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What Is Microsoft Word for Mac?

What makes Word for Mac different from Word for Windows

Microsoft Word is a word processing program developed by Microsoft. It was released on the Mac in 1985. The word processor distinguishes itself from text editors such as Notes by offering a robust platform with advanced features such as spell checking, embedded objects and charts, images, and database merging.

Microsoft Word icon
Microsoft Word

The what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) interface that matches the screen to the final document printed on the page is an essential feature of Word and other modern word processors.

Most businesses use Microsoft Word as their word-processing application of choice. Similar versions are also available for Mac and Windows computers.

Note: This article applies to Microsoft Word as part of a Microsoft 365 for Mac subscription and Microsoft Word as part of a one-time purchase of Microsoft Office 2021, 2019 for Mac.

How Word for Mac Differs From Word for Windows

There are a few differences between the Mac and Windows versions of Microsoft Word.

Microsoft Word for Mac
Microsoft Word for Mac
  • The Mac lacks SharePoint and Visual Basic integration. While Word for Mac does support SharePoint and Visual Basic to some extent, it does not support all aspects of these features.
  • ActiveX, a Windows-only technology, is not supported by Microsoft Word for Mac. Microsoft is gradually phasing out ActiveX, but the inability to work with it in Word for Mac may cause issues for users who require that feature.
  • Word for Mac lacks Digital Ink and its associated freestyle drawing tools.
  • The Document Inspector removes personal information and hidden data from a document that Word for Mac does not support.
  • Embedded fonts are not available in Word for Mac.

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Word in Microsoft 365 vs. Word 2021 for Mac

Word for Mac is available either as a subscription-based model or a single-pay purchase. The Microsoft Office 2021 software suite and the Microsoft 365 subscription for Mac include Word 2021 for Mac.

Word 2021 for Mac makes it easier to create compelling content by adding new features, including co-authoring, advanced page color options in Immersive Reader, and more rich media content from the Office Premium Creative Content collection.

While you’ll get a premium version of Word for Mac with a Microsoft 365 Family or Personal subscription, Office 2021 gives you access to the classic 2021 version of Word for Mac.

If you wish to upgrade from Word 2019 to Word 2021 for Mac, you’ll keep all of the features you’re used to—plus a few new ones!

Word in Microsoft 365 vs. Word 2019 for Mac

Word for Mac is available as a monthly subscription or a one-time purchase. The Microsoft Office 2019 for Mac software suite and the Microsoft 365 for Mac subscription include Word 2019 for Mac.

There are minor differences between the two Mac versions of Word. Despite being released in the same month, the new Word icon is only available in the subscription version. The one-time-purchase software still uses the Metro design interface.

Although the one-time purchase software receives Microsoft security updates, it does not receive new feature updates, part of the subscription package. There is also a mobile version of Microsoft Office (including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) and a separate Microsoft Word app for iOS and Android devices.

Important: Word in Microsoft 365 has a subscription model that allows you to install it on multiple computerstablets, and smartphones. You can only install the one-time purchase version on one computer.

How to Get Microsoft Word for macOS?

Microsoft Word for Mac is available in the Mac App Store as a standalone app and part of the Microsoft 365 bundle. However, both options require a Microsoft 365 subscription. The simplest way to install Word on a Mac is to open the App Store and download it.

Mac App Store showing Microsoft Word purchase options

You can also order a Microsoft 365 subscription online by logging into your Microsoft account.

If you’d instead buy the one-time purchase software as part of Microsoft Office, included with Office Home & Student 2021 and Office Home & Student 2019, available from the Microsoft website and stores like Amazon and Walmart.

RELATED: How to Download and use Microsoft Word for Free

Do You Need Microsoft Word for Mac? 

Pages, a word processor with a WYSIWYG interface, is included with the Mac OS. It has features for embedding images and creating charts. It can also handle invoices for small businessesterm papers for students, and other standard word-processing tasks.

Pages is a free Mac application that is part of iCloud. Apple has hosted Pages in the cloud, allowing you to access it from any Mac via the web. Pages is also available to download for free on the iPad and iPhone.

Pages is an excellent Word alternate for studentshome users, and small businesses. It has collaboration features and can export to Word files. However, exchanging documents with Microsoft Word users is inconvenient. Pages lack advanced features like mail merges and templates or primary documents.

You must use Microsoft Word if you work for a company that uses Word as its word processing platform or uses it to compare two documents. Check out Pages before investing in Microsoft Word if you work in a small business, are a student, or need a word processor for home use.

Is It Possible to Run the Windows Version of Word on a Mac?

There’s a version of Microsoft Word written just for Mac. So, you can use Word on a Mac just like on a Windows PC.

You don’t have to give up your Mac if you must use Word for Windows. It is possible to install Windows on a Mac, and it’s possible to use Parallels Desktop software to run a Windows app alongside a Mac app (or another Windows emulator).

Parallels running on a Mac

Installing Parallels isn’t for the non-techie, but it doesn’t require much technical know-how to get up and run. Parallels software is simple to use once Windows is running on your Mac.

A Brief History of Microsoft Word on the Mac

While Microsoft Word may appear synonymous with Windows, it was first released on macOS years before it appeared on Windows. Despite Microsoft and Apple’s sometimes fractious relationship, Microsoft Word has been a mainstay on Macs since the beginning.

  • 1985: Microsoft introduced Word 1.0 for the Mac and MS-DOS. 
  • 1989: Microsoft released Word 4.0 for the Mac as part of Microsoft Office.
  • 1993: Office 4.2 came with Word 6. That was the first time Microsoft Word was available on both Windows and Mac computers.
  • 2001: Microsoft Word version X was the first to support Mac OS X.
  • 2004: Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac included Word.
  • 2010: Microsoft released Word for Mac in 2011.
  • 2015: Microsoft Word 2016 became available to Microsoft 365 customers. Later that year, Microsoft released Office 2016, a one-time purchase version for Mac that included Word.
  • 2018: Microsoft Word for Mac 2019 became available as a one-time purchase of the Microsoft Office software suite or part of a Microsoft 365 subscription.

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How can I download Microsoft Word for Mac for free?

The Microsoft Word app in the Mac App Store is free to download. But to use it, you must sign in with your Microsoft 365 subscription account. If you want to try the program on your Mac, you can sign up for a free Microsoft 365 trial. If you are a student or teacher, you may also be eligible for free Microsoft Office.

How do I check updates for Microsoft Word on Mac?

To check updates for the Microsoft Word program, click Help > Check for Updates. You can also download and install the Microsoft AutoUpdate tool. Select the Automatically keep Microsoft Apps up to date option, then click Update next to the Microsoft Word app.

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