New public beta of Microsoft Office 2016

macOS & Mac Apps

As I'm sure everyone knows, the mac version of the Microsoft office sweet is five years old and totally inaccessible.

Microsoft has just released a public bata for a new version of the office sweet. I have no idea if these apps are any more accessible then their pathetic predecessors, because they only work with 10.10 and I am still running Mavericks on my main machine. I intend to look into these new options soon.

Everyone needs to try out the new office sweet and then contact Microsoft about the state of accessibility with these new apps. Sense the sweet is still in bata Microsoft is specifically looking for feedback from people right now and they could change things in response to said feedback. I believe that they are going to put out the final versions of the apps in the summer, so now is our chance. If the 2016 version of the sweet is not accessible, and that does not change by the summer, I believe that we will be looking at no microsoft office sweet on the mac for many years to come.

ear is a link to more about the bata, if you want to look into it and download the sweet. From what I understand its free right now sense its a public bata.



Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Thursday, March 5, 2015

Just downloading now. Fingers crossed. I've done transcription work for a few years and of course the standard is microsoft word and as such the templates I need to use are in that format, unfortunately they lose their formatting in other applications such as text edit or pages. This may make my life a lot easier.

I also encourage, on another note, for people to look into the transcription business, it does take a while to get used to but good for home working and for a few extra quid/bucks.


Submitted by Sebby on Friday, March 6, 2015

I think it's fair to say from that demo that we've got the short end again. I hope I'm wrong, but that demo sounds very disappointing to me.

Submitted by Diogo Melo on Friday, March 6, 2015

Only Powerpoint is relatively accessible. It's possible to navigate the presentation and each slide, to type and hear the content of text boxes (although VO typing feedback doesn't work normally). Powerpoint will even announce the animations taking place, but I found no way to change animations, apparently it ignores the focus when navigating to the ribbon menus.
Word and Excel, except the menu bar, tool bar and ribbon menus, are completely inaccessible for my experience.
I gave my feedback through each app and left my email just in case...
I am very disappointed, specially after Office for iOs being thoughtfully accessible.

Submitted by Siobhan on Friday, March 6, 2015

Hi all. I downloaded the preview, took forever, installed. No radio button was labeled, os i went with the first one. Played iwth word, it was ok until I saw the ofur unlabeled buttons after the text pane. i suspect, and I'm willing to be disagreed on here, that the only reason the IOS counterparts were accessible was because Apple gives pretty clear instructions on how to make the apps accessible. It's the devleopers choice whether or not to put them in. Let's be realistic, does anyone think anyone even tried it on a Mac, with or without voice over? I don't think so. Now, this morning, after uninstalling the preview using clean my Mac, I was right in the middle of writing a birthday wish on a friend's timeline on facebook. I swear, my Mac restarted twice, no idea why. I am pretty sure the last evil influences of Microsoft were to blame. :P Seriously, I'm happy with pages over here, and if i need windows I'll use it.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Friday, March 6, 2015

Actually the radio buttons are labeled with help tags as you can see from mydemo. You can arrow up and down through the templets, but typing is not really fun. I got rid of everythign but word, and submitted my feedback. Keep that feedback coming to them.

Submitted by JDawg on Saturday, March 7, 2015

In reply to by Oliver Kennett

Oliver, do you have any good resources for getting in to the transcription business? Pm me, I'm interested.

Submitted by Chris on Wednesday, March 11, 2015


I just downloaded the Office Preview. I have to agree with the poster who submitted the podcast. Everything looks fine in most f these applications except a few unlabeled buttons and the fact that the content areas in Word and Excel are not readable. How well does Outlook work with VO? I opened it, but didn't want to add my e-mail accounts incase MS is collecting information. From what I could tell, the interface seems usable with VoiceOver. Also, how do I use one note? It asks me to sign in with a Microsoft account. Is this free or do I need to have Office 365? If I need Office 365, I will be ut of luck as I don't have a subscription.

