Microsoft are currently offering their forthcoming new Mac office suite as a free beta download. I check it out.
The tech world might be a different place than it was in the early 90’s, but Microsoft Office is still the de facto office suite for those users with professional needs.
Anyone who knows me knows I am no fan of Microsoft, and I have spent years using free alternatives such as OpenOffice and Bean without any problems, but recently I ran into rendering issues with some complex .docx documents, and it seemed the only option was for me to use Microsoft Office.
A quick search on the Net, and it seemed that, as I was running OS X 10.10 Yosemite, I would need Office 2008. However, I then found that Microsoft were offering their new version of Office for Mac as a free beta until the final version is released in mid 2015, so I took this opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.
Visit the Mac Preview site to grab your copy. It is a straightforward download with no need to sign up, but at 2.6 GB it is a large one.
I am writing this article in the preview version of Word, and it has a slick look to it, a look that is closer to what Windows users have been rocking for a while now.
Microsoft introduced the ‘ribbon’ layout in Office 2007 for Windows, but not until Office 2011 for Mac. Even then it was a horrible interface. It was refined in Office 2013 for Windows, and now Mac users get their version.
Across the top we have the regular Mac menu, and then under that there is coloured band that holds the toolbar tabs. These toolbars give you quick access to almost all of Word’s features, which are normally only accessible from the regular menus or contextual menus.
This ribbon and toolbar combo means it takes up quite a bit of screen real estate – especially on my 11” MacBook Air – but the toolbars can be raised and lowered, leaving you with only a small coloured band at the top taken up.
The coloured band varies depending on which application you are using. Word is blue, Excel is green, PowerPoint is red, Outlook is a lighter blue, and OneNote is purple. For some reason, Outlook doesn’t have this band.
Microsoft have done a great job of bringing a Windows product to the Mac and making it look like a Mac product. Office 2016 Preview looks incredibly well integrated.
I am using this on an i5 with 8 GB RAM, and Word and Excel scream along on it. They open within a few seconds, and the general feel of each package is very quick. There is no lag when switching or editing documents – even some fairly large ones.
Rendering & Compatibility
This venture was sparked by the need to edit a heavily formatted Word document that was initially created in Office 2000 for Windows, then edited using various newer versions including Office 365. It had been opened and saved numerous times across numerous machines.
However, on the Mac neither OpenOffice, LibreOffice, Bean, nor Apple’s Preview app could open it correctly without rendering issues. Office 2016 Beta opened it without any problems, although that isn’t surprising.
This is a beta or preview product, so you expect it to be updated with fixes. However, each application – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote – is updated individually. After the large 2.66 GB download, I was faced with updated each app when opening them, and these weren’t small updates – pulling in at least 800 MB for each individual package.
It might not be a full and finished package, but Microsoft – for a change – have released a very slick and so far stable product that with subsequent fixes should turn out to be a fantastic offering to the Mac world.
Would I Switch?
I have enjoyed using this new preview version of Office, but the biggest reason I haven’t used Microsoft Office at home is the cost, and until now I have not needed the advanced features – so OpenOffice and Bean have suited my needs.
I doubt if after this preview expires I will pay the usual high price Microsoft will expect. However, if they do offer it at a reasonable price, I would consider it.
If you are a Mac user and need 100% compatibility with Office for Windows, then Microsoft Office for Mac 2016 is going to suit you, and the fact it is a great conversion makes it an easy choice.
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