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Office 2016 for Mac

Microsoft announces Office 2016 for Mac preview

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Microsoft typically updates its Office suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and OneNote) about every three years. And with the introduction of its Office 365 Cloud version, the software giant can tweak the software any time it wants.

What about the Mac users who rely upon MS Office? The number of Macs in the enterprise is growing, with BYOT (bring your own technology), as well as corporate adoption of the Mac platform.

The last product release was Office for Mac 2011, over five years ago. So the recent announcement of Office 2016 for Mac was welcomed by Mac aficionados. You can install the Office 2016 for Mac preview without impacting your existing Office 2011 version; you can use both–just not at the same time. Look in your App Launcher and you will see icons for both the 2011 and 2016 versions of each app.

First takes

The biggest change is the addition of OneNote, which is logical considering last year’s release of OneNote for iOS (free). Having used OneNote for Windows for over ten years, I find the Mac version lacks a few “must have” features, like the ability to

  • toggle grid lines on and off, and to print the grid if desired.
  • create reusable page templates.
  • set default paragraph (line) spacing, as well as paragraph spacing within the document.
  • use a variety of bullets, vs. one (•), when using multi-level bullet lists.
  • create and save user-specific styles, e.g. headings in different fonts, styles and colors.

Microsoft advertises Office for Mac as “the familiar office you know and love.”
Unmistakable office | Designed for Mac | Cloud Connected.

Microsoft is working to consolidate the Office brand and bring Mac users into the fold. The application icons resemble the Office 2013 Windows version icons.  I happen to like the (old) Office 2011 icons because they are more innovative, just like a Mac user expects. However, today’s design trend is “flat” user interfaces with bold colors.

Office 2016 for Mac

Photo: Microsoft

All Mac Office applications resemble their Windows counterparts, with the goal of a familiar, but simpler, user experience. I think the Mac version may suit many, but will disappoint others who expect quantum leaps in features in the new version. After all, it has been five years in the making! A few examples…

  • the ribbon interface resembles that in the Windows version. So far, in the Office 2016 for Mac preview, the user cannot move the ribbon below the menu, as is possible in the Windows version.
  • Office 2016 offers a limited number of built-in design templates (style, color and font combinations) and does not appear to take advantage of the default and built-in Mac OSX fonts (i.e., Helvetica Neue for late-model Macs, plus a laundry list of Apple fonts).
  • When opening a new file, the user can choose from a few pre-formatted letters, rėsumės, spreadsheets and presentations, but there is no link to hundreds more on the MS Office Web site. The solution: Mac users can download Windows templates and open them without losing data and formats.

Release plans

Microsoft plans to release Office for Mac 2016 in the second half of 2015. Look for it in the Mac app store. According to the Microsoft Web site, if you have an  Office 365 subscription, you will get the current version of Office for Mac, free.

I look forward to the official rollout. As an ex-Windows user, I will continue to use and explore the capabilities of the Office for Mac Preview versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote–despite the feature gap. I don’t use Outlook, as Mac mail provides me with a consistent user experience across my smartphone, tablet and notebook. I do miss some Outlook features that Mac mail lacks, especially the seamless integration of mail, contacts, calendars and tasks and the ease of data import and export.

Those interested in downloading the preview can find it here.

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Author: Jill Barson Gilbert

Founder, President & CEO of Lexicon Systems, LLC, an independent management consulting firm in Houston, TX. Thought leader on environment, health & safety (EHS) and sustainability software. Trusted advisor on strategic planning and strategic marketing issues.

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