Different? Yes, Microsoft’s new line of software is made up of apps you’ll actually want to use. That’s different. Regular readers know I’m forced into a life of Microsoft and Adobe servitude thanks to the need to be compatible with the rest of the business world. The new Office suite for Mac makes it a pleasure. It’s that good.
Something Old, Something New
I’ve written many times that I use Office regularly, but it’s never been anything more than a hate-hate relationship until 2015 when Microsoft starting pumping out damned good applications. Let me back up a bit and identify when the trend started.
Check out Office for iPhone and iPad. Outlook is better than Apple’s Mail app. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are more feature laden than Apple’s own Pages, Numbers, and Keynote (still prefer the latter, though). And, to be competitive, they’re frickin’ free.
Alright, back to the Mac. Office for Mac has always been something of a poor stepchild at Microsoft. That seems to have ended as Cinderella is dancing at the ball. It’s still Office. But it’s like Office should be on a Mac.
Word looks and feels more like the iPad version but it’s unmistakably Word. And unmistakably Mac. Enough gush. What’s inside? A design tab which makes it easy to produce a complex layout with colors and fonts throughout a document. New sharing tools make it easier to have multiple users edit the same document (co-authoring).
Excel is more Mac-like than ever, and has a new PivotTable Slicer, which is marketing speak for a way to find patterns in data. The recommended charts pop out, and a spreadsheet can be exported to a PDF file. PowerPoint has a new preview Presenter View so the presenter can see the current slide, next slide, speaker notes, and a timer; all on the same screen. OneNote is Microsoft’s version of a digital notebook but also manages files, and comes with a built-in mini-word processor, and is a good companion app to OneNote on iOS.
My favorite Office module is Outlook. Finally, email worth using because it’s all in one app; email, calendar, tasks and projects, contacts. There’s push email, side-by-side calendar, even weather forecasts. And, the Mac version looks and feels much like the iPhone and iPad versions and everything syncs up nicely between platforms and the Outlook web app.
There’s plenty to like, but Office is still a complex beast that must be used frequently to be appreciated. Even the price is attractive; free if you’re an Office 365 subscriber ($100 a year, which includes 1-terabyte of OneDrive online storage and 60-minutes of free Skype calls per month). I don’t know if Microsoft has enough moxie to turn the corner with its new cloud and subscription business, but if the rest of the company executes as well as the app developers who produce OS X and iOS apps, Apple and Google has some competition.
Over the next couple of months I’ll do a more in-depth look at each Office component.