Five years after Microsoft unveiled Office for Mac, it's released a look at its successor.

The preview of the new Office 2016 for Mac includes updated versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook. The full release is scheduled for the second half of 2015.

Anytime, Anywhere

The preview can be downloaded and run side-by-side with Office for Mac 2011, the earlier version. Microsoft plans to use customer feedback to finalize the product for release later this summer.

The news was announced in a blog post by Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office 365 Client Apps and Services team. He described the release as a logical follow-up to the development of universal apps, which will be made available on Windows 10 and continues Microsoft’s strategy of apps coded once to work on all devices.

Microsoft had been talking up universal apps for quite some time before it finally gave Office users  already running Windows 10  a preview in early February. The apps were developed specifically for touch and mobile use in keeping with Microsoft's Cloud First, Mobile First strategy.

"Universal" refers to the fact that the apps will work on phones, tablets and desktops.

The Mac version is "unmistakably Office, but thoughtfully designed for the Mac," he noted.

By that, he is referring to the fact the new apps offer full retina display support. There are thousands of retina-optimized graphics, full screen view for native immersive experiences and even little Mac touches like scroll bounce.

Overall, according to Koenigsbauer, the user experience has been updated to make it easier to get things done. It has a reorganized ribbon, just like the new Windows Office 2013, that enables users to find the tools that they need quicker and more efficiently.

Numerous Features

It's worth noting that there are several upgrades to Outlook, including the push mail support to deliver an always-up-to-date inbox. The improved conversation view automatically organizes inboxes around threaded conversations, making it easier to find email.

Why bother with Office at all? Good question.

There are alternatives like Google's Docs, Sheets and Slides, and Apple's iWork suite, Pages, Numbers and Keynote.  And anyone just looking for office apps for personal use can try Office.com. Many enterprise workers only use a very small portion of the full office suite for either Windows or Mac, anyway.