First look: Microsoft's all-new Office 2016 for Mac public preview

Posted:
in Mac Software edited July 2015
Half a decade after Microsoft's last major update to Office for Mac, the venerable productivity suite returns anew with a Retina redesign, a modern codebase, and a host of new features -- and it's available today as a public preview. AppleInsider was given early access to the new apps and brings you a close-up view of Redmond's latest.




If pumping $150 million into a then-dying Apple is the best thing Microsoft's board of directors has ever done for Mac users, appointing Satya Nadella as the third chief executive in company history may come second. Where Gates and Ballmer were focused on destroying rivals, Nadella seems to believe Microsoft can win, even when it loses.

The first sign of detente came last March, with the release of Office for iPad. That launch was unquestionably a Big Deal -- there's a non-zero portion of the Windows customer base that remains loyal to Microsoft platforms because of Office, and keeping the tablet versions in-house would have given Surface a significant edge in an increasingly competitive enterprise marketplace.

The thaw continues today as Microsoft rolls out the very first public preview of Office 2016 for Mac, a ground-up rebuild of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook designed to bring the old warhorses into the modern age.

Welcome to the new Microsoft.

Chatting with AppleInsider earlier this week, Office for iPad and Mac Director of Program Management Eric Wilfrid -- one of the last men standing from the original Mac team at Microsoft -- seemed particularly proud of his group's latest creation, and he has good reason to be: this new version of Office is thoroughly impressive.

If not necessarily pretty, Office for Mac 2016 is certainly more handsome than its predecessor. The user interface fits in well with Yosemite, including bells and whistles like Retina graphics and support for full screen mode, despite not being quite as Apple-ified as the iPad versions.

Wilfrid was quick to note that while they may not look the same, there's actually "a ton" of code shared between the iOS and Mac clients. None of the resources poured into the iPad apps were wasted, a fact that's particularly evident when looking at PowerPoint's rejiggered Presenter view, which Wilfrid said is based in large part on work done for the iPad port.

"It has made our job a lot easier," Wilfrid said of the tight relationship between iOS and OS X. Using similar technologies, "by default we can just get the goodness everywhere."




Cloud connectivity is a central tenet of the "Microsoft everywhere" strategy that drove the company to create all-new clients for iOS and the Mac, and users who frequently hop between platforms will be pleasantly surprised to see it used not just for synchronizing documents, but for enabling small interactions that make things easier.

One example can be seen in the redesigned Open dialog. Taking a cue from their mobile brethren, the new Mac apps feature an updated "Recents" tab that automatically surfaces the user's most recently-opened documents, regardless of platform -- edit a document in Word for iPad, and it will appear at the top of the list in Word for Mac.

The cloud enhances collaboration as well. Users can now invite colleagues to author Word and PowerPoint documents together, with changes propagating between clients in near-realtime and threaded edit comments that make it much easier to keep track of who's doing what.

Spreadsheet jockeys will be happy to hear that Excel 2016 for Mac supports Excel 2013 functions, and some other Windows-only features -- like slicers -- have also made the jump. The new version even supports Windows keyboard shortcuts, though users can stick with the old Mac-specific shortcuts if they prefer.

Unfortunately, Excel for Mac isn't quite at parity with its Windows counterpart just yet; some nice-to-have options, such as Quick Analysis, are still no-shows.


What's next?

The public preview is available for download now, and users won't need an Office 365 subscription during the preview period. It is just that -- a preview -- and as such Wilfrid cautioned against depending on the betas to run a business, but Microsoft is very interested in gathering feedback from consumers.

To that end, each of the preview apps includes a built-in feedback mechanism that Wilfrid refers to as "send a smile." Users can send congratulations or critiques, and Wilfrid promises that the team will read each and every message.

In all, Office 2016 for Mac is an impressive showing. It may never have been truly gone, but after years of neglect, Microsoft is undoubtedly back on the Mac.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 73
    Can not wait to try it. Hopefully this version will be compatible with iCloud especially for Calendar and contacts.
  • Reply 2 of 73
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,090member
    FINALLY!!!!!!!!

    I hope this isn't a complete piece of shit like Office 2011. I have to use the Microsoft version in a virtual machine because how much it sucks.
  • Reply 3 of 73
    plovellplovell Posts: 790member
    One thing for sure - I am NOT buying a subscription to get the new version. I have the standalone version of Office 2011 and paid for that just once.

    No way will I get on the yearly-fee treadmill.
  • Reply 4 of 73
    cgs268cgs268 Posts: 55member
    The new Outlook for Mac is beautiful. Much better and faster than Outlook for Windows.
  • Reply 5 of 73
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,228member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by plovell View Post



    One thing for sure - I am NOT buying a subscription to get the new version. I have the standalone version of Office 2011 and paid for that just once.



    No way will I get on the yearly-fee treadmill.

    Word.

  • Reply 6 of 73
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,581member
    eightzero wrote: »
    Word.

    Excel. ????
  • Reply 7 of 73
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by plovell View Post



    One thing for sure - I am NOT buying a subscription to get the new version. I have the standalone version of Office 2011 and paid for that just once.



    No way will I get on the yearly-fee treadmill.



    Microsoft says they'll also offer perpetual license options (aka software purchase), but pricing and availability won't be confirmed until closer to retail launch.

  • Reply 8 of 73
    Does it finally support CalDAV and CardDAV so that it can sync calendars and contacts with iOS devices?
  • Reply 9 of 73
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,391member
    I don't why you think Office 2011 sucks (for other than UI issues). I use it interchangeably with Office on a PC and it works absolutely fine.

    The big question is whether the Outlook calendar and address book will sync with the iPhone or at least sync with Apple's calendar and address book which would in turn sync with the iPhone like it used to. That used to work until either an OS update or iCloud (I forget which) came along.

