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All you need to know about Microsoft Office and Big Sur MacOS

Apple is releasing a new version of MacOS, for all Mac computers, called ‘Big Sur’ or version 11.  What does that mean for Microsoft Office compatibility and stability?

Big Sur is the latest MacOS operating system (version 11)  for Mac computers.  It’s rolled out from 12 November but you can decide to switchover when you’re ready (or not, there’s no hurry).

There are a lot of changes in Big Sur, here’s Apple’s list.

Big Sur on Macbook. Source: Apple

The Interface gets a refresh with a taller and translucent menu bar, floating dock, full height sidebars, changed app icons and new symbols.  Safari gets a lot of new features.

Notifications change a little which affects how Outlook reminders appear.

However, the basics haven’t changed so anyone using a current Mac should be little trouble with Big Sur.

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What’s in Big Sur for Office users?

Some of the changes that make a difference to Microsoft Office users (Apple’s descriptions)

“Updated Notification Center

A redesigned Notification Center puts all your notifications and widgets into a single, dedicated column. Notifications are automatically sorted by most recent, and redesigned Today widgets deliver information at a glance.”

“Optimized Battery Charging

Optimized Battery Charging is designed to reduce the wear on your battery and improve its lifespan by ensuring that your Mac notebook is fully charged when unplugged. Optimized Battery Charging learns your daily charging routine and activates only when your Mac predicts that it will be connected to a charger for an extended period of time.”

For PowerPoint, there are some improvements in photo/video editing before importing into a presentation:


More video editing options to change exposure, add filters or rotate a video.

Retouch tool has been improved to fix blemishes, dust marks and other nuisances from photos.

Add Captions to photos to photos or videos.  Captions is the new name for Descriptions.

For all Office programs, our Indian friends will have some new and improved fonts to work with:

More Fonts

20 new document fonts with the current 18 fonts upgraded with more weights and italics.

Messages in any of the 23 Indian languages can now add a matching effect.

More Emoji

Big Sur updates the emoji font to include the same 117 emoji just added to iOS 14.2.  In other words the Apple Color Emoji font changes in Big Sur.

Will Office run on Big Sur?

Yes! With a few provisos …

Both Office 2019 and Microsoft/Office 365 for Mac will work with Big Sur.  Just upgrade to Big Sur and Office should keep on working normally.

We suggest updating Office (Help | Check for Updates in any Office program) before updating to Big Sur.  That ensures you have the latest Office build with anything necessary for Big Sur compatibility.

Office 2016 for Mac not supported by Microsoft (no bug fixes or OS compatibility updates after October 2020).  Office 2016 should work on Big Sur but it’s not guaranteed and Microsoft won’t help.

What’s the catch?

All that applies to the existing Intel based Mac computers.  It’s a different story for the new Apple Silicon Mac computers that go on sale in mid-November.

The M1 Mac’s come with Big Sur but the major change in hardware makes Office compatibility a messy situation, for the moment.

See Is Microsoft Office ready for Apple Silicon Macs?

Our Advice

As ever, we suggest caution.  Just like Windows, it’s best to wait a few weeks or months after the first release of a major operating system update.

There’s sure to be a Big Sur 11.1 or 11.2 with plenty of fixes and tweaks.

In the meantime, your Mac and Office continue to work nicely.

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