Microsoft Unveils 64-Bit Office for Mac

Aligning with Apple OS X's native 64-bit software foundation, Microsoft rolled out an update that improves performance.

Microsoft Office for Mac 2016, 64 bit

Last year, Microsoft finally closed the sizable functionality gap between the Windows and Apple versions of is productivity software by releasing Office 2016 for Mac, ahead of its Windows counterpart, no less. Now, the software giant is crossing another chasm, this time from 32 to 64 bits.

In an online support document this week, Microsoft announced it had begun rolling out an update that upgrades users' 32-bit Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote) to the new 64-bit versions using the Microsoft AutoUpdate (MAU) function. Alternately, users can manually download the 1.5GB update. The update is available for all licenses types, including Office 365 Consumer and enterprise Volume License installations.

Going forward, Office 2016 for Mac will be a strictly 64-bit affair. "The Mac operating system has been 64-bit for several years," stated the company. "Unlike for Windows, there's no choice between running a 32-bit or 64-bit version of the Mac operating system. Similarly, we won't offer a choice between 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Office 2016 for Mac."

Transitioning to a 64-bit software environment improves performance and enables larger address spaces in memory and better performance. But those benefits come with a downside.

When Microsoft announced a preview of the 64-bit version of Office for Mac for members of the Office Insider program back in April, the company warned that some plug-ins may no longer work after the change and may need to be updated by their developers. Similar to the company's Windows Insider initiative, Office Insider offers Office 365 subscribers (Home, Personal and University) early access to upcoming features before they are officially released, in exchange for their feedback. Microsoft opened Office Insider up to Mac users in January, two months after the program premiered for Windows customers.

According to Microsoft, users may encounter issues with the following Office add-ins after the update is applied: Thomson Reuters EndNote Cite While You Write, Mendeley, Adobe Acrobat PDFMaker for Word, Adobe Acrobat PDFMaker for PowerPoint, Cisco WebEx—Help and Productivity Tools and JustSystems/ATOK.

As with any major change, like upgrading to a 64-bit architecture, some organizations may not be quite prepared to make the leap. Fortunately, Microsoft is offering a way to revert back to the 32-bit version.

"There may be situations in which the customer has to change code that's not 64-bit ready. If customers can't immediately move forward to 64-bit builds, we will make available a one-time 32-bit update for the 15.25 release in addition to the default 64-bit updates," assured Microsoft. "The 32-bit updates will be available only for manual download from the Office CDN [Content Delivery Network]."

The update follows last week's release of an Evernote-to-OneNote import tool for the Mac (the Windows version launched in March). The software streamlines the process of migrating data from the popular Evernote note-taking app to OneNote, a course of action some users may be contemplating after Evernote raised prices this summer and added new restrictions to free accounts.

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...