Earlier today, Microsoft released the preview build for the highly anticipated 2016 edition of Office for Mac. As the build is not the final version that will be released in the latter half of 2015, the preview comes as a free download to Mac users. The last major Office release for Mac came out back in 2011, and as such there have been a large number of improvements that users will be able to try out.
Most notable is the appearance of the new Office. The preview sports an updated user interface more in line with the aesthetics of the Windows version of the suite, while still maintaining a look that is unmistakably Mac. Those more familiar with Mac will notice the white and light grey color scheme that is featured in many Apple products alongside the modern tool ribbon found in Office 2013.
Moving on from looks, Office 2016 has far more integration with the cloud than its predecessor. Once again similar to the Windows version, users are now able to create a new document form their desktop and save it directly into their OneDrive accounts for cloud storage. With this major change in mind, the preview release of OneDrive for Business on Mac makes much more sense. This feature will come in handy for those working with the Macbook Air, which has limited hard drive space compared to other models. For those strictly using Apple products, releases of OneDrive on iOS will help users work across devices a b it better.
Individual apps within the suite feature new sets of customization options. For example, PowerPoint comes with a new range of transitions and animations for slides, while Word includes a new Design tab in the ribbon which allows users to better manage the appearance and structure of documents. Those who’ve spent a great deal of time formatting documents in Word, like me, will find this to be a very welcome addition. A few other changes to the suite include:
- Keyboard shortcuts and formula building in Excel
- Easy sharing and co-authoring for documents
- Online Archive support in Outlook
- Side-by-side calendar view in Outlook
Similar to the OneDrive and OneNote updates that came to Mac within the last few months, the new Office runs on only the latest versions of OSX. In this case, the Office 2016 preview is only compatible with Yosemite (10.10), which was released last October. While those who have purchased Macs within the last year or so may find no issue with this, many users may be left out in the dark for this update.
Reports show that over 50% of Mac users are running an OSX version older than Yosemite, and will be unable to try out the new software. More recent Apple operating systems have come as a free upgrade to users. However, Yosemite’s release did have more demanding system requirements than its predecessor, so Macs produced within the last 4 years or so should be able to make the change. That said, unless other user are willing to upgrade their systems, they may have to stick with 2011 for the time being.
As it stands, the current preview build is far from complete but will offer a small subset of Mac users an opportunity to test out the newest version of the suite. By releasing the preview as a free download, Microsoft presents Mac businesses with a good opportunity to “try before they buy” when the full version is released. Current Office 365 users, on the other hand, can expect to receive the suite as a free upgrade once it is made widely available later this year.
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