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Universal Microsoft Office for Mac to get new UI

Microsoft’s next-gen Office suite for the Mac is being given a top-to-toe refit in readiness for its debut in the third quarter of 2007, according to APC.

"On the surface is a revised interface which borrows ideas from the Office 2007 for Windows ‘ribbon’ and has already been radically changed due to user feedback," wrote David Flynn, who met with Microsoft's Mac Business Unit (MacBU) during the company's 2006 Hardware Launch in Seattle.

Design and usability testing on the new suite interface is already underway in the MacBU labs at Redmond and Cupertino, and it's reported that the team has already made one trip back to the drawing board based on user feedback.

"We will be doing a UI refresh," said Mary Starman, the MacBU group product manager, "but it won’t be exactly like you see in Office 2007. It just wouldn’t make sense. Apple has got their own very specific set of user interface guidelines and we try to first and foremost to follow those guidelines. If we can innovate on top of that and do some interesting things to make sure that the interface is really discoverable for the Mac user, then we’ll look at doing that."

While Microsoft remained mum on any new feature or substance enhancements to the software, currently code-named Office 12, it did say it is being rebuilt as an Intel-friendly Universal Binary application. It will also adopt the native XML file formats of its Windows sibling, Microsoft Office 2007.

"One of the big things we’re working on for the next version of Office is picking up the new XML file formats of Office 2007 for windows" said Starman. "As (the Office for Windows team) get through chunks we port things over, but we won’t be able to do our final testing on file formats and compatibility until they release office 2007"

Starman said Microsoft will release the new Mac version of Office 6 to 8 months after Office 2007 is released for Windows in January. The timeframe implies a Mac release between the months of July and September.