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Hands On: Microsoft Office 2016 Preview (OS X)
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MacNN Staff
Join Date: Jul 2012
Status: Offline
Mar 6, 2015, 04:10 PM
We're not going to judge Microsoft Office for Mac 2016 in the detail or the depth that we will when it finally ships as a finished product. However, Microsoft has made it available in preview beta form, and it is irresistible. It's also very good, and if you have even a modicum of interest in Microsoft Office, you should try it now - though there are one or two caveats you'll want to keep in mind.

First and foremost, it should be remembered that this is a beta, not a finished product. As such, it is vitally important that one has their backups up-to-date before installing, as there is some chance -- however remote -- that you discover a serious flaw that takes your work (or even your machine) down.

Testing this new beta is, actually, slightly weird: the Mac versions of Word and Excel now look like the iPad versions. That's mostly true when you first start them up and they present a dialog box with New and Open options, plus templates. Choose one and go into it to edit the document, and the resemblance fades a little.

One thing that made the iOS version of Office a pleasure to use was that it was pared back, that some of Microsoft Office's more esoteric features were removed. That even makes the Ribbon toolbar more useful, and this new Mac version also tries to balance features with a more minimalist look. We'll have to see what it's like after weeks and months of intense use, but at first blush it feels better than it was.

There are points where items seem a bit oversized: certain icons in the Ribbon feel excessive, and intro text as you set up the applications feels loud. That's not a bad summary of the entire experience of using Microsoft Office 2016; it mostly looks better, Word feels good to write in, Excel feels powerful.

It is interesting to see that Excel and Word are more similar now than ever. It's been a strange thing that the two have done things differently, but it has always been a subtle difference. For instance, one small example is how you zoom in on a document, how you display it at 200 percent. That's now a slider at bottom right of both application's windows.

Word and Excel are the chief applications here: they are the only two that have always been in every single variety of Microsoft Office on Mac and PC. This preview release includes PowerPoint, which seemed slowest to open to us, but then, come on -- this is PowerPoint. Nobody ever chose that for speed and artistry.

There's Microsoft Outlook, which again looks like the iPad version, and again this is a good thing. Also in this edition is Microsoft OneNote, the company's equivalent to Evernote. Both of these two were released before the full beta suite, but they are also included.

Unsurprisingly, there is no Microsoft Access still, so PC database users still can't readily transfer over to the Mac. If OS X doesn't get that full Windows application, it does get more of the general features that Office for Windows enjoys.

What's going to change over the next few months until the final version ships is presumably that more features will be enabled: in our testing, for instance, Word's dictation feature wouldn't switch on, nor could you draw a table (though you could create one anyway, by specifying the number of rows and columns).

As it is, you can use this preview version of Microsoft Office for Mac 2016 for real work. You shouldn't. You shouldn't ever use a beta for work, but it is the best way to try something out. Still, the only real issue we found with the preview is that applications can take a very long time to load. Once they're up and running, most features are fine. It's also nice to say goodbye to Word's old "optimizing font menus" message, that would sporadically quadruple the launch time.

So download it, do try it, but do keep copies of anything important that you create. This brings us to our second caveat -- while this preview is completely free to try, it will expire. And when that happens, Microsoft hopes, you'll be so hooked on how much better this one is than the old version that you'll pony up for the new one. The price hasn't been officially announced, but an Office 365 subscription -- either existing or, as the company usually does, included for a year with the purchase -- is now required. Something to bear in mind as you create documents in this free preview.

Microsoft Office 2016 Preview requires a little patience, and also OS X Yosemite. The preview download is free on the official site though it's pretty big -- over 2Gb -- and Microsoft's download servers have been taking a pummelling as people get it.

Is it worth downloading the preview?
Yes. Remember that it is a preview, and that with all beta software you're taking a risk that you'll lose work, but otherwise, go for it.

Any reason why I should leave it alone?
For all that is good and better than the currently shipping Office for Mac, it is still Office. It's big, it has features nobody remembers, you're doing fine with Pages, and the rest.

-- William Gallagher (@WGallagher)
Dedicated MacNNer
Join Date: Nov 2008
Status: Offline
Mar 6, 2015, 06:10 PM
I have been firmly committed to use anything but MS Office for years. I love my Apple software and if I have to produce something for OFFICE, I will export it from any of Apple's Works programs or occasionally I will use one of the Open Office programs.
Forum Regular
Join Date: Jul 2006
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Mar 6, 2015, 11:56 PM
Office 365 is REQUIRED? If that's the case, I won't even bother looking at this. Absolutely no way, ever.
Forum Regular
Join Date: Jul 2006
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Mar 6, 2015, 11:59 PM
And if I can't get rid of the ribbon, and put all the tools that I need on the toolbars, then MS can go rot.
Fresh-Faced Recruit
Join Date: Dec 2014
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Mar 7, 2015, 01:18 AM
DO NOT install this preview. Microsoft does not provide an uninstaller to remove it. Once installed you'll find WORD is a whopping 1.49G in size and you get the whole plethora of Microsoft programs and all are bloated. To remove will take considerable time searching through your libraries to find the files to delete. Not at all impressed with Microsoft - the same old game, install and find no way to remove - you are stuck with it.

