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Top tips for Word for Mac 2016

After five years, the new version of Microsoft Office for Mac brings plenty of changes, so here’s our guide to the new Office suite, starting with Word 2016.


  • Microsoft Office 2016 for Mac Word for Mac 2016 tips 1
  • 1 Ribbon Revamp Ribbon Revamp 2
  • 2 Design And Layout Design and Layout 3
  • 3 Microsoft Mail Microsoft Mail 4
  • 4 Taken To Task Taken to Task 5
  • 5 Navigation Pane Navigation Pane 6
  • 6 Customisation Customisation 7
  • 7 Word In The Cloud Word in the Cloud 8
  • 8 Open Recent Open Recent 9
  • 9 Sharing and Collaboration Sharing and Collaboration 10
  • 10 Team Work Team Work 11
  • More stories
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Step 1 of 11: New Word for Mac 2016

It's been five long years since Microsoft last updated Word, the new version of Microsoft Office for Mac brings plenty of changes and here we have 10 tips that will help you get used to it.

There are also new versions of Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook.

[Info about how to get the new version of Office 2016 here and review of Word for Mac 2016 here]

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Next Prev Microsoft Office 2016 for Mac

It's been five long years since Microsoft last updated Word, the new version of Microsoft Office for Mac brings plenty of changes and here we have 10 tips that will help you get used to it.

There are also new versions of Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook.

[Info about how to get the new version of Office 2016 here and review of Word for Mac 2016 here]


Step 2 of 11: Ribbon Revamp

The Ribbon – the large tabbed toolbar that runs across the top of every Word document – is a lot less cluttered in Word 2016. Several tools have been removed from the main Home tab and relocated within a series of new tabs that are more tightly organised than in Word 2011. That helps to make Word 2016 look and feel a lot more streamlined, although it might take a little while to figure out where everything is now.

These new tabs are designed to focus on performing specific tasks. A key feature here is the new Insert tab, which as the name suggests, pulls together all the tools that you need for inserting graphics and other types of content into your documents. You can create tables and charts from within this tab, or import photos, audio or video files that are stored on your Mac. The Equation Editor is in here as well, along with the various clip-art tools, and special text tools such as ‘drop caps’.

It’s worth taking a little while to familiarise yourself with the Insert tab, as this is also found in the new versions of Excel and PowerPoint. In fact, the redesigned ribbon also matches that of the Windows and mobile versions of Microsoft Office, providing a common interface across different devices and platforms.


Step 3 of 11: Design and Layout

There are a number of other new tabs in the Ribbon, each of which focuses on a specific type of task. The Design tab controls the overall look and style of your documents. Word has always included a number of templates for documents such as newsletters and reports, but the Design tab allows you to fine-tune those templates with a variety of ‘themes’, which include typefaces and colour schemes that are chosen to complement each other. You can modify these themes if you want, and you can also add new elements, such as background colours or watermarks.

If you really want to drill down into the design of your documents then your next step is to click on the new Layout tab, which sits right next to the Design tab on the Ribbon. The tools included here allow you to adjust the dimensions and orientation of individual pages, and to add multi-column text for documents such as newspapers or magazines. There are typographic controls for adjusting line-spacing, indentation and margins, and hyphenation. You can also control the way that text and graphics combine on the page by adjusting the word-wrap controls, or grouping and aligning multiple elements on each page.


Step 4 of 11: Microsoft Mail

Previous versions of Word included a Mail Merge Manager that helped you to create mailshots for customers or members of a club, but this was still a bit confusing for people who didn’t have previous experience of mail-merge work. Word 2016 changes that, expanding its mail-merge features and putting them right up front with the new Mailings tab on the Ribbon.

This breaks the mail-merge process down into a simple series of buttons, and then prompts you each step of the way. Click on the Start Mail Merge button and you are asked to create either a standard letter or to print envelopes or labels. Word 2016 also brings the mail-merge options up to date by allowing you to create email mailshots too.

You are then prompted to select a list of recipients, which can be drawn from a spreadsheet, a list of contacts stored in either Outlook or Apple’s Contacts app, or from a FileMaker database. You can filter recipients, perhaps selecting a specific group of contacts from Outlook or Contacts, and then design your document by inserting merge-fields for details such as name, email or postal address. There’s a Preview option that lets you skim through your mailshot before printing anything out, and you can edit individual letters to give them a more personal touch before finally hitting the Merge button.


Step 5 of 11: Taken to Task

The old Toolbox floating palette that was a feature of Word for many years has now been replaced by the Task Pane – a fixed sidebar that appears on the right-hand side of your document window (in much the same way that the latest version of Pages replaced the Inspector palette with the new Format panel). Like the Format pane in Pages, the Task Pane provides context-sensitive tools for formatting different elements within your documents. If you double-click on a photo or a graphics file you’ll see the Format Picture tab appear within the Task Pane, providing quick access to simple photo-editing tools, and a number of graphics effects. Click on a bit of text and the Task Pane will switch to display Text Effects, such as colour fills and drop-shadows.

However, this aspect of the program is a little untidy at times. For instance, clicking just once on a photo or graphics file also activates the Picture Format tab that appears in the main Ribbon, and which includes additional graphics tools, such as artistic effects and transparency controls. This means that you may find yourself switching back and forth between the Ribbon and the Task Pane in order to find the specific tool that you need.


Step 6 of 11: Navigation Pane

There’s been a Navigation Pane in Word for quite a few years, but it was often overlooked because the command used to activate it was buried within the program’s many menus and sub-menus. Word 2016 promotes the Navigation Pane and now allows you to open it up more quickly by clicking on the page number indicator on the far left of the Status bar that runs along the bottom of your documents.

