Although Apple’s own iWork suite provides a decent set of productivity tools for personal use, it’s pretty hard to argue that Microsoft’s Office suite remains the 800-pound gorilla in the room when it comes to features and compatibility for exchanging documents with others. Even though Microsoft tends to lag a bit behind in their Mac versions, they provide reasonably good support for the Mac platform, making it easier for users to work on files from their own computers, or even to use their Macs at work. With the latest update to Office 2016 for Mac, Microsoft has finally brought real-time collaboration and cloud-based autosave to the Mac apps, bringing them closer to their Windows brethren, and more importantly allowing Mac users into the collaborative playground of their Windows-using colleagues.
Of course, you’ll need to be using Microsoft’s own cloud services to support these features — either OneDrive or SharePoint — but Microsoft gives you 1 TB of cloud storage with your Office 365 subscription anyway, so most users will be ready to go in that regard. The new AutoSave and co-authoring features actually work hand-in-hand, since edits made to documents need to be pushed to the could in almost-real-time in order for others to see them. When editing in real-time, you’ll see thumbnails in the upper-right corner of the document window that show who else is working with you, and flags to identify the sections where others are working with the ability to view changes as they’re typed. As part of the update, Excel also gets new charts and functions, PowerPoint gets a new “QuickStarter” mode to help automatically outline new presentations, and Outlook gains Apple Mail style swipe gestures. A full set of release notes for the latest version is available on Microsoft’s web site. Microsoft Office 2016 is available as part of an Office 365 subscription for $70 per year for personal use, or $100 per year for home use on up to five computers. For users who would prefer to avoid recurring subscription fees, a “Home & Student” version is also available for a one-time purchase of $150, but excludes Microsoft Outlook and access to cloud services such as OneDrive and the new collaboration features.