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Office for Mac's dirty little secret

Microsoft makes Office for Mac compatibility harder by omitting an important feature.

In the feature list of Office for Mac is one vital omission, one that Microsoft definitely doesn’t like talking about. It effects anyone trying to operate in a ‘mixed’ Office Windows/Mac environment.

In theory, a document made on Office for Macintosh can be opened on Office for Windows and look exactly the same. And if you believe that, I have various famous bridges to sell you at reasonable prices.

There are plenty of examples where documents look radically different even between Office 2011 for Mac and Office 2013 for Windows. As soon as you move away from standard formatting of documents with heading, pictures etc., things start going awry. Add some text boxes, SmartArt etc and the look of the document starts diverging depending on which Office program is opening it.

A lot of the talk about document compatibility centers on fonts. There are differences in the fonts available on Mac and Windows which can affect the look of a document. You can choose fonts common to both systems and let Office select a ‘best match’ font when the original font isn’t available.

Font Embedding

One way to reduce document compatibility problems is to embed the font into the document. This allows another program to use the necessary font characters even though the full font isn’t installed.

Font embedding is easy in Word for Windows – just go to Options | Save | Preserve fidelity when sharing this document and turn on the Embed fonts in the file option.

Dirty Little Secret

Office for Mac does NOT have a font embedding option

Not at all. Not ever. Not even in the latest Office 2011.


Maybe Microsoft decided it’s not worth the development cost even though it would be of enormous benefit to both Office for Mac users and their Office for Windows counterparts.

It’s also possible that it’s a deliberate omission. A strategic choice that makes document exchange more difficult while letting Redmond retain the marketing illusion of ‘document compatibility’.

Either way, it’s a major limitation of Microsoft Office for Mac.

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