previous version of Office for Mac in the past 19 years."

"The response has been amazing — since we launched in January, the velocity of sales for Office 2008 is nearly three times what we saw after the launch of Office 2004," said Craig Eisler, general manager of the Mac BU at Microsoft.

Eisler's team on Tuesday made its biggest move yet towards fortifying the office suite with the release of Service Pack 1 (SP1), which aims to increase overall stability, and provide security and performance enhancements to the suite.

In particular, the update will deliver improvements to printing accuracy and reliability in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It should also deliver improved compatibility with files exchanged between Excel 2008 for Mac and Excel 2003 and Excel 2007 for Windows, Microsoft said.

Meanwhile, Word will gain updates to Notebook layout view and improved document map responsiveness, while PowerPoint's AppleScript compatibility will see enhancements that will offer users the ability to use the PowerPoint selection object in AppleScript to implement custom scripts that operate on the current selection in PowerPoint.

Some other changes target Entourage, such as improved calendar views and Exchange support. The personal information manager and email client will also gain the ability to send and view image from third-party tools.

As part of its announcements Tuesday, the Mac BU also said it intends to bring VBA-language support back to the next version of Office for Mac, but offered no timeframe for the update.

"Sharing information with customers as early as possible continues to be a priority for the Mac BU to allow customers to plan for their software needs," the group said. "Although the Mac BU increased support in Office 2008 with alternate scripting tools such as Automator and AppleScript — and also worked with MacTech Magazine to create a reference guide — the team recognizes that VBA-language support is important to a select group of customers who rely on sharing macros across platforms."

Office 2008 users can download the SP1 update for free at Microsoft's Mactopia Website (not yet available at press time), or can receive the file automatically via the Microsoft Auto Update installed as part of initial version of the productivity suite.

Readers interested in Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac can purchase various version of the suite at Amazon.com at discounts of up to 21 percent, or check out AppleInsider's 6-part, in-depth Road to Mac Office 2008 series published earlier.