Submitted by Apple-pie on Thursday, March 12, 2015

I tested the Beta of Office and found it not too bad. As I understand the office programs had been programmed newly in Cocoa. That's why I still hope that accessibility is going to get better with updates of the beta version. Of course, there are serious problems concerning reading text and Word and Excel can't be used with voiceover. But the menus look ok and Outlook seems to be quite accessible. Unfortunately, whenever I try to send a mail I'm getting some strange messages and it doesn't work. I couldn't figure out why but it's not an accessibility problem. That's why I'd like to encourage everyone to test it and give feedback to Microsoft. I think it's a great chance we shoud not miss.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Thursday, March 12, 2015

I'll try again when a new update comes out For now I just saved myself 6 gigs of space I devoted to a new extended play I'm working on and some work I'm doing for a volenteer thing. That for me comes first, not some company who once again since 2007, then again in 2011 never listened to us even with a petition. I'm not normally this negative but 3 misses and you strike out in my opinion.

Submitted by Aaron on Tuesday, March 17, 2015

It looks like Office 2016 for Mac still has the issue where PDFs generated from Word do not get tagged with items such as heading structure and ALT tags for images. I took a document that included these tags and used Word 2016 for Mac to save as PDF, and the result was a PDF with no structure/tags.

Given the increased popularity of Mac this would be an important issue to have fixed, so that PDFs created by Word for Mac users would have the tags for screen reader users. Currently at my work we recommend that persons using Word for Mac take their Word document to a Windows machine in order to Save as PDF and preserve the tagging.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ouch, did you report that to microsoft feedback? I uninstalled all of the apps so can't really give any more feedback on this matter.

Good luck

Submitted by Apple-pie on Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I don't think this is a Microsoft issue but a voiceover issue. I've tested some accessible pdfs and noticed that on windows I can find all headings etc. within the file. Reading the same file in preview with voiceover offered not a single heading or anything else that makes the file accessible :(

Submitted by Aaron on Friday, March 20, 2015

In reply to by Apple-pie

This is not just a VO issue. I took the PDF generated by Office 2016 for Mac to a Windows box and tested it with JAWS/NVDA and there was no tagging in the document. If I use the exact same Word document but save as PDF from Office for Windows then the result is a tagged PDF.

Apple should definitely improve VO support for tagged PDFs, but Microsoft needs to ensure their content authoring tools are able to create accessible tagged PDFs in the first place.

Submitted by Tyler on Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Microsoft has released updates to Word, Excel, Outlook, and Powerpoint. Word, Excel, and Powerpoint mention improved support for Voiceover in their release notes.

The updates can be downloaded by opening any Microsoft Office preview application and choosing help>check for updates. First, you might be presented with a small update for Microsoft Auto Update. After that is installed, you should be able to get the new application updates. Or, you can use the link in the update description, which I have copied on this post, as Auto Update was being disproportionately resource heavy for me. In Word, the template selection screen still has some interesting oddities, but in my testing, just creating a blank document seemed to work fine. Once in the new document window, I was able to interact with the layout area, similar to Pages, and read and edit the document.

The spelling and grammar checking is a little different, but seems to be accessible. After pressing command option L, the window doesn't say what word is misspelled, so you have to guess by what's in the suggestions list. Keep in mind that the ignore button is the default button for Voiceover, so pressing enter on a suggestion will not correct the word, but rather ignore it. This is different than most OS X applications, where the change button is the default, and thus can be activated by pressing enter on the desired suggestion.

When saving your document, Voiceover for some reason doesn't automatically interact with the save as dialog. You have to press VO shift down arrow. The save as text field is still unreadable with Voiceover, but pressing the delete key to remove any existing text and typing your desired name should work. From there, saving should work just as it does in other OS X applications.

Excel also has some improvements that make it more usable, but I wasn't able to test it as thoroughly. Creating a blank workbook for once presented me with an accessible table which I navigated by pressing left, right, up, and down arrows and than typing in the cells.

Spelling is accessed by choosing tools>spelling. From what I could find, there is no obvious keyboard shortcut like in Word. Spelling is located in a task pain in the document window. Interact with that, and it should be accessible.

Powerpoint also claims to have gotten some improved Voiceover support, but it seemed on the surface to be accessible in the last preview, so there may be improvements for more advanced functions.

Submitted by Liz on Thursday, April 16, 2015

I'd be interested to know about peoples' experiences.

