Microsoft has finally decided that Office for the Mac Microsoft a facelift. With Office 2016—currently available as a free preview—Microsoft gave the entire suite some significant attention, and brought it more into line with modern Mac conventions. Each of the apps now support OS X’s full-screen mode, which is a huge improvement in of itself. If you download the preview, you’ll get Outlook as well but that version is identical to the one I reviewed back in November, so I won’t recap Outlook here.
PowerPoint – Mac
PowerPoint is essential to any meeting that should have been an email memo, or for making slideshows that you read verbatim. It lacks the cool animation of Keynote, but is finally has some templates worth looking at.
PowerPoint has to be included in this suite because it needs to be in Office, but honestly, trying to sell any experienced Mac user on making a slide deck in anything other than Keynote is a tough sell. The improved design does make it look more modern, but that isn’t enough to sell Keynote users on PowerPoint.
What’s Good: Windows compatibility? I’ve never been sure why else people use PowerPoint on the Mac.
What Sucks: Still nowhere near as powerful as Keynote.
Buy it? You’re stuck with this on Windows, and it comes with the suite on Mac. Even if you subscribe to Office, you’re never opening this unless you have to.
Word – Mac
Word has been one of the hardest sells for the Office suite for a while. There are countless text editors that are just as good as Word on the Mac, and that includes word-processing apps geared toward specific tasks such as Scrivener and Ulysses. On the other hand, Word is still the lingua franca for much of the business world. I also think that for a good majority of the world, it’s their default app for nearly everything.
If you have used the new versions of Word for iOS, you’ll feel right at home on the new Mac version. Word 2016 brings the full-on Ribbon-style toolbar to the Mac, which might actually put some people off using it altogether. But looking at Word 2011 and 2016 at the two side by side, you’ll see that this was a much-needed upgrade. The cleaner design looks much more at home on the 2015’s incarnation of OS X, as Word 2011 felt like a UI holdover from the Tiger days.
Like the rest of the suite, Word now has tight integration with One Drive: When you sign into your 365 account, Word will add your OneDrive right to the Quick Start menu. I think if you’re looking for the ease of making pretty documents, you use Pages. If you want to collaborate as a group you use Google Docs. However, if you want a lot of power without too much complexity, you use Word.
What’s Good: Improved interface. OneDrive Integration.
What Sucks: Still overkill for most day-to-day tasks.
Buy it? While I think that Word is overkill for most users, business users are still going to need it at some point. This isn’t selling Office 365 directly, but it’s not useless.
Excel – Mac
I’d wager that Excel is the primary reason that many people are still using office—Google Sheets and Numbers still can’t hold a candle to the power and flexibility that Excel provides.
Excel has gotten a pretty nice facelift in the new version. While the ribbon in some of the apps feels cluttered and superfluous, in Excel it provides quick access to some of the app’s more advanced features. Instead of stumbling around for formulas, pivot tables, and other stuff you’d have to search for using Google (or Bing?), you can click around and easily find it.
Frustratingly, Macros in Excel on the Mac are still limited. With no VisualBasic, productivity is still constrained here when compared to the Windows version. Hell, I’d even take AppleScript support. You can do radio buttons and advanced forms without VisualBasic, but that doesn’t feel like enough.
What’s Good: Better access to more complex tasks. New version feels at home on OS X Yosemite.
What Sucks: Macros still hobbled compared to Windows version.
Buy it? If you need to make household or small business budgets, and any other data driven tasks, the ultra-powerful Excel is it. This update sells the suite on its own.