For the first time in over 20 years, Office is built from one codebase for all platforms

A new version of Microsoft Office 2016 just shipped (release notes here).

What really caught my eye was this tweet from Microsoft’s Erik Schwiebert:

As Erik says, that is a massive code realignment. My 2 cents, this is good news for all Mac Office users. The Office experience will now have more consistency across platforms, and there’s more of a chance for new features to make their way to the Mac at the same time as they appear on Windows.

Side note: Office 365 subscriptions give you the opportunity to keep up with the latest version of Office at no extra cost. A license to a specific version of Office does not. When Office 2019 is released (presumably, later this year), Office 2016 users will have to pony up for a new license. Office 365 subscribers will have the opportunity to upgrade as part of their subscription.



  • Glaurung-Quena

    “Office 365 subscriptions give you the opportunity to keep up with the latest version of Office at no extra cost.”

    Why on earth would anyone want to own the latest version of Office?

    And why would anyone want to sell their soul to MIcrosoft pay through the nose every single year instead of paying once every four or five years? Nice job of corporate brainwashing you have there.

    • john doofus

      Relax, bud. It’s about a hundred bucks a year, covers multiple devices (Macs, Windows, iOS) and includes Microsoft Cloud drive (or whatever they’re calling it now).

      • Mo

        As opposed to a couple of hundred bucks every five years or so, and “includes” the other-branded cloud services I’m already happily using.

        • john doofus

          Which covers 1 user instead of 5, no upgrades, and no Office for iPad or Office for Windows (occasionally useful if you have a Windows VM).

          • Mo

            I’ll let you know when I settle into that specific category. Or when any of the companies I’ve ever worked for have done so.

            “No upgrades” So what? It’s a mature suite of apps. At this point, security updates are far more important than a few macro tweaks and an attempt to upsell another redundant cloud service.

          • xp84

            Running say, a 5-year-old version of Office apps is actually not that painful on Windows, where the OS doesn’t change much, but on a Mac where UI frameworks have been deprecated and the whole look of the OS has changed dramatically, it’s jarring to use outdated versions of Office.

          • Mo

            Jarring compared to what? You’re talking about one of two major software developers which have historically ignored the Mac OS UI anyway. Office apps for Mac are a mess, and always have been.

            And how would anyone on Windows know if running Office is painful or not? Are there genuine UI standards for Windows software now?

            MS seems to have come around in its designs for iOS, which is nice for folks who need Word on an iPad. But Office has never been an exemplar of Mac UI standards. That it existed at all seemed to be enough.

          • xp84

            I agree on the grounds of Microsoft hasn’t always been good at following the Mac standards. But they do always improve from one version to the next and to not have the latest means you’re looking at not only an outdated visual design but Microsoft’s best take on that design which is usually worse. This is the OLD version of Word. Would you like to look at this every day? http://getintopc.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Microsoft-Office-2011-for-Mac-OS-Latest-Version-Download.jpg

          • Mo

            Improvement is in the eye of the beholder, and I think you’re grading Microsoft on a steep curve here.

            I honestly don’t care much about the app’s chrome. Been using Word, off and on, since version 4. I always assumed it would be a poorly-considered, just-good-enough-to-ship product overseen by auto salesmen.

            At this point, I care far more about the disjunctive, abstruse Ribbon and menu-item hierarchies. How they fail to work is more important than how the app’s chrome looks.

          • xp84

            Acknowledged. I know the ribbon is controversial. The appearance is definitely more important to me than to you. Things looking “off” or mismatched really get on my nerves.

            Also, I think the point of the Ribbon was really to present casual users with a “just right” mix of what they’re likely to use because such users are vanishingly unlikely to know where to look in a more “organized” UI (like what the Ribbon displaced) and would just give up and do something manually rather than hunt. More demanding users may not be as well served by this organization and I understand how some would hate it. Personally I’m pretty flexible to changes like that so it never bugged me, and I liked having the common things usually exposed.

          • Mo

            “Controversial” is insufficient to describe such poor functionality.

            Whatever its original purpose, we know now that the Ribbon—like many other purported improvements to many Microsoft products—became a battlefield graveyard of interdepartmental rivalry.

            It no longer matters what its point was. One need not be characterized as “demanding” to hope that it might present a user with a simple, logical, uncluttered interface… only to be thrown a Swiss Army knife the size of a howitzer.

    • The Cappy

      I’m still on an older version of non-subscription Office, and I hate subscriptions with a passion. But… at least they’re actively developing. I remember when Apple made a big deal of unifying the code base for Pages and… yeah. That’s languished.

      • Person McPersonson

        Yup. Because Apple doesn’t have Pages “customers.” It has users, but there’s not revenue stream to create an obligation to update it. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are created and maintained as an incentive to buy a Mac or iOS device.

        And it’s a pretty good incentive, and it’ll fit most users’ needs just fine. But if you need something more, you obviously need to pay.

