While Windows users wait to see what's in Office 2016, Microsoft has pushed out a preview release of Office 2016 for Mac, bringing the suite for Apple users closer in line with the experience of Microsoft's PC customers.
Available to download now, Office 2016 for Mac includes updated versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook, and is the first major update of Microsoft's application suite for the Apple platform since the 2011 release.
The new Office suite for the Mac shares an "unmistakably Office experience", according to Microsoft, while being optimised to take advantage of unique features of the Mac OS X platform, which extends to full retina display support and retina-optimised graphics.
Office 2016 for Mac is also integrated with Microsoft's cloud services so that users can access documents on OneDrive, OneDrive for Business and SharePoint.
This brings it in line with Office on other devices, especially Office 2013, and reflects Microsoft's attempts to bump customers onto a subscription licensing model to access its software rather than an up-front purchase.
Kirk Koenigsbauer, Microsoft's corporate vice president for the Office 365 client apps and services team, said on the Office for Mac blog that the applications in the suite have been given an overhauled user interface.
"The moment you open any one of the apps, you'll immediately feel the difference. We've modernised the user experience and made it easier to get things done," he said.
"The redesigned ribbon intuitively organises features so you can find what you need quickly. A refreshed task pane interface makes positioning, resizing or rotating graphics easy so you can create exactly the layout you want."
As an example, Word features a design tab that allows the user to manage layout, colours and fonts across a document. Word also now includes threaded comments, designed to make it easier to follow the changes in a multi-author document.
Meanwhile, the Excel app adds support for the same functions as Excel 2013 for Windows, a move that makes it easier to share files across platforms, in line with Microsoft's new-found enthusiasm for cross-platform support.
An updated Outlook for Mac is also a part of the preview Office 2016 for Mac suite, even though this application has been available since October.
Office 2016 for the PC is currently in a restricted private preview, and Microsoft has not yet said when it will open it up for broader public scrutiny.
This is despite confirmation last month from Julia White, general manager for the Office product management team, that Microsoft expects to make Office 2016 generally available in the second half of 2015.
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