Has the five-year wait been worth it Word users?
Half a decade on from the last major version of Microsoft’s Word for the Mac, we have a new one. Word 2016 can be bought as part of Office 2016, along with Excel and PowerPoint (see p103-104) or as part of an Office 365 subscription.
Much of what’s new is aimed at bringing parity with the Windows version and improving the way that Mac and iOS versions work together. Handoff support, however, is notable by its omission.
The most immediately obvious improvement is the look and feel of Word’s interface. It’s had a complete overhaul and now shares the flatter look of OS X. You can choose to make the ribbon interface ‘colourful’, making it blue in Word – each Office app has its own colour – though whether that’s a good thing or not is very much a matter of personal preference. Multi-Touch gestures such as pinch and unpinch are supported, as is OS X’s full-screen mode, and Split View in El Capitan.
Other changes to the interface include a new Design tab, and the removal of the Tables, Charts, and Smart Art tabs. Their features are still present, but the reorganisation of the interface makes it less cluttered and more pleasant to use.
A new tool in the Review tab, Smart Lookup, allows you to select a term in a document and search for information about it on the web, without leaving Word. The Resume Reading feature automatically bookmarks your reading position in a document and takes you back there when you reopen it, and threaded comments in Review allow document authors to reply to individual comments from others.
Word, like all the Office 2016 apps, includes support for Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage service. Install the OneDrive app on your Mac and you can save documents there and access them on your iPhone, iPad or in the web version of Word. If you prefer to use iCloud Drive or Dropbox for sharing files, you can save there, of course.
In terms of performance, Word feels much more responsive than its predecessor. Word 2011 long ago became unwieldy and sluggish, and the 2016 version is far from that. There have been reports of it crashing in El Capitan; at the time of writing, a fix is expected soon and may well have been issued by the time you read this.
Word 2016 is a big improvement, but that’s the least we’d expect. It has plenty to offer those wedded to Microsoft Office at work, or anyone who has persevered with Office 2011. The problem is that there are now so many excellent alternatives for Mac users, that, unless you have to use Office, it’s difficult to find a compelling reason to use Word. Kenny Hemphill
The most immediately obvious improvement is the look and feel of Word’s interface
A worthy upgrade to Word, with much to commend it. But is it too little too late for most Mac users?
Word’s Smart Lookup feature allows you to research the content of documents from within the app.
The new Design tab pulls together several useful features in order to modify documents.