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Microsoft Releases Preview of Office 2016 for Mac: 1st Impressions

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on March 06, 2015 9:24 AM

Is it 2010 already? That's the last time Microsoft Office for Mac, the ugly stepchild of the Microsoft Office family, got a whole-number update. Well, you can throw away your Ke$ha album and upgrade to something more modern, because Microsoft has announced that Office for Mac 2016 is coming in the second half of 2015.

And what's the best part? There's a free preview available right now! We spent some time with the Office for Mac 2016 preview, and here are our first impressions:

Finally, Some Harmony

If you use a Mac in the office and Windows at work, you've undoubtedly noticed that the Office for Mac UI has remained several iterations behind the Windows one. Office for Mac 2010 attempted to introduce the "Ribbon," but did so kind of haphazardly, with big, cartoony buttons that just screamed, "Mac? Why do we have to take Macs seriously?" Office 2016 sports a sleeker, less button-y look that's more in tune with what's on Windows.

Standards? We Don't Need No Steenking Standards

Apple publishes UI guidelines designed to allow designers to take full use of extant UI elements already built into the operating system and to ensure that there's some kind of unity between third-party applications and Mac OS. Microsoft has never much cared for this, opting instead for custom UI elements. Office 2016 continues this trend, and even though the buttons are, like we said, less "button-y," it's still markedly different from the Apple UI guidelines.

Oh, and Office 2016 is still a 32-bit application. What's up, Microsoft? The Mac OS kernel has been 64-bit by default for years now. Grow up!

Office 365

It appears that Office for Mac 2016 will require an Office 365 subscription. Perhaps for anti-piracy reasons -- or just because they hate us -- Microsoft moved Office licenses to a subscription model, so you have to pay for a monthly or annual subscription in order to get Office. (They pulled this stunt last year when they made Office "free" for the iPad -- except you can't actually edit anything in the apps without an Office 365 subscription.)

OneDrive/SharePoint Integration

Users of Microsoft OneDrive, the company's cloud storage offering, will be pleased to discover that you can open OneDrive documents directly from the Office applications. It also opens directly from SharePoint, if you need that for business. On the Debbie Downer side, it doesn't appear to support non-Microsoft cloud storage systems, but Dropbox and iCloud are integrated into Mac OS anyway, so it doesn't matter a whole lot.

It Includes OneNote!

When I was in law school, OneNote was the only reason to envy Windows users. OneNote was a powerful, easy-to-use note-taking application that, until recently, was available only in the Windows version of Office. The sorcerers at Microsoft found a way to craft a Mac version, which is included in Office 2016, so there's no longer any reason to have Windows for law school. (Now if only they could find a way to kill WordPerfect ...)

Remember, kids: This is just a preview, so someone over in Redmond may take this criticism into account in order to build a more awesome Office by release time later this year.

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