Mac users of Office who have felt left out in the cold by Microsoft (because the last version, Office 2011 for Mac, was released in October 2010) now have reason to be pleased: The preview of Office 2016 for Mac attempts to bring the suite out of the dark ages and into the modern world.
Hints of what the new Office would offer have been out for a while, notably in the preview of Outlook, introduced in October 2014. But Mac owners have had to wait until earlier this month for the release of the full suite, including the core applications Word, PowerPoint and Excel. (The final version is due to ship this summer.)
The preview runs only on Yosemite OS X and is available for free to anyone. Be warned: It's a whopper of a download — 2.66GB worth. Even so, I found installation to be exceptionally easy and problem-free.
Keep in mind, though, that this is a preview, and so you should be careful about using it for important work. I found all the applications to be stable, although one time I did have a problem saving a file — Word froze and I had to use a Force Quit to close it. The file wasn't saved.
Spanking new interface
The moment you run any Office application in the preview, you know you've left the aging Office 2011 behind. It's less cluttered, cleaner and sleeker-looking, more logically organized, more colorful and simpler to use. That's largely in part because the Ribbon has been redone, and now looks and works as it does in the Windows version of Office.
The Ribbon is far more prominent and now sits close to the top of the screen rather than (as before) beneath a long row of icons for doing things such as opening and closing files, printing and so on. The usual Mac menu that sits atop Mac applications is hidden as well, although you can reveal it by moving your cursor to the top of the screen. It's a clever way to bridge the worlds of Office and Mac OS X.
Not everyone is a Ribbon fan, though, and those who wish it were gone, or just want to give themselves a little more screen real estate, can hide it by clicking a small up arrow at the Ribbon's far right. The Ribbon goes away and the arrow turns to face downwards. Click the arrow to make the Ribbon come back.
Not only has the Ribbon been moved but it's been reorganized, which is all to the good. For example, Word's confusing Document Elements tab is gone; most of what was there can now be found in the more logically-named Insert tab. So now, you use the Insert tab when you want to insert anything, whether it be art, a table, header, link and so on. In Office 2011 you had to go on a treasure hunt through many different tabs to find all that. You'll find similar reorganizations throughout all of Office.
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