Microsoft Previews Office 2016 for Mac

The Mac version of Office is catching up to its Windows brethren, and Microsoft is inviting users to take an early look.


The long-awaited update to Office 2011 for Mac is nearly here. Microsoft has released a preview of Office 2016 for Mac in anticipation of the software's official launch this summer.

According to the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant, the new software not only narrows the gap between the Windows and mobile versions of the Office, but it also embraces features that distinguish Apple's OS X operating system. Among them is support for pixel-packed Retina displays.

"The new apps offer full retina display support with thousands of retina-optimized graphics, full screen view for native immersive experiences, and even little Mac affordances like scroll bounce," stated Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Office 365 Client Apps and Services, in a March 5 announcement.

Office 2016 for Mac consists of five updated applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook. The first indication that things are different is a revamped user interface that borrows from the latest versions for Windows, iOS and Android.

"The redesigned ribbon intuitively organizes features so you can quickly find what you need," Koenigsbauer stated. "A refreshed task pane interface makes positioning, resizing, or rotating graphics easy so you can create exactly the layout you want."

Microsoft's cloud services ecosystem also features more prominently. "Office 2016 for Mac is powered by the cloud so you can access your documents on OneDrive, OneDrive for Business and SharePoint at anytime, anywhere and on any device," he said.

Individually, the Office apps have been reworked to foster collaboration, streamline authoring tasks and generally make it easier to produce more polished documents.

Word, for instance, features a design tab that "allows you to manage layout, colors and fonts across a document, and the navigation pane helps you refine the document structure and efficiently navigate to points of interest," Koenigsbauer said. For team and co-authored documents, a threaded comments feature turns "editing cycles into conversations, so you spend less time trying to connect the dots."

In PowerPoint, a "new Presenter View is like mission control for your presentation—displaying the current slide, the next slide, notes and a timer on your Mac, while projecting only the presentation to your audience on the big screen," he added. It also includes a new animation pane and slide transitions to help dress up presentations.

Outlook features an updated threaded conversation view that automatically groups email chains. "And the new message preview gives you the first sentence of an email just below the subject line so you can quickly decide if you want to read it now or come back later," Koenigsbauer said.

New shortcuts enable Excel users to craft data-driven visualizations faster. Also new are support for Excel 2013 for Windows formulas, PivotTable Slicers and an Analysis ToolPak that contains several statistic functions. OneNote, meanwhile, has been enhanced with tag support and optical character recognition (OCR) to help users digitize handwritten notes and image-based text.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...