Mac users have been begging for news about the next version of Office for their favorite computing platform. And this week Microsoft delivered, and then some. It revealed that the next Mac Office will ship in late 2015 after an early 2015 preview. And it also released a brand-new version of Outlook for Mac. The catch? You need to be an Office 365 subscriber.
To get Outlook for Mac, sign in to your Office 365 account on the web (consumer or business, doesn't matter) and navigate to the place you normally download Office software. (My Account on consumer versions, or Software in business versions.) You'll see a link there.
This new version of Outlook for Mac includes the following improvements.
The new Mac Office UI. Like OneNote, Outlook now features "a new modern user interface with improved scrolling and agility when switching between Ribbon tabs."
Online archive support for searching Exchange (online or on-premises) archived mail.
Master Category List support and enhancements delivering access to category lists (name and color) and sync between Mac, Windows and OWA clients.
Office 365 push email support for real-time email delivery.
Faster first-run and email download experience with improved Exchange Web Services syncing.
Better performance and reliability as a result of a new threading model and database improvements.
After immediately understanding that the previous version of this app was dead on arrival, I haven't really looked at Outlook for Mac in a while. So I fired this version up to check it out. It's a lot more consistent with other Outlook experiences—Outlook on the PC, of course, but also Outlook Web App online and the Outlook Web App (OWA) mobile apps for Android, iPad, and iPhone. I believe it replaces the previous Outlook version (part of Office 2011), which I suspect no one will complain about.
The app does work with Outlook.com, iCloud, Google, Yahoo! and other online email accounts, in addition to Office 365 business accounts. But this support appears to be IMAP-based in the case of Outlook.com, and not EAS. I did get my work Exchange account connected as well.
So a new Outlook is good news. But of as much interest, of course, and perhaps more, is an official confirmation about the next version of Office for Mac.
Microsoft admits that this release is late, and that it normally delivers a new Mac Office release about 6 to 8 months after each major Windows release. But with Office 2013 being finalized a full two years ago, there's no new Mac Office in sight. What gives?
"Following the release of Office 365 [in early 2013], we made the conscious decision to prioritize mobile first and cloud first scenarios for an increasing number of people who are getting things done on-the-go more frequently," the Office 365 team explains in a new post to the Office Blogs. "This meant delivering and continuing to improve Office on a variety phones (iPhone, Windows Phone, and Android) and tablets (iPad and Windows)—brought together by the cloud (OneDrive) to help people stay better organized and get things done with greater efficiency at work, school, home and everywhere between."
But with that work complete, the team is turning its attention to Mac again. And it has disclosed the following schedule for the next version of Office for Mac, which includes new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote:
Public beta for the next version of Office for Mac is due in "the first half of 2015."
Final release will ship in "the second half of 2015."
As you should expect, Office 365 consumer and business subscribers will get this next Office version at no additional cost, and Microsoft will ship a normal retail version of Office for Mac (with a perpetual license) at the same time as the final release.