When I heard the news today that the long awaited Office for Mac update was close at hand and a preview was available, I was pretty excited.

Downloading the installer was painless. At 3GB, it’s hefty. On install, it takes more space than that, at 5.6GB, but not more than I would expect. Don’t let the installer fool you, though. Even if you only have just that amount of space, it won’t let you continue unless you’re at least 2x over that.

The installer took about five minutes to run, and I was in business. I can’t say I’ve been able to install Office on a Windows machine in five minutes, that’s for sure.

Microsoft Word

I fired up Word first, as that’s a program I use a lot. I put Word 2011 and 2016 side by side to get a view of what it used to look like and what it looks like now.

I grabbed APA paper templates from their respective start screens to use as demonstration documents. The templates aren’t the same (the 2016 templates are easier to search through) but you get the idea. Right form the get go, I’m already enjoying the new UI and its color scheme for 2016. I don’t appreciate the fact that 100% makes the document super small on my screen, but I suspect that’s the product of my screen resolution compared to its size. It’ll be another case where I zoom to 200% to get the screen usage I want.

Beyond that, the ribbon area is largely the same as it is in Word 2013, and as someone that uses Word 2013 a lot on a regular basis for work, this pleases me.

Using word was as smooth as I would expect it to be. Even the default font that appears in Office for Windows looks good on a Mac. I mean really good. Sometimes I wonder what the heck is going on in Windows when it comes to fonts.

Microsoft Excel

When I started Excel, the first thing that jumped out at me was the new start window. It’s simple, and I like simple. Not much else to say there. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint all have this same opening screen to start you off on.

Working with spreadsheets is as typical of work as it gets in Excel and you either like doing them or you don’t. I use excel a lot at work, too, and 2016 feels very similar, which is quite nice. Everything renders just like I’d expect it to and everything is in roughly the same place.

I won’t go into the same level of detail as I did with Word. I don’t feel like there’s a need to repeat myself.

Microsoft PowerPoint

Ahh, the Keynote competitor. If you’re running a Mac on a daily basis, you’re familiar with Keynote, for sure. PowerPoint is the presentation god in a Windows-based business environment and I’m sure Microsoft wouldn’t mind sucking up a good user base in the OS X environment, too.

Here I am saying it again with PowerPoint: the interface is very similar to its Windows counterpart. Now that I’ve said that for the third time, I’m sure you’re tired of hearing it.

Microsoft Outlook

Outlook is one of those email apps that if you need it, you absolutely can’t live without it. of these apps, this was the only one that needed time to prepare. I was running the earlier preview of Outlook and because of that it needed to upgrade its database.

I can’t really show you what I see in Outlook as I have work emails in it and I really don’t want to share that stuff. Here’s an image from Microsoft, instead.

While trying to clean up my email accounts in Outlook, it ended up freezing, which is definitely not good. I had the same issues with it before the whole 2016 suite preview was released so there’s still some work that needs to be done.

Microsoft OneNote

OneNote is Microsoft’s answer to Evernote and the like. Unfortunately it’s not a good enough answer. While it doesn’t cost extra money to use Onenote, you can’t really get all the features you can with Evernote. Document conversion and searchable PDFs are a pipe dream for sure and even though things like that cost money with Evernote, it’s a small price and well worth the effort. OneNote syncs with OneDrive which is great if you enjoy OneDrive. Otherwise, you’re out of luck when it comes to storing your notebooks. I suppose Evernote stores your stuff in its cloud storage area, too, which isn’t much different.

OneNote was also quite slow to start, too. If you’re an Evernote fan, I suggest you stick with it for now. There’s nothing in OneNote that would make we want to switch over.

The Cloud

Everything is in the cloud now, whether we like it or not. Each of these apps no longer require a serial number to activate, but instead just an active Office 365 subscription. I know what you’re thinking, you don’t like the idea of paying ‘membership fee’ or an ‘access fee’ to use your Office. What that sounds like to me is you not understanding how software EULAs work. Software is never really yours to begin with, you are just granted access to it. In this particular case, access is granted on a month-to-month basis, and is cheaper overall than paying outright. Office for Mac 2011 is $139. A single Office 365 license is $60 a year and comes with OneDrive storage out your ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. This subscription model’s savings is realized even more when you find out you can use the Windows version, too, for no extra charge. Office 2013 costs upwards of $400 retail. Doesn’t sound like too bad of an offer, now does it?

If you’re a student, you’re automatically given a free O365 license. Free office is awesome, and definitely not worth complaining over, even if it isn’t a one-time payment, anymore.

Keep in mind you can purchase a subscription up front for a year, too, if you still really want to hold on to some semblance of the old days.

In Summary

I’m sure you’ve realized that Microsoft’s choice to make the UIs as similar as possible was intentional. Cross-platform support is a real thing now at Microsoft and Office for Mac isn’t just some side project somewhere. OS X and iOS are real platforms in their eyes now and the updates reflect that.

I’m sure Microsoft appreciates your feedback. On the top right corner of every app is a smiley. Click on that bad boy and send them your feedback about the application you’re using. If you’re not a fan, tell them. If you are, tell them that, too.

With this major shift, I suspect Office for Mac will receive more regular updates that don’t take five years to cultivate. Microsoft’s Office for Mac team needed a huge culture shift and they received it under the transition from Steve Ballmer to Satya Nadella. Apple platforms aren’t a joke, anymore.