Microsoft today launched a new version of Outlook for Mac, available to Office 365 customers. At the same time, the company announced its plans to release a new Office for Mac version next year.

The release comes just a few days after Outlook for Mac screenshots leaked on October 27 over at Chinese site cnBeta. That was Monday. On Friday, Microsoft pulled the trigger.

Outlook for Mac

The new Outlook for Mac is available today to Office 365 commercial customers, as well as to Office 365 Home, Office 365 Personal, and Office 365 University subscribers. The former group can get the new application by accessing their Office 365 Portal (Gear icon => Office 365 Settings => Software => Outlook for Mac icon) or visiting the Software page. The latter group can get it by going to their My Account page.

01-Mail-All-Retina

Here are the new Office for Mac features Microsoft wants to highlight:

  • Better performance and reliability as a result of a new threading model and database improvements
  • A new modern user interface with improved scrolling and agility when switching between Ribbon tabs
  • Online archive support for searching Exchange (online or on-premises) archived mail
  • Master Category List support and enhancements delivering access to category lists (name and color) and sync between Mac, Windows, and OWA clients
  • Office 365 push email support for real-time email delivery
  • Faster first-run and email download experience with improved Exchange Web Services syncing

The most obvious difference compared to Outlook 2011 will be the second point: a complete redesign. Microsoft says the goal of this release is to provide OS X users with a “more familiar and consistent experience” that matches Outlook for Windows, the Outlook on the Web, as well as the Outlook Web App (OWA) for Android and iOS devices.

Office for Mac

While the new Outlook for Mac was clearly ready to be pushed out early, Microsoft is still working on the other four main Office for Mac applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. The company is sharing today that a public beta for the next version of Office for Mac will be released in the first half of 2015. The final release will arrive in the second half of 2015.

Microsoft is promising Office 365 commercial and consumer subscribers will get the next version at no additional cost. At the same time, the company plans to release a standalone version: a perpetual license of Office for Mac will arrive “in the same timeframe.”

Mac owners who use Microsoft products may be scratching their heads right now. Yes, the Microsoft Office team is changing the timing of its OS X releases.

Historically, a new version of Office for Mac arrived approximately six to eight months after a new Office for Windows release. Following the arrival of Office 365, however, Microsoft said it “made the conscious decision to prioritize mobile first and cloud first scenarios.”

In other words, Office has been getting frequent updates for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Microsoft wants to pick up the pace for Mac as well.