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First look: Microsoft Office 2016 for Mac doesn't feel like an afterthought

Jeffery Battersby | March 6, 2015
You may not have noticed, but of late there's been a mind shift at Microsoft. First with the introduction of Office for iPad in 2014, then the addition of OneNote for Mac and iOS and an updated and useful version of Office for iPhone. Then, just a few weeks ago, Outlook for iOS, which may just be the best email app you'll find for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Today? The preview release of Office 2016.

Excel

Excel offers several new features, but one in particular really caught my eye, as it's likely to make the transition from Excel for Windows to Excel for Mac much easier for switchers. Excel for Mac now supports a majority of the Windows version's keyboard shortcuts. So while all your favorite Mac keyboard commands still work, you don't have to learn a completely new set of commands if this is your first time using Excel on a Mac. Control-C copies text in a cell, and Control-V pastes it.

You'll also find that Excel has more sophisticated analysis tools, including advanced statistical functions, slicers for pivot tables, and auto-complete features for inserting functions and filling in cell data.

PowerPoint

In addition to the collaboration features mentioned above, PowerPoint offers a redesigned Presenter View that makes it easy to switch your presentation from one display to another and offers a customizable presenter window where you can view notes, your next slide, and where you are in the current sequence of slides.

There are also several new transitions and a new animation pane that helps you to better see, manage, edit, and update the animations being used on every slide.

Outlook

Outlook for Mac has been available to anyone with an Office 365 account for a few months now, and offers a few interesting features, chief of which is a side-by-side calendar view that lets you look at two different calendars together. Even better, using this side-by-side view, you can drag one calendar on top of the other, merging the view of those calendars so you can easily see conflicts or crossover for specific events.

While I stated earlier that, because this is essentially a beta of Office 2016, I wasn't going to take a critical look at any of the apps in the suite, I do have to point out that Outlook isn't quite where it needs to be. While I was able to easily add my personal email account hosted on a private server, Outlook could not add my Gmail or iCloud accounts and, when attempting to connect to my Gmail account I immediately received a message from Google letting me know that someone knew my account password and was using unsecure methods to connect to their mail servers.

OneNote

OneNote remains one of my favorite Microsoft applications for collecting information on the fly. As this app has been regularly updated and remains free on the App Store, there's not a whole lot more to report here, with one exception: If you're using OneDrive, OneNote can now provide OCR for documents added to the cloud.

Final thoughts

I've only had a few hours to play with the Office 2016 for Mac Preview, which is not enough time to dig deep into each of these applications, but so far, I'm impressed. While this is essentially a beta, with the exception of Outlook's connection issues, Office 2016 seems like a solid collection of well-designed applications. But more importantly, Office 2016 for Mac shows that Microsoft is no longer treating Mac users as an afterthought. This is Office on your Mac, just like it is everywhere else. Solid, seamless, and ready for work.

 

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