The Navigation Pane is very useful when working with longer, multi-page documents. It works rather like the sidebar in Apple’s Preview app, displaying thumbnail views of all the pages within your document. You can then scroll through the document and jump straight to any page that you click on. There are a number of other options here too, indicated by a series of icons that sit at the top of the pane. The Document Map view shows you a list of headings and sub-heading within the document so that you can quickly get an idea of the structure and content of the document. The Reviewing Pane tracks changes made by other people when collaborating on a document, and there’s also a Find And Replace tool that lets you quickly locate specific words or text.


Step 7 of 11: Customisation

While we were exploring the Navigation Pane we noticed that right-clicking on the Status bar at the bottom opened up a new menu that wasn’t there in previous versions of Word. This menu allows you to customise the Status bar by adding or removing a number of features.

As well as showing the page number, you can set the Status bar to display section numbers and line numbers, and even the column numbers in multi-column layouts. You can also add ‘macro’ controls to the Status bar, which allow you to record and automate repetitive tasks, such as formatting text or inserting tables into a document.

But Microsoft giveth and Microsoft taketh away, and we also found that some of Word’s other customisation options seem to have vanished in this version. The ability to customise the main toolbar and menus has gone – Word 2016 is all about the Ribbon, and your only option here is to simply hide or show the Ribbon by clicking the little up/down arrow button on the far right of the Ribbon. The only other customisation option is the ability to create your own keyboard shortcuts, which remains in the Tools menu as it had done for many years.


Step 8 of 11: Word in the Cloud

The 2011 edition of Word did have a number of options for saving documents online. Word 2016 doesn’t add many new features here, but it has reorganised its cloud features and moved them around a bit.

The options for saving documents online have been moved from the File/Share menu and are now located within the standard Save As dialog box. By default, the Save As dialog shows the normal Finder sidebar with all your Favourites locations, such as your Mac’s hard drive, your Documents folder, or your online iCloud Drive. You can also save files to Microsoft’s own online services by clicking on the Online Locations button right below the sidebar. Clicking on this removes your Favourites and simply shows a ‘+’ button that allows you to add one of Microsoft’s somewhat confusing array of online services.

There are three options here. You can save documents to OneDrive, which is Microsoft’s counterpart to iCloud and is designed primarily for personal use. Business users can also sign up for OneDrive For Business, which provides additional tools for collaborating with colleagues. The third option is to use Microsoft’s SharePoint service, which provides more advanced security and collaboration features for large corporations.


Step 9 of 11: Open Recent

The ability to save your documents both locally (on your Mac’s hard drive) and online is useful, of course, but it does make it a little more complicated to keep track of all your files. To help out here, Word 2016 has updated the ‘Open Recent’ command in the main File menu to give you a little extra help.

When you click on Open Recent, the list of recent files tells you where the file is stored. If the file is stored on your Mac then you’ll just see the name of the file on its own, but if it’s stored on iCloud Drive, OneDrive or SharePoint then the name of the file is also followed by its location. One thing to remember here is that it’s possible to save two copies of the same document both locally and online, which could get a bit confusing. However, if you select Open Recent/More, then you’ll see the updated Open dialog box, which provides another new option. As well as showing the list of recent files, there’s also an option to create a separate list of ‘pinned’ documents for quick retrieval. So you could pin the original version of a document that is stored on your Mac, while also having a back-up of the document stored on iCloud or OneDrive.


Step 10 of 11: Sharing and Collaboration

As well as saving your documents online, it’s also possible to share your documents with other people in a number of ways. Click on the ‘people’ icon in the top-right corner of the Ribbon and you’ll see three main options (which can also be found in the File/Share submenu). The simplest option is Send Attachment, which launches your email program and sends a copy of the document as a file attachment. You can also convert the document into a PDF file and send that as an attachment so that people can read it without needing their own copy of Word.

If your documents are saved online then it’s also possible for multiple people to collaborate and work on the document at the same time. Again, there are a number of options here. If you select Copy Link from the people menu then you can send an email to someone else that contains a web link with the document’s location. These links can be ‘view only’ or ‘view and edit’, so you can choose whether to let people make their own changes to the document. There’s also an option to ‘Invite People’, which allows you to enter email addresses for a whole group of people all at once.


Step 11 of 11: Team Work

The collaboration features in Word are one area where it has a real edge over the rather basic features found in Pages and Apple’s other iWork apps, and these have been further enhanced in Word 2016. The Review tab on the Ribbon includes an extensive set of tools that allow multiple authors to work on a document, and to manage any conflicts if they all try to make changes at the same time.

The Tracking option tells Word to keep track of all changes made to a document, and the Navigation Pane on the left can display a quick summary of all comments, insertions, deletions and other changes. You can compare different versions of a document or merge them together to combine a series of changes. Documents can be password-protected to prevent specific people from making any changes, and the original creator of the document also has the ability to accept or reject individual changes. The comments features in Word 2016 have been enhanced too, allowing you to create threaded comments so that you can discuss your changes in detail. You’ve got great control over the display of changes and comments too, with the ability to colour-code individual authors and the changes they make.

Read next:

Learn how to use Apple's spreadsheet program, NumbersLearn how to use Pages for Mac | Learn how to use Apple's presentation software, Keynote | How to use PowerPoint 2016, PowerPoint tips

And: How to find files lost in the Office 2011 AutoRecovery folder

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