As I use PowerPoint 2016 for Mac, the word that keeps popping into my head is pleasant. Nearly everything about the massive visual overhaul from the previous version (PowerPoint 2011 for Mac ) seems clearer, friendlier, and more modern. It feels more like Apple's Keynote, which I mean as a compliment.
The feature changes are mostly minor and subtle yet useful. Even so, PowerPoint 2016 for Mac still lags behind its Windows counterpart--and it also lost a few interesting features that were present in PowerPoint 2011.
New and improved
The most obvious change is a nicely redesigned ribbon, which is now nearly identical to the ones in PowerPoint for Windows and PowerPoint Online. If you knew where everything was in PowerPoint 2011, prepare for a bit of relearning. Almost every ribbon control is still there, but many have been moved, renamed, and given new icons. The erstwhile Themes tab is now called Design; Tables, Charts, and SmartArt (among other features) have been subsumed under a new Insert tab, and a number of tabs (such as Picture Format and Table Design) appear only when the appropriate object type is selected.
The entire toolbar is gone, with only four vestigial icons (for File, Save, Undo, and Repeat) next to the Close, Minimize, and Zoom controls. Although most toolbar icons have been relocated onto one of the ribbon tabs (and also have corresponding menu commands), you can no longer create a customized set of icons for your most common tasks.
A new sidebar (much like Keynote's Inspector) appears on the right side of the window when you invoke certain features, such as the Animation pane (which lists all the animations on your slide), the Format Pane (for editing the attributes of shapes, graphics, and other objects--including such previously hard-to-reach settings such as 3D Format and 3D Rotation), and Comments. Each pane gets its own tab, and you can tear off any tab to make it a floating palette. I like the way this context-sensitive interface consolidation (along with the streamlined ribbon) reduces screen clutter.
When you open PowerPoint 2016, you're presented with 24 brand-new themes. Although that's less than half the number of themes in PowerPoint 2011, there's a new twist: each theme has numerous variants. With one click, you can select a different combination of color palettes, fonts, and background styles for your current theme (but with the same overall design); or you can apply those attributes individually. Although the theme chooser displays no templates (basically fill-in-the-blanks presentations, each with its own theme), you can type a keyword in the Search All Templates field at the top to display matching templates, which you can then download with two clicks.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.