Pages, Numbers and Keynote are excellent applications and all you need on a Mac.
The Mighty
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Well the sports issue was within arm's reach but they closed up shop and kicked me out. And I'm out of toilet paper.
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Mar 8, 2015, 01:38 PM
Originally Posted by MikeXRyan View Post
Pages, Numbers and Keynote are excellent applications and all you need on a Mac.
I currently use NeoOffice and have been thinking about switching to Numbers, but I've heard mixed things about Numbers being really slow/bulky, especially with large data sets, and I have two questions:

[1] If a family member downloaded (and paid for) Numbers but doesn't use it, then can he give his copy to me so that he is not stuck with an undesired copy, or is he stuck and I have to pay for my own? I mean it's within the family... (my guess is no for strict legal reasons but want to check)

[2] Performance question: How fast is Numbers with navigating through a really big spreadsheet, like, 600 rows by 300 columns, all with data (mostly simple numbers like 0, 1, 2, 3, 4)?
This one time, at Boot Camp, I stuck a flute up my PC.
Grizzled Veteran
Join Date: Jun 2008
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Mar 8, 2015, 03:36 PM
[1] Probably, but it might require your AppleID being added to his iCloud Family Sharing, like so: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201085 -- worse yet, it looks like if you're added to his iCloud Family Sharing, then he gets billed for any app purchases *you* make as long as you're a member of his Family Sharing plan: https://support.apple.com/en-us/ht201079

I can't seem to find anything supporting transferring a purchase from one AppleID to anothe -- I doubt that's even allowed. All signs point to app purchases being tied to the AppleID that purchased them forever.

As for Numbers, it runs noticeably faster than Excel on my Mac (Core 2 Duo mini) -- but then again, Excel has never been known to be a speed demon under OS X. I use Numbers for large files (200,000+ rows) when I want to export them to a format I can more easily work with (like Excel to CSV) and don't have the patience for Excel. Some of the drawbacks are more limited file type support and issues with certain complex Excel files (like VB support from Windows Excel files, etc.). All in all, it was a mere $20 and it comes in handy every once in a blue moon, and it does make damn good looking spreadsheets easily, in the typical Mac way.
Fresh-Faced Recruit
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: NYC
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Mar 8, 2015, 04:34 PM
Word 2016 is definitely has a more up-to-date interface them Word 2011, but already I've found some flaws from the older Word that have carried over. Here's a biggie: hyperlinks still are not saved to PDFs; you'll still need the Windows version for that. What ever crappy rendering engine they used in Word 2011 is still in Word 2016; if you set text tighter than "Single Line" (for instance, 48 pt text with exactly 48 pt leading), the bottoms of the descenders will still look cut off even though they'll print OK. Finally, a weird omission: these programs are installed as packages, with all the necessary fonts for each Office 2016 in their respective application package. Excel, PowerPoint and Word each have 176 fonts that will no longer clutter your Fonts folder. But Trebuchet and Verdana are both missing.
Fresh-Faced Recruit
Join Date: Dec 2014
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Mar 8, 2015, 08:28 PM
Apple does not require 'serial' numbers to activate and never has. If your sister buys the iWork suite have her give it to you and it will install on your Mac. Microsoft has so ingrained in the heads of computer users that they can't use software without a serial or key. Apple has never required a special serial number or key for their software. Apple simply doesn't play that game. If you can get it you can install it and it won't be hampered in any way.
Grizzled Veteran
Join Date: Jun 2008
Status: Offline
Mar 8, 2015, 08:52 PM
MikeXRyan: what happens when it comes time to update the app, and iTunes prompts him for his sister's iTunes account password?
Junior Member
Join Date: Oct 2011
Status: Offline
Mar 9, 2015, 08:41 AM
"Pages, Numbers and Keynote are excellent applications and all you need on a Mac."

- What is motivating people to write such a nonsense? Are they on drugs or from another planet? Keep using whatever does the job on your side, but don't patronize people telling them what they need. Also, I never ever had the need to say anywhere on any forum which app I don't use or avoid to use. Who cares about that?
Fresh-Faced Recruit
Join Date: Aug 2007
Status: Offline
Mar 12, 2015, 10:48 AM
In my experience so far, Office 2016 appears to be more like Office 2011 re-skinned and sandboxed than it is a new version of Office. Microsoft is still doing things their own convoluted way, and don't seem to care about making the applications feel like native Mac apps.
Fresh-Faced Recruit
Join Date: Mar 2015
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Mar 12, 2015, 01:14 PM
MikeXRyan: "Apple does not require 'serial' numbers to activate and never has."

Not true. older iWork installs on DVD did require a serial number - although online activation wasn't necessary.
Mac Elite
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Carmel, IN, USA
Status: Offline
Mar 17, 2015, 03:51 PM
Hey, some of us use Microsoft Office products in business, even as die hard Apple fans (actually former employees). It's really essential to have the MSFT product in some circumstances where users in other apps will have the exact look expected (like Keynote to PowerPoint). Having it updated is fantastic. Furthermore, Numbers is great for what it does, but nothing even comes close to Excel for real data crunching with complex formulas, etc. Excel is one of the best apps ever made. I've been a Photoshop user since 1.0.7 and put Excel on par with it.
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