For the first time since 2011, Microsoft has released a new version of Office for Macs. Continuing with its strategy to focus less on specific platforms and more on providing services to its users, this release follows Office for iPhones, iPads, Android phones, and Android tablets onto the market.
Built natively for Macs
Rather than just being a port of the version of Office for Windows desktops, Office 2016 for Mac beta takes advantage of platform-specific features found in Yosemite (Apple’s latest release of its operating system). These include retina display and full screen support.
Installation is simple: download the file and then run through the quick installation process, which will automatically extract the different Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote). Users will need an Office 365 account to access the program.
On first glance, the Office for Mac applications are more attractive and visually appealing than their counterparts for Windows. The layout of the menus (which, in a first for Office on Mac, use the ribbon interface) is much less cluttered, meaning that the icons for common tasks stand out and the overall impression is less overwhelming. It allows you to perform key tasks quicker. With customizable themes, you can also easily change the look and feel of your Office documents.
As collaboration and the ability to access documents across devices is a productivity must have today, if you sign in to your Microsoft account, you’ll be able to sync your documents across devices using OneDrive or SharePoint.
Given that Excel is such a commonly used tool for analysis on Windows machines, the version for Mac really simplifies complex analyses, especially when it comes to building formulas. Its interface is similar to the Windows version, but some attractive icons make it a far more visual and easy to use.
It also does a good job of surfacing those features that are useful and commonly used but were previously hidden away in menus, meaning you had to launch a search party every time you wanted to apply this particular function. This includes commands such as “wrap text”, “insert (or delete) cells”, and “freeze panes”. Microsoft has also done a good job on enabling collaboration across different platforms, as you can share files with Windows users with Excel 2013.
PowerPoint is another strong part of the suite, with this new release focusing on design enhancements. There are a ton of transitions and animations to give your presentation some pizzazz, as well as the same collaboration and document co-authoring experience you get in Word and Excel.
Word’s features and functionality are pretty similar to the Windows version, with a slightly more attractive interface. It already comes with built in collaboration features, allowing you to share the document for editing with other users.
OneNote is included in Office 2016 for Mac, with Microsoft touting it as a digital notebook. It’s like a more visual version of Notepad for jotting down your thoughts and syncing them across devices. But it lacks the functionality of other note taking applications, such as Evernote, and it feels like you could do all of this in Word.
The renaissance of Office
This Office 2016 for Mac marks a huge step forward from the previous version. With a sleek interface, tons of functionality, and features that take advantage of Mac’s unique selling points, Microsoft should be able to recover some ground it has lost to Google’s office tools, and other free productivity tools.