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First look: Microsoft Office 2016 for Mac doesn't feel like an afterthought

Jeffery Battersby | March 6, 2015
You may not have noticed, but of late there's been a mind shift at Microsoft. First with the introduction of Office for iPad in 2014, then the addition of OneNote for Mac and iOS and an updated and useful version of Office for iPhone. Then, just a few weeks ago, Outlook for iOS, which may just be the best email app you'll find for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Today? The preview release of Office 2016.

You may not have noticed, but of late there's been a mind shift at Microsoft. First with the introduction of Office for iPad in 2014, then the addition of OneNote for Mac and iOS and an updated and useful version of Office for iPhone. Then, just a few weeks ago, Outlook for iOS, which may just be the best email app you'll find for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Today? The preview release of Office 2016.

What's key about all of these releases is what seems to be a significant philosophical shift at Microsoft. What was once a "PC first. Mac? Whatever..." way of thinking has now become, "All features, all platforms, all at once." No half measures. No, "Our studies show that Mac users aren't interested in those features." Quite simply, Office 2016 is Office on the Mac, as it should be, without compromising Office's features or requiring Mac users to conform to a Windows way of working.

A Preview of Office is free for anyone starting today, but Microsoft is quick to note that Office 2016 will not follow the same model that Office for iOS has. Which is to say that while the Preview is free, when the suite ships for real a little later this year, it will require an Office 365 subscription or the purchase of a standalone copy for anything more than read/print-only access to Office documents.

This is a Preview (née beta) release and, thus, this is not a review. So, while I'll take a deep dive First Look at the Office for Mac 2016 Preview, I'll save any critical assessments for the final release. (Hey you! Yeah, you! I see your finger poised over the comments section ready to chew me out for shilling for Microsoft. Save it for the review, pal! I know who you are...)

The suite

The Office 2016 Preview updates all five apps in Microsoft's office suite: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. The suite requires that your Mac is running Yosemite and, while the interface remains familiar, every application has a softer Yosemite-like look and feel. All the apps designed to work with Microsoft's OneDrive services, including OneDrive for Business and private SharePoints, and are optimized for retina displays.

According to Microsoft, Office 2016 is designed to unify the look and feel of the applications across all platforms, so that no matter where you use Office — Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Web — the way you work remains the same. To that end, Microsoft has updated the "ribbon," that tabbed toolbar running across the top of every Office document, so it looks like Office 2013 for Windows, and according to Microsoft, the user interface is now the same across all versions. Looking at the Windows and Mac versions side-by-side I'd say that's accurate, although, to my somewhat biased eye, Office 2016 is easier on the eyes.

 

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