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Tuesday, April 14, 2009, 12:00 pm PT (03:00 pm ET)

Microsoft offering Office 2008 free trial for Mac users

Microsoft's Mac Business Unit this week is making available to Mac users a "fully functional, no strings attached" free trial of Office 2008 so that prospective buyers and users of previous versions can 'kick the tires' on new suite before plunking down the cash for a permanent copy.

The 545 megabyte download is available after a quick registration over at the Redmond-based company's MacTopia website. The registration is required to generate an trial product key that will expire 30 days thereafter.

Although Office 2008 for Mac made its debut over a year ago, this is the first time Microsoft has offered customers the option of trying the software before they buy it. The trial copy will run side-by-side with earlier versions of Office and includes a year's worth of maintenance and security improvements.

"The MacBU is aware that a number of customers have wanted to try Office 2008 for Mac before purchasing, and they have been working to make this available in tandem with updates to 2008," a representative for the software giant told AppleInsider. "Today customers can now check out Office 2008 with the fixes and performance enhancements that have been made since launch."

Once the 30-day product key expires, users will have the choice to either purchase a copy of the suite from an Apple authorized reseller or buy a product key from Mactopia online and be up and running without reinstalling.

Of course, Microsoft fragments the office suite into various versions like it does its Windows operating system. A "Home and Student Edition" costs $149.95, the standard version is priced at $399.95, and the Special Media Edition fetches 499.95. However, Amazon.com has these same editions listed for $111.99, $240.00, and $224.95, respectively. For a breakdown of what's included in each edition, see this article.

Meanwhile, readers interested in familiarizing themselves with Office 2008 and the history of Office without downloading the software may want to check out AppleInsider's six-part series: Road to Mac Office 2008.