A popular Office for Mac version reaches the end of the support line

All Office editions are not created equal. Microsoft's support lifecycle for Office on Windows provides for 10 years of support. But Office for Mac doesn't qualify for extended support. That means a widely used Office version has reached the unsupported phase sooner than you might expect.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

If you’re using Office 2008 for Mac, it’s time to upgrade.

It might seem like only yesterday, but that Mac version was released more than five years ago. And under Microsoft’s Support Lifecycle, that’s the end of the line. Office 2008 for Mac reached its Mainstream Support End Date on April 9, 2013. No more bug fixes, no more security updates, no more service packs.

That’s a significant difference in support policy between the Mac and Windows versions. On Windows, Microsoft provides an additional five years of extended support for all Office versions, even the Home/Student/Teacher editions. Office 2007 is supported until October 10, 2017. Even Office 2003 is still supported, with an end date that matches Windows XP: April 8, 2014.

But Microsoft’s Mac software is covered under the rules for Consumer and Multimedia products, not Business and Developer products. If you look under the Extended Support End Date heading, you see “Not Applicable.”

What are your Mac alternatives?

Well, sticking with Office 2008 is an option. It won’t stop working just because the support deadline has passed. Potentially, that leaves you vulnerable to attacks like the Uyghur trojan, which was discovered earlier this year on machines running Office 2008 for Mac on OS X. The vulnerability was patched in 2009, but some Mac 2008 users never got the update. Human rights activists working in Tibet and Eastern and Central Asia were targeted with spear-phishing emails containing booby-trapped Word documents that installed a backdoor on unpatched machines.

There’s no evidence that similar undiscovered vulnerabilities exist in Office 2008. Yet. as long as you’re comfortable with the idea that newly discovered vulnerabilities in that version won’t be patched, proceed with caution.

Maybe iWork is good enough, or maybe you can make do with Google Apps or the Office Web Apps that are free with a SkyDrive account. The free OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice are also options.

If you plan to stick with Microsoft Office, you can upgrade to Office for Mac 2011, which is supported until January 12, 2016. If your Mac is one of multiple devices in your home or office, consider an Office 365 subscription, which allows you to install the latest version of Office on up to five devices (PCs running Windows 7 or Windows 8 or a Mac running OS X). That option gives you a license to use Office for Mac 2011 today and the right to upgrade to the latest version at any time.

Historically, a new Office for Mac has come out a year after its Windows counterpart. The 2008 and 2011 Mac Office versions followed Office 2007 and Office 2010, respectively. That suggests that a new version of Office for Mac will come out late this year or early next.

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