      • xp84

        I think the knee jerk reaction we all get sometimes is “geez, a few bucks here a few bucks there, am I supposed to be paying $100 a month in software subscriptions?” But on the other hand, given how much software needs to be updated now to stay viable, more and more I think it’s the right model. It also means trying a new piece of software has virtually no risk, you can buy it for a month or a year and if you don’t use it as much as you thought, you can cancel it. Back in 1997 when you would buy Office on a CD-ROM, many people would still have the same computer and same or very similar, totally backward-compatible OS 4 years later. There was less of a reason to need ongoing revenue to pay for maintenance, and the “give us a hundred bucks and use for as long as you want” strategy worked better than it does now. Even though this is an MS article, this is doubly true for small developers who need to have ongoing revenue to stay afloat, and if their total audience is small, trying to find 100 new customers each month to keep the lights on is tough, and trying to add features to justify paid upgrades is tough and leads to feature bloat.

        • Mo

          Had I a choice, I’d rather support a smaller dev than pay ransomware fees for a bloated app, solely because it’s a purported business standard.

          • xp84

            Ransomware? And no choice? Come on now, Nobody’s putting a gun to your head, Office Online has been free for years if you don’t want to lose access to files or don’t like using Pages or OpenOffice. And the 1-pc 365, equivalent to your boxed Office editions of years past is $70 a year, which is $5.83 a month. Hardly a king’s ransom if this is something you use in any professional capacity, and again, casual users would probably be fine with the several free choices I listed above. It really seems like you’re being hyperbolic here with how much Microsoft asks for this software.

    • Person McPersonson

      Security fixes, new features are just two reasons to want the latest version.

      I understand not wanting to pay for subscriptions. But let’s be honest here. The “Pay upfront, plus a discounted upgrade every few years” was from a time when top-tier software initially costed several hundred if not thousands dollars, and there were fewer features to maintain.

      These days software has to sync seamlessly, protect your data with encryption and good networking practices, and work on operating systems that are upgraded every year.

      It takes more work to maintain top tier software. And the price people are willing to pay for upfront purchase + upgrade has not increased to keep pace with that.

      • Mo

        What genuinely useful new features is Office offering that most existing users don’t already have covered?

        • xp84

          OneDrive integration with collaboration. If you want to use real office apps like Excel (and not the pale imitations like Google Sheets), the latest version of Office allows you to use the actual desktop Office apps and do realtime collaboration with people on OneDrive. You simply can’t do that with a janky old Office 2011 install.

          • Mo

            Nice. And how about the majority of installations for people at desks who use less than 10% of the app’s features while drafting text documents they attach to emails?

          • Kriztyan

            Then they simply stick to Pages, like me.

          • Mo

            Nice for people whose workflow allows it. If I ever run across a large professional publisher whose staff lay out books or periodicals in Pages, I’ll let you know.

          • Kriztyan

            So you are saying that MS Word is use to layout periodicals? Sorry dude, I have been in the graphic design business since 1986. I have never seen a magazine or a newspaper laid out in Word. Sure, the writing gets done in it, but not the layout. Never the layout.

          • Mo

            No. I’m saying it would be foolish to expect that the program would enable such a thing, despite its lauded features. What I should’ve also added was that Word’s methodology makes page layout unnecessarily complicated anyway. Thanks, Redmond engineers.

            I have worked for a few clients who needed Word templates for training documents that would be distributed in-house, because they hoped they could avoid a future need for either of us.

          • Kriztyan

            Sorry, I misunderstood you, we are in the same “page”. Pun intended.

          • Kriztyan

            As a matter of fact, I wish it didn’t have these convoluted sudo page layout features because the final output is worthless to begin with. It leads people into erroneously thinking that it’s all they need.

          • Mo

            Exactly.

            There’s also a whole related conversation to be had about office wonks who use PowerPoint as a crude layout tool which they then hand off to designers as a fait accompli.

            But I have to go take my blood-pressure meds now. 😉

          • Kriztyan

            A long time ago I used to work for a service bureau that produced film for print shops. We had a small printer come in who brought a file in Power Point. Once the film was ready he picked it up. A week later he came back very mad demanding that we paid hundreds of dollars for all the paper he had ruined because a graphic had dropped off from the output. I told him that we were responsible for the film and I would be happy to redo this film output, or the we could reimburse him the $10 for the film output. We had a sign that clearly stated that the film output had to be checked before running a job. The moral of the story is, pick the right tool for the job or else things will go down hill from there really quickly. Corel Draw was another story, because it was intended for print, yet it produced very crummy postscript. It got better with time, but it could never be as good as the output produced by Adobe.

          • Mo

            Project managers who don’t appreciate the need for every-round-QC are more likely to waste time and budgets.

            Smarter design and production people get to know their service bureau’s pre-press folks. Once I was allowed (!) to speak directly to them (my then-company’s procurement person had deep territorial issues), I was almost always able to head off potential problems before they occurred.

    • xp84

      I’ve been buying office 365 product keys on eBay for years now. I’ve never paid more than $75, and that upgrades five Microsoft IDs with 1TB OneDrive space each, and allows installs by any of us of Office on a total of 5 PC/Macs and 5 tablets, plus 5 phones. This is the easiest $75 I’ve ever spent. And keeping Office updated every release is a must for me because running old software on a Mac is awful — it doesn’t work properly with newer OS features, and is often slow and ugly. Considering that Google charges $120/yr for just 1TB of Drive space, (Apple has 2TB for that price) Office 365 is a huge bargain at under $100.