    If it still doesn't sync, I don't know why they bothered. The screens above look like no great shakes - don't the current screens already look exactly like that?

    And are they not going to offer this as a one time buy? Is it only going to be a subscription? Because I really take offense at having to buy a subscription even if it costs out the same.
  • Reply 10 of 73
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,401member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post



    FINALLY!!!!!!!!



    I hope this isn't a complete piece of shit like Office 2011. I have to use the Microsoft version in a virtual machine because how much it sucks.



    I have 2011 too... Microsoft has given me yet another reason to still cling onto Windows (using VMware of course).  Their 2011 Office for Mac is a steaming pile of crapola compared to their Windows counterpart.  I do a lot of development involving our systems generating automatic Excel documents and it's immediately apparent that basic functionality is non-existent on the Mac side.  It's like Microsoft didn't really even bother to make both platforms the same.  I rarely ever use Office for Mac for that reason alone.



    So I'm going to keep an eye on this one.  While it took me a while to become a believer in Adobe's Creative Suite subscription, I do have a problem paying a subscription for Office software.   It's just basic software.  Dunno... will have to wait and see if the changes are worthwhile.

  • Reply 11 of 73
    mrshowmrshow Posts: 150member
    They need to put more buttons on the toolbars.
  • Reply 12 of 73
    No iCloud Drive support?
  • Reply 13 of 73
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,743member

    I stopped bothering with MS Word years ago. 

     

    http://www.mellel.com

     

    Besides, the last great Word for Mac was 5.1. 

  • Reply 14 of 73
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 647editor
    Unicode and right to left languages? Or will that be something they've failed on again?
  • Reply 15 of 73
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,743member

    No matter how good some of the OS X native productivity apps are, I'll always miss ClarisWorks. 

     

    It came with my PowerPc 6100/60 back in Summer of '94, and I was hooked. 

  • Reply 16 of 73
    boeyc15boeyc15 Posts: 986member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post



    I don't why you think Office 2011 sucks (for other than UI issues). I use it interchangeably with Office on a PC and it works absolutely fine.



    The big question is whether the Outlook calendar and address book will sync with the iPhone or at least sync with Apple's calendar and address book which would in turn sync with the iPhone like it used to. That used to work until either an OS update or iCloud (I forget which) came along.



    If it still doesn't sync, I don't know why they bothered. The screens above look like no great shakes - don't the current screens already look exactly like that?



    And are they not going to offer this as a one time buy? Is it only going to be a subscription? Because I really take offense at having to buy a subscription even if it costs out the same.

    That's good to know.

    'Word' issues wasthe main reason I went from Mac many years ago. The formatting of Word files were essentially different documents on each computer--- total crap. But my work had PC's, so had to go that route. 

     

    Are you saying I can open a PC created Word Doc on a Mac and there is NO, NONE, ZIP, NOTTA formatting issues? Vice Versa?

    If true, sign me up... for a purchase; no way am I paying monthly fees.

  • Reply 17 of 73
    bigpicsbigpics Posts: 1,353member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post



    I don't why you think Office 2011 sucks (for other than UI issues). I use it interchangeably with Office on a PC and it works absolutely fine.



    The big question is whether the Outlook calendar and address book will sync with the iPhone or at least sync with Apple's calendar and address book which would in turn sync with the iPhone like it used to. That used to work until either an OS update or iCloud (I forget which) came along.



    If it still doesn't sync, I don't know why they bothered. The screens above look like no great shakes - don't the current screens already look exactly like that?



    And are they not going to offer this as a one time buy? Is it only going to be a subscription? Because I really take offense at having to buy a subscription even if it costs out the same.

     

    My Office uses are Word focused. I only use simple functions on Excel - and can at least understand how to format output on Numbers - something which has never made sense to me in any version of opaque Excel. Despite trying to figure it out over more years than I care to mention. So a Numbers guy now.



    And while PP is functional, Keynote is far superior IMO. 

     

    As for the rest, Evernote is the (free to use) OneNote for those who again don't want to climb an insane learning curve, so 95% of the practical benefit for 10% of the aggravation (and possibly bennies 1N doesn't even offer), and I'm thankfully free from needing Outlook. 



     But I create and share a lot of Word Docs with the world.  And have already (and unfortunately) experienced what happens when you're in a format most people can't open or edit - I have 10,000 or more "legacy" Word Perfect Docs that require me to have a Boot Camp partition to get at - and one at time imperfect conversions take time I don't have. 



    So while WordPerfect is still even today a far superior character processing tool, and Pages may be as well, Word's .doc/.docx formats are the world's lingua franca and so Word is the word (since most of us can't easily edit PDFs). 

     

    And I can't tell you why in detail, but I find Word 2011 on the Mac far more frustrating/limiting from my perspective than Word 2010 or Word 2007 for Windows. 



    So parity will be welcome here.  As long as I don't have buy into a subscription model to the whole suite to get the one program I use.



    OTOH, if One Drive is thrown in with unlimited storage (what I've heard) and becomes some kind of usable web backup solution a la DropBox and Sugar Sync that might be a value proposition to consider.

  • Reply 18 of 73
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,901member
    quadra 610 wrote: »
    I stopped bothering with MS Word years ago. 

    http://www.mellel.com

    Besides, the last great Word for Mac was 5.1. 

    I don't need it but Mellel looks great for those needing that level of power and a good price too.
  • Reply 19 of 73
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,901member
    My first thought regarding the new interest in Apple products by Microsoft is 'beware of the Trojan Horse' (in the traditional sense not some new malware meaning). On reflection, why wouldn't a software company want to sell its applications on the most successful hardware platforms?
  • Reply 20 of 73
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,228member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post





    Excel. ????

    I don't understand your (power)point.

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