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Office 2011 puts pedal to the metal with demonstrable speed bumps


As we've been diving into the Microsoft Office 2011 application suite, we've been focusing on the new features going from 2008 to 2011, and the relative value versus alternative tools like Apple's iWork suite. One thing we haven't really nailed down, though, is speed. Although it's easy to see in the first few moments of using it that Office 2011 is bringing a lot of performance optimizations to the table, exactly how much faster is it?

Enter our friends over at MacTech magazine, who have polished their stopwatches and lined up a slew of test machines to get at the raw numbers and compare Office 2011 to both Office 2008 and 2004 across the entire suite. The whole article is worth a read, but the gist is that Office 2011 is quite a lot faster everywhere you care about speed: application launches, file open/save (noted as faster with the XML formats than with the legacy .doc, .xls etc. files), key operations, and more.

In particular, Excel has gotten a serious turbo injection, with operations like fill range and charting timing out as "orders of magnitude" faster than in the previous version. MacTech suggests that Excel users who lean heavily on the charting capabilities "run, don't walk, to get the upgrade."

On the Mac Mojo blog, Microsoft's own Erik Schwiebert posted an interesting look inside the development process and philosophy that drives the speed optimizations seen in Office 2011. From the user perspective, you might not think that squeezing a few milliseconds out of a particular function would lead to worthwhile improvements, but Schwiebert lays it out well and explains the cognitive science behind perceived application performance -- worth a read. His video demo of Excel's launch speed improvements is in the 2nd half of this post.

Here's the video demonstrating Excel 2011's launch speed versus Excel 2008 on identical machines -- not too shabby.