      • Mo

        I’d sooner trust eBay for used underwear than a valid software license.

        • xp84

          Haha. Well, that’s the great thing, with subscription software you can be sure you’re above board with the software vendor because your key is validated online. Whereas buying boxed software it may be counterfeit and the key might be “reused”, nobody but Microsoft can generate a valid product key for Office 365 and it can only be used once.

          What I usually receive are pack-in product-key cards for a six-month or one-year subscription that were bundled with hardware, that the user doesn’t need/want, or that some dealer unbundled and is selling separately. (If someone is violating their reseller agreement or something, that’s their problem and not mine).

          • Mo

            Where eBay is concerned, I’m not making a distinction between “subscription” and “boxed.” I’m talking about sellers of variable reliability. That you’ve been lucky with them thus far is great.

  • James Hughes ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ”

    “The Office experience”

    Sorry, I had to chuckle a bit here..

    • Mo

      I especially like the idea of the word “consistency” being used to describe Microsoft products.

  • Caleb Hightower

    I’m perfectly happy using Apple’s “free” apps with cloud integration included.

  • peteo

    “Office 365 subscriptions give you the opportunity to keep up with the latest version of Office at no extra cost” ? Except for the monthly fee. Come on!

  • 20 years ago. Huh. Would that be Office 4/Word 6?

    • Person McPersonson

      Yep – the absolute worst version of Office ever. Though Erik, in his twitter thread pointed to a slide show that showed it’s much different.

      Word 6 was basically Windows code with a Mac emulator. This is quite a bit different.

      • Yeah, I’m not honestly expecting anything that bad. Word 6 was totally the wrong approach and I don’t think there’s any way they’d go back to that.

      • Yuhong Bao

        It still uses WLM sometimes today BTW. It was not the only problem.

        • I think a big problem with Word 6 is the power just wasn’t there on many of the supported Macs. The Intel world had the Pentium, and the Mac version of Word 6 (at least the first version) was still compatible with 68030s.

          • Yuhong Bao

            But more importantly the two OSes were much more different than they are now.

    • John Kordyback

      Word 6 was easily the worst piece of software ever released by a major company for the Mac.

      • Mo

        “Good enough. Ship it!”

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  • Found it on my computer when I came into work this morning. So far I really like Outlook compared to Outlook 2011 which I’ve been using since the stone age. OneNote is interesting, but I think I’ll be sticking with OmniOutliner for now. Word actually looks sorta usable. If I was an office wonk using World and Excel all the time, I’d be stoked.

    • Mo

      I’ve always respected hardcore Excel users for knowing their app and making it dance for them.

      Word users in business environments are another story entirely. Most office wonks I’ve worked with have no conception of the things Word is capable of, nor ever bother to learn. The documents they pass along are hastily-contrived hash.

      • Kriztyan

        The worst thing anybody can do is attempt to use a word processor as a page layout tool. It’s like hammering a nail with a screwdriver. It can be done, but way? Not to mention if the final output is intended for a CMYK workflow. It is the worst.

        • Mo

          Yes, I’ve known that since my first Mac-based print production job, 23 years ago. 😉

          And yet these capabilities, among many others of variable value (when is the last time anyone you know needed, say, Mail Merge?), are also touted as reasons why the app is so terrific. Rah-rah.

          My point was that it’s a huge, cluttered, time-wasting Swiss Army knife for people who might be able to work far faster if they had less to wade through.

          And it’s a means to standardize a proprietary file format for documents that could have easily been done in RTF.

  • John Kordyback

    I’m guessing that this is to support real collaboration in the next version of Office.

    • Mo

      If that’s something that can fix the purgatory of, say, Word’s Track Changes, and what that means for designers being handed Word manuscripts, I’ll stand up and cheer.

      • John Kordyback

        My guess is that they need to something similar to Google Apps with it’s real time collaborative editing (I don’t know what the actual term is) and straightforward versioning. Honestly, when you’re collaborating with other people on something it really works well.

        There is a generation of kids growing up in the US who use Google Apps as their default, MS has to catch up.

        • Mo

          Then it’s a race to see which of those two companys’ UIs is less elegant. 😉

        • xp84

          The current version that you can get right now thru Office 365 do already support real collaborative real-time editing, like Google (except with desktop apps not Google’s weak, flimsy webapps).

          I completely agree though that the biggest threat to Office is those young people who are used to using Gdocs because it’s “free.” Even though Google Sheets for example, is crap compared to Excel, it has a lot of mindshare because it’s well-known and free. Microsoft’s Office Online which is also free is arguably better, but Gdocs has a giant lead thanks to being free for the last, 10 years or so? Yikes.

      • xp84

        They now have realtime interactive collaboration, with the document stored in OneDrive and multiple people editing it at once with desktop or web apps. Not sure really if that is a similar use case though with the Track Changes components, since that one fundamentally encapsulates a pre-Web mindset of shipping a file back and forth for edits, taking turns.