I have not always been kind to Microsoft Word on the Mac. Put simply, Office 2004, was a slug on intel Macs. It was slow to load, slow to type, and clunky. It was also a resource hog since its not inconsiderable code had to be ground through Rosetta [a built-in OS utility which enables Intel-based Macs to run PowerPC-based Mac programs]. I simply found it easier to use other applications.
It has occurred to me recently that this has changed. I’ve been using Office 2008 for a few months and have found it serves an important role in my day job once again. A lot of the work I do is collaborative. I write agreements and contracts all the time and, sadly, I can count the number of Macs on the other end of that process on one hand. So it is a given that I’m dealing with Microsoft Word on the other side of the table just about every time.
Word 2008 cures a lot of its predecessor’s sins. It loads pretty snappy and doesn’t get in your way when typing. I think the Microsoft Mac:BU [the Macintosh development group within Microsoft] has also made some significant strides in making it feel . . . well . . . more Mac-like. I met several of the Office developers at Macworld and a lot of those guys really “get it” with the Mac experience. For me, it was real eye opening. Microsoft Word is legendary for having every imaginable feature. The Microsoft Mac engineers had to retain all of that stuff and still make a pleasant to use Mac application. That is not exactly easy. Nevertheless, they did a good job of containing it all.
I can second what David says. I run Office for Mac 2004 at home (on an Intel-based iMac) and Office for Mac 2008 at work (on an Intel-based MacBook Pro) and the speed differences are astonishing, setting aside differences in processor speed. That the applications now run natively on Intel chips rather than in emulation via Rosetta makes all the difference.
Feature sets are comparable with the latest versions of the Windows Office applications but are, in many ways, better (or at least preferable for me, subjectively speaking). Word for Mac does an outstanding job of leveraging the strengths of OS X, integrating it much more with other Mac applications rather than running in relative isolation from them, as its predecessor did. Moreover, it's a marked improvement over previous versions of Word under both Mac and Windows without being such a departure from the menus and icons approach which has been so familiar. Entourage is, in its current iteration, frankly a better application than its close relative Outlook.
Support for scripting throughout the Mac Office suite is excellent. As such, I look forward to exploring those capabilities much more than I have thus far with the assistance of another Mac-loving attorney, Larry Staton, whose Scripting for Lawyers blog I just discovered, thanks to Tom Mighell.