What is the difference between Microsoft Office for Windows and macOS?

The Windows version of Microsoft Office has always been the gold standard for office suites when it comes to features. Office also exists on other platforms like the Mac, but these versions lack certain products and features.

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Microsoft recently announced a major update to Office 2016 for Mac. Check out this link for a detailed list of updates, but the big deal includes the introduction of long-awaited features to the macOS version, like real-time collaborative editing, automatic saving of documents stored in the cloud, and support for Google Calendar and Contacts Outlook (finally). However, there are still features (and entire apps) that you might miss if you’re going with the Mac version.

If you’re switching from Windows to Mac (perhaps using one at work and one at home) or if you’re considering switching from Windows to Mac, it’s worth comparing the features available in the two versions. The big question is whether you need to install Windows on your Mac using Boot Camp or Parallels just to run the Windows version of Office, or can you get away with just buying the Mac version (or rather, one of the features included with your Office 365 subscription)?

What products are missing from the Microsoft Office Mac suite?

What is the difference between Microsoft Office for Windows and macOS?

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Microsoft sells Office for Windows in different editions. Almost all editions include Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Depending on the edition purchased, you can also get apps like Outlook, Publisher, and Access.

However, if you’re using a Mac, there are some Office apps (and Office-related apps) that you just can’t get:

Editor: Publisher is an entry-level desktop publishing application aimed primarily at home users. There is no Mac version. While you can easily find comparable apps for macOS, you’re unlikely to be able to transfer your Publisher files from the Windows version very well, at least not without reformatting them.
Access: Access is a relational database management system included with professional editions of Office for Windows. You can’t get Access on Mac, so if you (or your company) work with Access databases, you’re out of luck.

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And while we’re on the subject, there are also a few high-end “Office-like” apps that aren’t available on macOS:

View : Visio is a diagramming and vector graphics application that allows you to visualize complex information in diagrams, charts, flowcharts, and other forms. There is no Mac version. So if you need it for work, you need Windows access.
Project: Project is a project management application that connects to a company’s Outlook and Exchange Server configuration. It allows project managers to create project schedules, create and assign tasks and resources, and manage everything with real-time input from employees’ calendars. There is no Mac version.

If you really need any of the specific apps listed here, you need to be running Windows and the Windows version of Office.

What features are missing from the Mac versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote?

So what about the top office applications available on the Mac? Although it’s missing some very small features (things that affect very few people), most of the features you’ll find in the Windows versions are present in the macOS versions. Here are the main things you will miss though.

In the whole episode

There are a couple of pretty important features that, while not entirely absent from the Office suite for Mac, aren’t quite on par with their Windows counterparts:

Visual Basic: With Visual Basic integration, you can record and use macros to automate tasks in your Office documents. Although macro support is included in Office on macOS, this support is not as extensive as in the Windows version. If you make heavy use of macros or use complicated macros, you should expect that some will not work.
SharePoint integration: SharePoint is an intranet product used to share files, distribute messages, and streamline project collaboration. If you are using a Mac and connecting to your company’s SharePoint servers, you may find that some aspects of SharePoint are not supported as well as they are in the Windows version of Office.

Of course, other features are missing throughout the suite, but these are really for installations that are part of a corporate network. For example, roaming (the ability to use Office on different computers and have your setup follow you) isn’t available for macOS. However, if your system is part of a corporate network, these points have probably been thought through in advance.


What is the difference between Microsoft Office for Windows and macOS?

Key Word features missing from the macOS version include:

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Open and Repair: Although the Mac version of Word can attempt to automatically repair a corrupted document, it doesn’t have the specific “Open and Repair” command in the Windows version. This makes it more difficult to recover files that Word may not recognize as Word documents.
Embed fonts: When you embed fonts in a document, they are included in the Word file. That way, when someone else opens the file, the file will appear correctly, even if they don’t have the fonts you’re using installed. You cannot embed fonts in the Mac version of Word.
Digital Ink: This feature provides free drawing tools that you can use to draw, write, or highlight areas of your document. It is not available in the Mac version.
Document Inspector: Document Inspector scans your Word document and removes hidden data and personal information, making it safer to share documents with others. This feature is missing in the Mac version.


What is the difference between Microsoft Office for Windows and macOS?

Luckily, the difference between Windows and Mac versions of Excel is minimal. Both versions support all important functions. However, here are a few things to note:

Pivot Charts: While the Mac version of Excel fully supports PivotTables, support for PivotCharts (charts derived from PivotTables) has always been lacking. The Office 2016 January 2018 Update for macOS brings the Mac version’s PivotChart support more in line with the Windows versions, but it may still be missing some charting features.
Built-in database connectivity: Excel for macOS does not support the Windows version’s built-in database connectivity options.

These are some nice “power user” features that you probably won’t miss much.

power point

What is the difference between Microsoft Office for Windows and macOS?

The Windows and Mac versions of PowerPoint are also mostly on par. However, there is one notable feature missing from the macOS side: video and animation triggers. With these triggers you can start an animation effect when you click on the object to animate or automatically at the beginning of an audio or video clip.

Note that the Mac version offers the same animations and you can trigger animations with a general click or by setting a timer. It just doesn’t include the advanced triggers of the Windows version.


What is the difference between Microsoft Office for Windows and macOS?

Most of the Outlook features missing from the Mac version relate to the advanced features you see when connected to an Exchange server. This includes things like access to public calendars, distribution lists, retention and compliance features, receipt tracking, and various social features like voting buttons.

There are also a few other missing features to note:

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Save as for emails: In the Windows version of Outlook, you have access to a “Save As” command for emails, which allows you to save them as messages, PDFs, or otherwise outside of the Outlook message database. This is not possible in the Mac version.
Word as email editor: The Windows version lets you use Word as your email editor and gives you full access to Word features like formatting and autocorrect. The Mac version doesn’t.
Side-by-side calendar: In Windows, you can view two calendars side by side. This is not possible under macOS.

These aren’t many missing features (unless you’re part of an Exchange-based organization), but how important they are is up to you. And as mentioned, the latest Office 2016 update for macOS now adds support for Google Calendar and Contacts, a pretty important missing feature for many people.

a note

What is the difference between Microsoft Office for Windows and macOS?

The basic functionality of OneNote is present in both Windows and Mac versions (and mobile versions too, by the way), but there are still some differences:

Expandable: The Windows version is extensible and offers an API that allows for add-ons and some advanced features. The Mac version does not include this extension.
Linking and integration: The Windows version of OneNote is more powerful when it comes to embedding and linking files. For example, in the Windows version, you could embed an Excel file. Clicking on this Excel file in OneNote will open a full, editable version of the file in Excel. In the Mac version, you can only open a read-only copy of the embedded files.
Version Management: The Windows version keeps previous versions of tabs that have changed. The Mac version doesn’t.
Better searchable: In the Windows version, you can search handwritten text as well as audio and video recordings. This feature is not available in the Mac version.

If you don’t use any of these features, you can use the Mac version of OneNote.

As you can see from our lists, the most missed features on the Mac side are small, rarely used features or real “power user” features mostly used in desktop settings. If you don’t need these features, and don’t need the few apps that macOS lacks (and we think over 90% of our readers do), grab the Mac version of Office 2016 or Office 365. And you better jump through the hoops to get the Windows version working on your Mac!