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Review: Office 2016 for Mac offers a new interface and better features

Preston Gralla | April 2, 2015
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.

However, I found the integration to be so problematic that I finally gave up. When I accessed OneDrive from inside Office 2016, entire folders seemed to be missing, even though they were visible on the Web and on my Windows PC. And those folders that I could see in the Mac version of Office were incomplete and didn't show every file. This is a serious issue, given that Microsoft is making OneDrive the center of the Office universe.

Word 2016

As with the other Office applications, the main thing that's new about Word is the interface. But there are other changes as well.

There is now a somewhat awkward collaboration feature that lets two people work simultaneously in the same document. In theory it sounds nice; in practice, I wasn't impressed. You don't see the changes your collaborator makes until she saves the document, and she won't see your changes until you save it. That's not exactly real-time collaboration. Nice try, but I won't be using the feature any time soon — Google Docs is far superior in this area, because it uses true real-time collaboration.

On the plus side, there's a new Styles pane that lets you apply pre-set styles to text and paragraphs. It's easy to overlook, because it's available only on the Home tab. To use it, go to the Home tab and click the Styles Pane icon on the upper right of the screen — and the pane appears. Click the icon again to make it go away.

Word 2016 also adds another useful new pane, the Navigation pane, which lets you navigate through a document via search results, headings and page thumbnails. You can also navigate by the kinds of changes you've made to the document, such as comments and formatting.

Excel 2016

One of the most welcome additions to Excel is that it now recognizes most Windows keyboard shortcuts. But don't worry — there's no need to abandon the old Mac Excel shortcuts, because it recognizes them as well. Being a long-time Windows Excel user, I found this saved me a great deal of time on the Mac. It was like coming home.

Spreadsheet jockeys will be pleased that Excel has been powered with many of the features from the Windows version, such as adding slicers to pivot tables. With slicers, you create buttons that make it easy to filter data in a pivot table report, with no need to resort to drop-down lists. A number of new statistical functions have also been added, such as moving averages and exponential smoothing.

Less importantly, when you click on a cell, your cursor essentially glides over to it in an animated way, like it does on the Windows 2013 version of Excel. Will this change your life? Far from it. But I found it just the slightest bit entertaining, and I, for one, can use all the entertainment I can get when I'm using a spreadsheet.

 

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