Check Out All the Differences in Microsoft Office for Mac


The first time I realized that there were differences in Microsoft Office for Mac, I was waist-deep in a complicated Excel table. I knew that there must be some clever way to solve my data dilemma, so I Googled a solution. And I found one, right away! Only to discover that, mystifyingly, the tool I needed simply didn’t exist. I had the right version of Excel, and the tool wasn’t just somewhere else. That’s when I first found the differences in Microsoft Office for Mac. Turns out that there are many disappointing differences in Microsoft Office for Mac when compared to Microsoft Office for Windows.

Unavailable Applications

There are a number of office applications that you simply won’t find on the macOS version of Microsoft Office.

Microsoft Publisher: This desktop publishing app aimed at beginners isn’t a major loss for Mac users. There’s plenty of other apps that can do the job, from something as simple as Pages to something more complex like InDesign. And there’s plenty in between: one thing the Mac doesn’t lack is creativity software.

Microsoft Access: this database management tool is a much more useful application. It’s often used to take the place of unwieldy Excel databases. While it’s not the best version of the software available, it does come with Office, making it an attractive addition to the normal productivity suite. Unfortunately, Mac users won’t have access to this application.

Differences in Microsoft Office for Mac

Here’s a list of the major features you won’t find in Microsoft Office for Mac. It’s not guaranteed to cover everything, but it should hit in the highlights.

Office Suite

There’s some stuff missing from all parts of the Microsoft Office for Mac suite.

Visual Basic: This proprietary programming language is available on the Mac. However, some functions are missing, and the implementation is not as fully-featured as the Windows version. Code that works in Windows might not work in macOS. And it’s generally harder to write and execute.

SharePoint Support: SharePoint is used for sharing files and distributing data in corporate environments. Office for Mac does include support for SharePoint, but some features are missing.

Accessibility Checker: checks your document for formatting or content that might make it difficult to read for users with disabilities. If you have government-mandated reporting styles, or your organization cares about accessibility, this can be a great help.

Office Roaming: Windows users can connect to a streaming copy of Office on a PC for temporary use.

Right-to-left Language Support: Hebrew and Arabic text direction is not supported.

ActiveX: you might be most familiar with these macro-style document plugins as security risks. They also allow for significant programming within the Office environment.

Document Inspector: Scans for hidden data and personal data in documents, helping you stay safe when sharing files.

Word

Embed Fonts: When sharing documents on Word for Windows, you can embed custom fonts to display with your document. macOS users instead must save out PDFs, which don’t allow users to easily edit them.

Booklet Printing: Printing for booklet binding is not available in Office for Mac.

Open and Repair: Office for Mac can try to open damaged files, but it won’t do as much to fix them as Windows’ Open and Repair.

Built-in Screenshots: Word for Windows includes a built-in screenshot tool, which can automatically take screenshots and insert them in to your document. macOS has a pretty powerful screenshot tool that can help make up the difference, however.

Smart Lookup: This tool search through Bing for the selected text. Useful for quickly defining a term or acronym you’re not familiar with, but hardly essential.

Digital Ink: this digital drawing and annotation tool won’t be found on the Mac version of Word.

Excel

PivotCharts: these charts work with PivotTables, visualizing information created by your new layouts to reveal patterns. While some of this functionality can be captured manually, the automated features of PivotCharts won’t be available.

PowerPivot: this ultra-powerful add-in version of PivotTables isn’t available on the Mac.

Built-in Database Connectivity: Mac Excel cannot sync with data from external databases. Some data can be imported from external sources, but updated sync is not possible.

Customized shortcuts: You can’t assign your own keyboard shortcuts in Excel for Mac. All the modifiers are different too, so your muscle memory is probably shot.

Outlook

Outlook users might have a problem that’s more annoying that missing features. The email and calendar app is not super compatible with iCloud calendar, especially not when it comes to the iPhone and Windows machines. So if you’re a big iCloud user, you might look elsewhere.

Google Security: Outlook for Mac is not as secure as its Window’s counterpart when it comes to Gmail addresses. You’ll need to explicitly permit less secure apps to get Outlook to interface with your Gmail address. This is not so for the Windows version.

