Office 2016 For Mac Review: The Ultimate Productivity Suite For Mac

Reviews Michael Grothaus 13:22, 25 Jan 2017

Microsoft's latest Mac Office 2016 suite is how you do software right. Take note, Apple.

Rating: 
4.5
Typical Price: 
£59.99
Pros: 
Gorgeous New Design; Excellent, Powerful Applications; Brilliant Cloud Support; Retina-Optimised; Best In Class Tools
Cons: 
No Dropbox Integration; No Native Integration With OS X's System-Wide Dictionary
Verdict: 
Not everyone needs the power of Microsoft Office. For some, iWork will do. However, there are hundreds of things Office does that iWork can’t touch (Numbers compared to Excel is like a toy, for example). In that case, Office is your only option.

It used to be that the one productivity suite every Mac user needed was without a doubt Microsoft Office for Mac. But over the last five years the most recent version of Office for Mac – the 2011 version, introduced in 2010 – has slowly been pushed from the “must have” category to the “nice but not necessary” category thanks to improvements to Apple’s productivity suite iWork (which is now free for all Mac owners).

Indeed, if you are a Mac user you can’t help but feel like Microsoft was letting Office for Mac 2011 languish behind both the PC version and the newer technologies supported by OS X. I mean, it had been almost 5 YEARS since Office for Mac last received a major update.

That’s why when Microsoft announced Office for Mac 2016 earlier this year it breathed renewed hope into the legions of Office devotees on the Mac. After five long years we were getting a new version. But would it live up to the hype, and would it be as good as its Windows counterpart?

I’ve been playing around with Office for Mac 2016 for about a month now –– here’s what I’ve found.

Office for Mac 2016: New Design and User Interface

 

Let’s not beat around the bush: every app included in Office for Mac 2016 (that’s Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote) looks absolutely stunning. This is not only the most gorgeous Office for Mac ever, it’s the most gorgeous office productivity suite on the Mac ever. Apple could learn a lot from Office for Mac 2016’s design when it comes to iWork.

Each app in Office for Mac 2016 has a unique colorful Office theme along an open documents top header–blue for Word, green for Excel, etc. And though it's easy to dismiss this as eye candy, it’s actually incredibly helpful when you have multiple Office for Mac 2016 apps open. It makes distinguishing between them–and their open documents a breeze.

Thanks to full Retina display support throughout the apps, all the buttons and menus in Office for Mac 2016 look as crisp and clear as any I’ve seen on a Mac. The clean lines, muted colors, and glyphs used in the icons–everything screams “attention to detail” like I’ve never seen in a productivity suite before.

 

And now let’s get to that new improved Ribbon interface. The Ribbon is the toolbar that runs along the top of every open document’s window. It’s where you find your commands and tools grouped into different categories (Home, Insert, Design, Layout, etc). The Ribbon interface, which is borrowed from the Windows and iPad version of Office, gives you quick, easy, and most importantly, uncluttered access to all the tools you’ll want to use. Matter of fact, the entire new design of the Office apps could be described as “uncluttered”. I’ve never found an Office suite that was more easy to navigate and made accessing tools as easy as Office for Mac 2016. Speaking of uncluttered, Office for Mac 2016 ditches any floating toolbar windows and pallets. All task panes now appear inline on the right hand side of a document’s window when you need them.

For me, the best part of the new Office for Mac 2016 is its refined design.

Office for Mac 2016: New Technologies

 

Design isn’t the only thing the new Office for Mac 2016 has going for it, however. It also builds in support for a lot of OS X technologies. Now users can use multitouch gestures that are available in OS X on a system wide level in Office for Mac 2016. For example, you can pinch to zoom in or out on a specific part of your document.

I’ve already stated that Office for Mac 2016 fully supports Retina displays now. It also support full-screen mode on those Retina displays. This is the full screen mode baked directly into OS X. Just click the green stoplight button in any Office document to expand that Office app into OS X’s full screen mode.

Other nice, suite-wide technologies in Office for Mac 2016 include thousands of new Office templates for Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, Excel sheets, and more. There’s also a new cloud-based file system so you can access your documents on OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint–though you don’t need to. You can still save locally to anywhere on your Mac. While the cloud-based file saving is nice, I wish Microsoft would have added support for Dropbox. However, since they support Dropbox on their iOS Office apps, I suspect that feature will be coming to the Mac version.

A final new feature worth noting is Smart Lookup. This is available in any of the Office apps and allows you to find relevant information from the web for any word or phrase you highlight in a document. Results appear in a dedicated Smart Lookup pane and are powered by the Bing search engine.

Office for Mac 2016: New App Features

As I said previously, the new Office for Mac 2016 suite includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. Each has numerous new features and each app could could easily have a book written about it. For now I’m just going to highlight some major new features that I think are really interesting.

The first is co-authoring, available in Word and PowerPoint. Now multiple users at different computers can be working on the same document together in real time. You can see what each user is doing and collaborate no matter what device (Mac, iPad, PC) you’re on.

Another great new feature in Word and PowerPoint are threaded comments. Now when you reply to a comment your reply appears inline below the original comment. This makes it much easier to see what comment you are replying to.

Excel has a number of new features, but my favorite is Recommended Charts. Excel will suggest which chart style best matches the data you are inputting. Outlook as well has a number of new features. My favorite? The ability to see multiple calendars side-by-side. This makes it much easier to plan your meetings.

These are just some of my favorite highlight. Each app in the Office for Mac 2016 has dozens of new or improved features.

Office for Mac 2016: Price

Microsoft has a wide variety of pricing options for various users. First, if you’re an Office 365 customer with a qualifying subscription, you’ll be able to install Office 2016 for Mac from your 365 account page for free today. A Office 365 Personal subscription costs £59.99 a year and lets you install Office for Mac 2016 on one Mac. A Office 365 Home subscription costs £79.99 a year and lets you install Office for Mac 2016 on five Macs.

If you’re a student or a parent of a student, you may get Office 2016 for Mac for free or at a substantial discount. It takes only 30 seconds to find out at www.office.com/student.

Don't fall into the two categories above? Go to www.office.com/mac or buy an Office 365 subscription at a local retailer.

And in case you’re not a fan of subscription pricing (I’m not) know that in September, Office 2016 for Mac will be available as a one-time perpetual purchase at retailers. Microsoft has not released a price for this option yet.

Office for Mac 2016: Verdict

Not everyone needs the power of Microsoft Office. For some, iWork will do. However, there are hundreds of things Office does that iWork can’t touch (Numbers compared to Excel is like a toy, for example).

In that case, Office is your only option. Thankfully, Microsoft has made Office for Mac 2016 a suite that is well worth buying. Matter of fact Office for Mac 2016 is everything iWork should be.

It’s the most beautiful Office every made for the Mac and, indeed, is probably the best Mac software that has come out in years.

Apple’s iWork suite could learn a thing (or dozens of things) from the new Office for Mac 2016.

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