Most Mac applications operate using the more efficient 64-bit architecture. You can confirm this by clicking your Mac’s Apple icon (found on the top left corner of the menu bar), selecting About This Mac, clicking the System Report button, and then highlighting Applications within the Software menu in the left pane and scrolling down through applications, observing each program’s 64-bit (Intel) value (Figure A).

Figure A

There was one notable 64-bit holdout: Microsoft Office. Although Microsoft ported the Windows version of its Office software to 64-bit architecture long ago, Office for Mac remained 32-bit (Figure B).

Figure B

However, Microsoft has released a 64-bit version of Office for Mac users. Microsoft notes in a posting for developers that the 64-bit platform enables leveraging larger address spaces, better performance, and new innovative features.

Mac users can access the early version of 64-bit Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook for Mac) by joining Microsoft’s Office Insider Program. To sign up for the Office Insider Program, follow these steps.

  1. Open Microsoft AutoUpdate by opening a Mac Office 2016 32-bit application, clicking Help, and selecting Check For Updates.
  2. Select the Join The Office Insider Program To Get Early Access To New Releases checkbox within Microsoft’s AutoUpdate window (Figure C).
  3. Elect to receive Fast Insider Builds.
  4. Accept the Office Insider Program terms.

You should be able to access the 64-bit Office for Mac applications. Downloading and installing the 64-bit versions required only 15 minutes or so on my office network and MacBook Air.

Figure C

Once the new versions download and install, you’ll enjoy 64-bit versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote directly within OS X for the first time. A quick scan of the apps within the Mac’s System Report confirms the new versions are 64-bit programs (Figure D).

Figure D

SEE: Research: Apple’s Growing Role in the Enterprise (Tech Pro Research)

My test results

In my immediate tests, the 64-bit versions of Word and Excel appear to open about a second more quickly than their 32-bit predecessors (four seconds vs. five), while Outlook seems to open equally fast, but my tests weren’t conducted in an isolated laboratory, double-blind tested, or reviewed by a panel of peers. The Office apps already performed very well, in my experience, thanks in part to OS X’s advances improving CPU performance and managing RAM. And, I don’t rely upon third-party plug-ins, which can pose some potential incompatibilities with the 64-bit apps.

So my experiences using the 64-bit version are essentially identical to those using the 32-bit counterparts. But you can bet additional functionality, new features, smoother app integration, and improved overall performance are coming, thanks to the 64-bit upgrade.