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Refresh is first since Office 2011, packs a plethora of changes, and promises better compatibility

A preview of Office 2016 (which launches alongside Windows 10) was made available by Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) early last month with "Preview" builds of the Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, and OneNote 2016 apps.  Now Microsoft has made a Preview build of Office 2016 for Mac available for users Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) OS X.

The release of a new version of Office Suite for Windows users is happy news, but for OS X users the arrival of Office 2016 is a particularly exciting and overdue event.  Currently Windows desktop users enjoy Office 2013, but Mac users are still stuck on Office 2011, a special release that basically resembles Office 2010 in feature set.  For coworkers of Mac users this can be a particular headache as the aging Office version can inadvertently override, corrupt, or otherwise degrade certain documents.

The Preview build requires Mac users to have OS X 10.10 ("Yosemite") installed.  According to NetMarketShare's data, a little over half of OS X users were running Yosemite as of last month.

The biggest leap for Mac users is the shift to more minimalistic/flat icons (sometimes referred to as "the Swiss Style" in the advertising/design world).  Given that OS X is tracking in a similar direction away from skeuomorphism (also referred to as "ornamentalism") with its icon set and other UI elements, the update should help Office fit in better with the look of OS X today.

Office 2016

Support for Retina Macbooks should also improve somewhat.  While a 2012 update to Office 2011 for Mac did add higher resolution UI features to support the higher resolution Retina panels, some components of the UI were frustratingly not resized and looked suspect at high resolution.  The ribbon redesign is pretty major.

Also Microsoft is working to bring Office for Mac up to speed with the Windows version in terms of features.  And there's a lot of new built in cloud storage support that was absent in Office 2011 for Mac, as well.

Here's a quick list of changes to each app from the preview page:

Word 2016 for Mac Preview
  • "... [brings] state of the art editing, reviewing, and sharing tools.   The new Design tab provides quick access to features and the new Format Object task pane gives you complete control over pictures, shapes, and effects."

Office 2016 -- Word

Excel 2016 for Mac Preview
  • "...brings... a fresh user interface as well as many functions from Excel 2013 for Windows. You’ll even be able to use your favorite keyboard shortcuts, giving you a more consistent cross-platform experience."

Office 2016 -- excel

Powerpoint 2016 for Mac Preview
  • "...brings new slide transitions, an improved Animations task pane, and an improved coauthoring experience, including threaded comments alongside your slides and the ability to visually compare version conflicts and confidently choose the right one to keep."

Office 2016

Outlook 2016 for Mac Preview
  • "... [adds] Online Archive support, category list sync, weather in calendar, apps for Office, and side-by-side calendar."

Outlook Preview

OneNote 2016 for Mac Preview
  • (No changes mentioned explicitly)

OneNote

You can download the app [from here] to take it for a spin.  It can be tested alongside an existing install of Office 2011 for Mac.  To submit suggestions/bug complaints/etc. click on the smiley face icon in the upper right corner of the app frame.

Sources: Microsoft [product page], [download]





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