For over 20 years, Microsoft Office has been the de facto standard for the creation and sharing of work documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Despite lots of strong competition from the likes of Lotus (who were purchased by IBM), Claris and Apple over the years, Microsoft Office has retained its position as one of Microsoft’s main cash-cows.
In the early 2000s, Microsoft lost its way with Office. It became bloated. The integration between the different components was stilted and performance suffered. Microsoft saw the writing on the wall and decided to drastically review the entire suite of applications.
There have been some interesting diversions along the way. The last couple of Mac versions have added and removed features resulting in a lot of Mac users abandoning Office as Apple worked hard at getting the iWork suite of apps up to snuff.
Office 2016 has been officially released and, to be frank, other than being free I can’t see a good reason for using Apple’s apps over those from Microsoft.
As a writer, one of the main things I do is write. I spend a lot of time at a keyboard bashing out stories for Macworld Australia and other outlets. Much of the time, I work from my office on a Mac Mini attached to an Apple 27-inch Cinema Display. But I also use my iPad when I travel and, on occasion, need to use a PC running Windows at client sites.
With Office 2016, the transition between devices is almost seamless. The user interfaces across different platforms are consistent. They aren’t identical – that wouldn’t make sense as what you can do on a large display such as on a Mac and what you can do on an iPad are different. There’s also the different ways you interact with app on different hardware.
On my Mac, there are familiar toolbars and buttons. On the iPad, most of the same options – at least the ones I use – are there although they are represented differently so I can easily tap them with my finger. And with the new iPad Pro coming soon, Office needs to adapt to pen input.
Mac users will note Office 2016 has much weaker support for Visual Basic – Microsoft’s scripting language. According to the Office Blog
Existing macros continue to work in Office 2016 for Mac. When accessing local files, you may encounter permission prompts due to Mac OS X sandboxing. We’ve added methods to the object model to allow you to update macros to minimize the number of prompts.
Office 2016 for Mac provides a simplified Visual Basic Editor (VBE) for viewing/debugging existing macros. We recommend that customers develop macros or VB add-ins in Office for Windows and use Office for Mac to debug if needed. We will continue to ensure compatibility of existing macros and make improvements to the IDE. In the future, we will include the new web-based add-in model in Office for Mac products, which work across devices and platforms, giving add-in developers a modern web development experience. These new add-ins are already available in Outlook for Mac today and will come to the rest of Office for Mac over time. They are available today for Office for Windows for Word and Excel on iPad.
The glue that holds much of Office together is OneDrive – Microsoft’s cloud storage service. This facilitates multiple people collaborating on documents at the same time.
Microsoft Office 2016 can be purchased as stand alone software from many retailers as well as online. I’ve taken to subscribing to Office 365 as updates are released here first. It also means I get new features as they’re made ready rather than needing to upgrade to a new version of Office in order to access new features.