Microsoft upgrades Mac Office to 64-bit for all customers

Finally gets parity with the Windows edition on the bit front

Microsoft yesterday released 64-bit versions of its Office 2016 applications for the Mac, following a series of previews offered testers since April.

The five apps -- Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint and Word -- will be updated to 64-bit for all customers, including those with an Office 2016 retail license, a consumer or commercial subscription to Office 365, and a volume license. Most users will be updated automatically as the suite launches an update app on its regular schedule.

Microsoft has been testing the 64-bit versions with Office Insider participants since April.

Apple has long urged developers to release 64-bit versions of applications -- the Mac's operating system has supported only 64-bit Intel processors since 2011's OS X Lion -- but Microsoft has been one of the most significant holdouts.

For users, the biggest benefit is the ability to work with much larger files -- thanks to the significantly bigger swaths of memory that a 64-bit operating system can access.

Unlike the Windows edition of Office 2016, which comes in both 32- and 64-bit flavors, the Mac-specific suite will be available only in 64-bit after September. Microsoft offered users a one-month grace period during which version 15.25 will be provided in both 32- and 64-bit.

"There may be situations in which the customer has to change code that's not 64-bit ready," Microsoft said in a support document, referring to possible conflicts with third-party Office add-ons. "If customers can't immediately move forward to 64-bit builds, we will make available a one-time 32-bit update for the 15.25 release in addition to the default 64-bit updates."

That 32-bit version of 15.25 must be downloaded manually from Microsoft's site.

The support document included instructions for reverting to 32-bit if Office 2016 had already been updated to 64-bit.

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Gregg Keizer

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