I'm glad this is getting better but it is a shame that it is taking such a long time.

Submitted by Liz on Thursday, April 16, 2015

I'd be interested to know about peoples' experiences.

I'm glad this is getting better but it is a shame that it is taking such a long time.

Submitted by Andy B. on Thursday, April 16, 2015

After the 15.9 update for Word, which was released on Tuesday, I am now able to type in the main document pane. From initial testing, VoiceOver acts predictably as expected. I don't know anything about Excel, Outlook, or PowerPoint, but I will be testing them out. Nice work Microsoft. You just inched me closer to a complete conversion for productivity factors.

Submitted by Tyler on Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

I know I am late to the party, but updates to Microsoft Office applications were released last week. While Voiceover was not mentioned specifically in any release notes, I found that navigating the templates now works as expected. In prior versions, Voiceover would read the templates as, "Unknown."

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pretty neat. I hear though that outlook still needs a lot of work. I guess one can only hope eh?

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pretty neat. I hear though that outlook still needs a lot of work. I guess one can only hope eh?

Submitted by Apple-pie on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

@Ke7zum: MS Outlook has been the best working program from the beginning. I use it for mailing regularly and find it quite good. Can you tell me what kind of problems you heard of?

Submitted by Bryan Jones on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My experience mirrors that of Apple-pie. I've found MS Outlook to be largely accessible using VO since the release of version 15.3. The Outlook calendar still needs some improvement in several views, but for folks seeking a VO-friendly alternative to Apple's, Outlook is one of the very few viable options.

Submitted by John W. hess on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Good morning. I have found that when trying to work with tables they do not show up in the body of the document but as separate objects. Has anyone had much luck working in tables? Also, when control-option-t is pressed to hear formatting the alignment isn't spoken. They're definitely getting there but there's also a long way to go.

Submitted by Apple-pie on Thursday, May 21, 2015

@Bryan: Yes, the calendar views are not accessible except from the list view. But in MS OUtlook 2010 with jaws they also are not what I would call accessible. So I'm already used to work with the list view. We should give feedback about this.

@John: I just tried to create a table and navigate in it. With quick navigation of my voiceover cursor switches automatically into the first cell of the table when I navigate from the upper text to the table. And when I reach the last row of the table and press arrow down then the cursor switches again into the body of the document. Personally, I find this very comfortable and better than in Pages.

Submitted by Carlos Taylor on Thursday, May 21, 2015

In reply to by Apple-pie

I was able to insert and navigate a table just fine. I did not use quick nav though, just VO with arrow keys. I also noticed some formatting information is missing and alignment is not reported with the double press of VO plus f4 like in pages and other applications. For everyone testing the Microsoft Office preview, there is a feedback utility in all the Office applications. You can report what you like or what needs to be improved. I've been reporting my findings through that utility in the hopes that these issues will be addressed. I think it is important for anyone testing the preview to also provide feedback to Microsoft as to what doesn't work well with VoiceOver. I will say that I'm very excited to see the progress made this far as this was completely unusable in the past with VoiceOver.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Thursday, May 21, 2015

Actually vo f4 does not report formating. I think it's vo t. or that's hwat my fingers do automatically now a days.

Hmm. maybe in 4 years I'll be able to write my next thesis with word. We'll see.

Take care.

Submitted by Tyler on Thursday, May 21, 2015

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Has anyone noticed when encountering links in Word, Voiceover doesn't read the link when navigating with the left and right arrow by character and doesn't follow focus so you can click it?

Submitted by Raul on Sunday, May 31, 2015

Why the heck is this only compatible with Yosemite? There are plenty of users still using 10.9

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Sunday, May 31, 2015

Money, all money. If you have any issues with it, talk to Microsoft about it. but yeah it's all money. Just like how windows 7 is no longer supported on 2012 macs but still supported on mine.

Submitted by Aly on Friday, July 10, 2015

In reply to by Diogo Melo

so do you mean that it is not worth buying ms word from amazon?

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Saturday, July 11, 2015

Probably not as I think it is only beeing offered through office 365 subscriptions and since i don't have that I'm not getting word.