Email editing and exporting: tables in email and composing emails in Word are both excluded. “Save As…” for emails is also not present.

Exchange: In general Exchange is supported, but certain features like managing distribution lists or supporting all Exchange Server versions are not.

Voting Buttons: not available in the Mac version

Social Connector: likewise, not available in any Mac version of Outlook

A Solution?

These missing features will almost certainly not be added to Office for Mac in the future. If you absolutely require the missing features, you can install Parallels to run the more complete version of Office or install Boot Camp on your Mac. Just keep in mind that single-license users can only install the suite on one machine. Multi-license users could install Office on both Windows and macOS. But pure cross-compatibility seems to be out of the question for now.

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Alexander Fox

6 Comments

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  1. Accessibility Checker wasn’t in early versions, but it was added a few months ago,
    https://support.office.com/en-us/article/use-the-accessibility-checker-on-your-mac-to-find-and-resolve-accessibility-issues-3b84295e-d55b-49f1-b443-523ec45a5232

    this may be true of some of the other missing things as well, or it may come in a future update which happen every month or so in the regular stable version (more often if you change your settings in AutoUpdate “Insider Builds” Slow is still pretty stable, but gives you access to new features a few weeks at least before it makes it to the standard updates)
    If it doesn’t show up in your office, make sure to run the updates.
    (it can also help to run the office updates if one of the apps starts having issues after a macOS update – have seen this at least a couple of times with Outlook especially)

    I did a quick check on a few random other features listed here, and also found that PivotCharts were also added in October 2017
    https://www.excelcampus.com/pivot-tables/pivot-charts-excel-for-mac/

    And this bit of news from last month on how much they are trying to get feature parity – https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2018/01/office-for-mac-finally-has-real-time-collaboration-in-16-9-0-update/

  2. I’ve been a Mac user since its birth in 1984. Microsoft is the Evil Empire! I have the latest Microsoft Office for Mac, but only because I was a federal government employee (we used Windows and MS Office) and purchased it for $19.90 plus S&H of about $1.90.

    I NEVER use it, unless absolutely necessary. I pretty much have jettisoned EVERYTHING Microsoft and use other, better software for word processing, etc. on the Mac: Nisus, Mellel, and SoftMaker Office 2018 for Mac (coming soon) are at least as good, if not better.

    Once I retired, I got rid of Microsoft almost entirely, turned my Windows laptop into a Linux (Ubuntu 16.04 LTS) machine. I like it SO much better than Windows (Windows is HORRIBLE software). Both Mac and Linux are SO much better, and never crash as Windows does … so often. Yes, Linux doesn’t have a really robust word processor … yet, but it’s coming soon. I’m a Beta tester for SoftMaker Office 2018 for both Mac and Linux, and it seems pretty damned good. It should be released on both systems this year, already exists for Windows. It is fully compatible with the Windows version and MS Office on all platforms

    BTW, in my 30+ years of using the Mac, MS-DOS and Windows, and Linux, the Mac works best, hands down; Linux is next, and Windows works horribly. And Windows is losing market share rapidly.

    The future is UNIX®/Linux.

  3. What is the Excel difference you mentioned in the beginning?
    I do like the menu ‘s in Mac Office. The new style in Windows is far less intuitiv.

  4. You mentioned InDesign and Pages as a substitute for Publisher but failed to mention FileMaker Pro, and it’s Import Excel… functionally. Unfortunate.

  5. I’d be interested to know what there is in Office for Mac that isn’t in Office for Windows – I suspect you’ll find that the differences go both ways. Outlook, for example, was heavily revised last year following the acquisition of another mail app (can’t remember which one, off-hand). As for SharePoint – Microsoft’s attitude to the latter is ambivalent, to say the least. Have you tried tracking down detailed information on SharePoint recently? It’s remarkably hard to find – OneDrive is being plugged as the be-all and end-all of shared storage, which IMHO rather misses the point of SharePoint’s many other features, but suggests Microsoft may be moving away from it and focusing on alternative solutions (see the double launch of collaborative tools at the end of 2017).

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