For reasons entirely understood only by a handful of people at Microsoft, the company’s latest office suite for Mac – Office 2016 – has run in 32-bit mode since release. Considering that Apple and OS X made the switch to 64-bit processing nearly a decade ago now, this is just baffling.
Why does this matter? As I said in my relatively recent review of Office 2016 Excel for Macworld:
Our testbed was the fastest MacBook Pro you can get but, whatever the case, this doesn’t actually make much difference … all the main Office 2016 for Mac apps are 32-bit, rather than 64-bit, which fundamentally limits Excel’s number-crunching performance. (Windows users get to choose between 32- and 64-bit versions of the Office suite.)
Well, Microsoft has now made available a testing release office Office 2016 for Mac that’s fully 64-bit. To get it you’ll need to use the Office updater (click Help > Check for Updates in any Office app), and then not only click the button to join the Office Insider early access program, but also select the Office Insider Fast option.
It really can’t be emphasised enough that this is a testing release. Over on Microsoft’s official announcement blog, several people report in the comments that there are some nasty bugs, particularly in Excel.
However, if you want a version of Office that actually comes close to utilising the full capabilities of your Mac, it’s worth a download.
UPDATE: There’s now a 64-bit release on the “Slow” update channel, which should in theory be less prone to bugs/crashes. Just follow the instructions above and select the slow channel rather than fast.