Will Microsoft Office Support Lion’s New Document Management Features?

So, you’ve upgraded to Mac OS 10.7 Lion, and you’re enjoying all the great new features like Mission Control, Launchpad, and the new gestures, but there’s something missing in Microsoft Office. With all the emphasis that Apple put on both full screen mode and the new document management features of Lion like Versions and auto save, what it didn’t make clear was that it was up to all of the third-party application developers to implement these APIs in their own applications. If you open up Microsoft Office 2011 in Lion, you’ll see the same old Save and Save As options you’re used to, with Versions, full-screen, and native auto save nowhere to be found (the Office auto save still works, however).

While the main apps in Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook) run fine in Lion, they could be a whole lot better if they integrated the new features that Apple has provided in its OS. Apple’s iWork suite of apps has supported these features since day one of Lion, and Microsoft risks losing customers to Apple’s solutions unless it gets to work on an update.

So, is an update coming? Ars Technica says that it is, but not for a little while. It’s not trivial stuff to completely change the saving system in an application, so Microsoft has set expectations low by saying that the wait should be “measured in months not days — just to set expectations.”

So what can you do in the meantime? If you have a copy of iWork that’s updated to the latest version you can use all of the new Lion features there, and still be able to export at the end into a document that your Office-using friends can open, as iWork can save as .XLSX, .DOCX, and .PPTX files, the native Office format. Of course, you can also just keep on using Office and wait for the new version, but such a wait might seem a bit taxing given how long Apple has made the APIs for Lion available. Office costs at least three times as much money as iWork, so you’d think that Microsoft would keep its software updated. Since that doesn’t appear to be the case, our options are either to ditch the Office mothership altogether or hold out for a few more months.