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(Pocket-lint) - Office 16 for Mac sees a big step forward for the Microsoft Office suite on Apple's computers, updating the version of the software for the first time since 2011.

Version trackers will also note that this sees the Mac getting its updated version of Office before Windows, but with Windows 10 scheduled for release in July, there’s some sense in that. 

What's new in Office 16 for Mac?

Office has been a comprehensive offering for a number of years so it might not be a surprise that there isn't a huge dump of new features in the latest version. Office 16 has been in public beta on both Windows and Mac for a number of months, so if you're a fan, you'll have probably seen the updates that are coming. 

There's a new design, with bold coloured headers and a ribbon that closer reflects what you get on the PC version. One of Microsoft's aims has been drawing the different version of the software together and that's been achieved. There will always be differences, which Richard Ellis, Office Division Lead, UK told us was mainly down to Microsoft having end-to-end control of the Windows version.

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There are feature updates in Office 16 for Mac, of course, with improvements to pivot tables in Excel along with improved charts and all the apps (from what we've experienced so far on the preview) seem to be slicker and faster.

Outlook now gets threaded conversations so it feels more modern, and there's integration of Preview for viewing attachments, which is a nice nod to the native Apple environment Office finds itself in.

The calendar also now carries the weather and if you are in a different location, you can switch it over quickly to see if it's going to be raining when you step off the plane. 

There's also a rich app for OneNote. OneNote was designed for online collaboration, living in OneDrive and now updated with a proper integrated app for Mac. Office has also been properly optimised to support some of the Mac's functions, such as gestures and full screen. 

Office everywhere: OneDrive

Microsoft's big aim with Office is pursuing the "Office everywhere" dream. Some might say that Microsoft has its head in the clouds, but that's exactly the point: it's all about the cloud. 

We've seen updates to Office applications across the board recently. Microsoft made a conscious strategic decision to focus on the mobile Apple experience first - iPad and iPhone - updating apps there before its own Windows Phone platform. We've seen Office arrive on Android too, and the desktop versions are really the final pieces of this puzzle.

The ultimate aim is to have Office work seamlessly across all these platforms. There's supposed to be a uniform identify and a parity in functionality. To achieve that, Office 16 is very much centred around OneDrive by design.

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OneDrive becomes the default save location and once saved there, you can share and work together with colleagues - with Contacts access to make it quick and easy. You'll find both personal and business OneDrive accounts sitting ready to be saved to when you hit the save button. You can, of course, flip over to the regular save option to save locally or to other cloud locations as you could before.

Using OneDrive enables proper real-time collaboration between authors. Where Google Docs has made a name for itself, Microsoft now follows. The difference, however, is that Microsoft Office exists as a browser-based entity (like Google Docs) as well as a rich app.

We're all familiar with the rich apps which is the traditional Office approach and you can collaborate in real time in those too. Switching from one to the other is easy, as the browser-based option in Office online offers a tab to return to the proper app. Some might question the need for both, but there's something we still find reassuring about working on Word in a traditional sense, in proper application.

How can I get Office 16 for Mac?

Office 16 for Mac is a paid upgrade, so if you already own a boxed version of Office 11, you won't get the upgrade for free. Furthermore, Office 16 for Mac won't be in stores to buy as a standalone version until September 2015. The pricing is yet to be revealed. You'll need to be running OS X Yosemite.

But here's the interesting part: Office for Mac is available today on launch day, 9 July 2015, from 5pm if you're an Office 365 subscriber. The price remains the same from £5.99 a month - you just have to download the new versions.

It's pretty clear that Microsoft wants you to opt for the Office 365 version. Not only do you get the update for Office 16 today, but you get 1TB of OneDrive space in your subscription and Microsoft is promising quarterly updates too.

The preview will continue to run for 1 month, Microsoft told us, after which you'll need to upgrade. 

Writing by Chris Hall. Originally published on 9 July 2015.