Before today, the latest versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel for OS X came with Office for Mac 2011, a suite of productivity apps which you can tell from the name included dated software without many modern features Mac users expect. Office for Mac 2011 was actually first released in October 2010. A lot has changed since then.
Microsoft moved Office from a paid upgrade approach to a cloud subscription model, saw its CEO Steve Ballmer retire and buy a basketball team, appointed Satya Nadella as head of the company, and even released Office for iPad and iPhone.
For the Mac, though, the most capable versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel have only been available as Web apps—not native—until now. As promised, Microsoft is today releasing the public beta of Office for Mac 2016 including all new versions of the company’s go-to productivity apps.
Office for Mac 2016 takes the “cloud first, platform second” approach of Microsoft’s other Office 365-compatible apps. For example, multiple users can collaborate on documents in real time when using the same app on different platforms like Word for Mac, iPad, or PC. Microsoft also treats the ribbon tool bar similarly across versions of Office so the user experience is familiar regardless of which platform you’re using.
Aside from being rebuilt and redesigned for the modern Mac operating system, Word picks up some new features like a design tab for managing and creating style and layout preferences for documents.
Microsoft also highlights threaded comments between using with collaborating on a document to making group editing straightforward. A navigation pane on the left of the word processor allows you to easily move and structure content as you work.
The redesigned version of PowerPoint features a new animation pane for making presentations more lively and interactive. Slides can be further customized with tools like transparency sliders and more available.
PowerPoint 2016 also includes a brand new presentation mode for presenters. Each of the new Office 2016 Preview apps can take advantage of OS X’s full screen mode, and the new presentation view is no exception. This provides presenters with an overview of the presentation, the current and next sliders, as well as a timer and other tools.
Excel, an app even iWork fans sometimes praise over Numbers, gains a ton of new smarts in Office 2016. For starters, keyboard shortcuts now mirror the Windows version of Excel so users switching between platforms won’t go crazy anymore. For Excel 2011 users, you can keep the previous shortcuts around as well.
Excel 2016 for Mac now supports functions from Excel 2013 for Windows, enabling compatibility between platforms, and a new PivotTable Slicer allows you to set parameters for data to quickly find new data points from existing numbers.
Each new app features a brand new open and create window, too, which includes recent documents saved to OneDrive from all Office 365-compatible platforms like iPhone, iPad, the Web, and PC.
Finally, the apps in Office for Mac 2016 are preview versions, not the final versions Microsoft plans to release this summer. During the preview phase, Microsoft is especially encouraging user feedback and making the process of sharing your thoughts and ideas easy.
In the top right of each app, a smiley face button initiates a feedback form where you can include your comments, a screenshot, and optionally your email address for any ideas you have or problems you may encounter.
Microsoft is targeting availability for the final release later this summer, at which point an active Office 365 subscription will be required. The suite is free to try without a subscription and can be used with Office 2011 installed. Pricing for a standalone version for Mac without requiring an active subscription is expected closer to launch.
Office for Mac 2016 Preview is now available to try for free and includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, and OneNote. OS X 10.10 Yosemite is required.
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