Microsoft kicks off Office Insider program for Mac users

Microsoft Office for Mac users now have the option of previewing certain Office features shortly before they go final, as Windows and Android Office users already can.

Microsoft has opened the gates for Office for Mac users who are willing to be testers for certain new features as part of the Office Insider program.

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Microsoft officials said on January 21 the Office Insider program which the company made available to Office for Windows and Office for Android testers late last year is now available to Mac users, too.

(Microsoft actually opened the Office Insider program to testers a couple of weeks ago, officials told me when I asked. But they only blogged about it today.)

Users can opt-in to the Office Insider for Mac program from the Microsoft Auto Update (MAU) tool on their Macs. More information is available at Office.com/insider.

The Office Insider program is a bit different from the Windows Insider one, in that it is for those interested in testing features that are only about one to three weeks away from final release, according to Microsoft officials. Windows Insiders are testing possible new Windows 10 features that may be multiple months away from general availability.

Office 2016: The Empire strikes back

The latest version of Microsoft Office has a ton of changes under the covers, most of them aimed at playing catch-up to the collaborative strengths of Google Apps.

Office Insider also differs from the Office 365 First Release program in that Office Insider is for Office client and app technologies, while the First Release program is for Office 365 Business and Enterprise users who are charged with testing software and services that also extend beyond client.

Microsoft officials also announced today that Microsoft is adding the digital inking tools that have been part of Office for Windows since 2007 to Office for iPad and iPad Pro. Office for iPad and iPad Pro users can get the inking functionality today, January 21, in the updated versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

Microsoft officials also said today that Microsoft is bringing real-time co-authoring to PowerPoint for Windows 2016, allowing users to see who else is working simultaneously with them on a document and where. Real-time co-authoring is already part of Word 2016 for Windows.

Microsoft is planing to bring that co-authoring to Office Insider participants with Word and PowerPoint for Android. Office Insiders on Android will be getting Morph and PowerPoint Designer, which Microsoft announced last fall, in the next preview build of Office.

The rollout of the above-mentioned features will be staggered, and delivered "over time" as part of the regular Office 365 updates. The iPad and iPad Pro updates to the Office apps are getting the new capabilities today. Office Insiders running Office 2016 on Windows, Office Mobile on Windows tablets and Office on Android tablets will get them "in the coming weeks."

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