The Truth about Microsoft Office for Macs

March 4, 2016 The TNS Group

The Microsoft Office ecosystem always developed faster on the (Microsoft) Windows platform.  However, five years after Office for Mac 2011 was released, Microsoft released Office for Mac 2016 to Office 365 subscribers, and subsequently as a ‘perpetual’ licensed copy for those opting out of the subscription model. This offering made a legitimate attempt at closing the gap in feature parity that seemed to be ever expanding.

Let’s get some formalities out of the way first: this 2016 version will only run on a Mac equipped with Yosemite (10.10) or newer. That means if you are on an older Mac, you will have to potentially upgrade your machine, your OS X version, or both.

Now onto the details—I disliked Office 2016 for Mac with unrivaled angst. I wanted to like it so badly. It had the look, the promise of everything great—I mean, at the very least I would get my email on time (a feature lacking in the 2011 version). I looked forward to a time when I would receive email at the same time my Windows colleagues did, but little did I know what I was in for.

I installed Outlook for Mac 2016 day one, and it was terrible. Outlook crashed constantly. I made it through the installation process, added my Exchange account, and within minutes was crashing at a rate that would have gotten a user banned from an AIM chat room before hearing “Goodbye”. My hopes were dashed. Other early adopters among our managed services clients were asking about its functionality, and I could not, in good kind, recommend moving to this version knowing what I went through on a completely ‘clean’ installation.

I stuck with it (and installed the complete Office for Mac 2016 Suite when it became available) and a few weeks later, updates appeared regularly, adding much needed stability. Outlook would open and stay open until I told it to close. Writing emails now meant no more hoping for copies of emails in my ‘drafts’ folder to reference after the application unexpectedly quit. My workhorse was stable.  If you don’t want to do the installs on your own, reach out to your Managed Services IT Provider for support.

Those issues were a little less prevalent in Word and Excel, but still reared their head from time to time. Those too would come to pass as updates rolled in, and the whole suite became my ‘go to’ without hesitation. Why was this important? I had previously been living in a land of emails that came in minutes later than they were supposed to, alongside Excel and Word functionality that was nowhere to be found in Office for Mac 2011. Now with a stable new 2016 version, I was ‘on par’ with Windows brethren.

The look of Office for Mac 2016, finally became (mostly) congruent with the Windows side. Menus and tools were in the same places as their Windows counterparts, I could laugh when the latest office banter hit my inbox at the same time as my Windows colleagues. Life was good. Everything I needed was where I wanted it, and it worked.

Let’s get back to the point: the gap between Office for Mac 2016 and its Windows counterpart. While the feature gap has closed significantly, there are still differences between them, some of which are illustrated in the chart below:

Feature Windows Mac
Complete Office Suite Yes Missing Visio and Project
Embed fonts, open and repair Word Files Yes No
Booklet printing in Word Yes No
PowerPivot/Pivot Charts


Yes No
Outlook federation between other organizations for calendar sharing Yes No
Support for all Exchange versions Yes No
Manage Exchange distribution lists Yes No
Export to PST Yes No
Multiple core support in Excel Yes No
Outlook supports read receipts Yes No

In all, there are a fair number of features missing, but the newest version of Office for Mac still allows 95% of us to do everything that we need to—reliably. So if you like OS X, and you are attached to your Mac, we now have a productivity suite that functions more similarly than ever to its Windows counterpart.

If you would like to learn more about how the Office for Windows vs. Mac differences continue on today, reach out to us, and we will be happy to help.

By:  Pete Fuss, Engineering, The TNS Group

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