I have been using Microsoft Office on Windows for a long time, from 97 to 2013, and occasionally I use it on a Mac computer as well. There has been previous questions about comparisons between Windows and Mac OS, and I think this is one comparison between the two platforms that might be easier to test in terms of usability (although there are obvious constraints due to it being a product originally designed for Windows). I would like to know if there are any studies done on this, or if there are some ideas about the key differences in terms of usability and benefits/downsides when used in each of the platforms.

  • 1
    Not sure about studies, but do note that Office for Mac is built and maintained by an entirely different team than Office for Windows. They're really entirely different products that happen to share a name.
    – DA01
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 1:55

1 Answer 1


I was a user researcher for Office:Mac 2008 and 2011, so I think I'm reasonably qualified to answer this question. That said, I did leave 3 years ago, so things might have changed since I left.

It's not accurate that Office was originally designed for Windows. Both PowerPoint and Excel were originally Mac-only applications. PowerPoint was originally developed by a company called ForeThought, which was acquired by Microsoft after they released their first version. The first Windows version came out in 1990, 3 years after it had been available for the Mac. Likewise, Excel was first released for the Mac in 1985, and its first Windows version came out in 1987. Even the Office suite itself was first released on the Mac in 1989, with the Windows version following in 1990.

Office for Windows has generally had a focus on enterprise users, whereas Office:Mac has generally had a focus on consumers. Likewise, Office for Windows optimizes its user experience for Windows users, and Office:Mac optimizes its experience for Mac users. There are, of course, users who use both platforms. Some use both platforms roughly equally, some prefer one platform and only use the other when circumstances require it.

A usability study comparing the two different versions of Office would need to have very specific research questions to have meaningful results. I wouldn't be comfortable making a generalization about whether one is more usable than the other, since they have different users with different expectations and different goals.

  • Some very interesting points here. But if you were to do a study on the productivity of Office:Mac users versus Windows Office users, would you expect to find any significant difference? So since we can't compare between them directly, perhaps some standardized usability test done separately and see what the difference is?
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 22:40
  • What do you define as an "Office:Mac user", "Windows Office user", and "productivity"? I think that if you were to try to conduct a comparison, you would have to define the research goals of the study such that you can make a valid comparison. For example, someone who uses Word:Mac less than once per week to read documents is very different than an Excel guru, and what is productive for each of them is very different.
    – nadyne
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 21:49
  • I would probably be interested in how people define this as well. I would say that if someone regular uses it as part of their work, and productivity would be defined as the tasks that they perform using the software and how efficiently they are able to complete the task. Of course, it would be better to have some benchmark to compare the results against, but that's why I am interested in finding out if there are other studies out there.
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 22:16
  • "Regularly uses it as part of their work" is so broad as to be meaningless. Let's take Excel. A financial analyst fundamentally uses Excel in a very different way than a manager does. To do a meaningful comparison, you would have to compare people who use the application in relatively similar ways (I wouldn't compare someone who lives in pivot tables to someone who uses it to track project progress) on the two platforms. This means that you would end up with a lengthy series of studies to try to address this, and I seriously doubt that you'd get a single answer to your question.
    – nadyne
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 20:03
  • On the other hand, if you define a very specific task (or set of tasks), are you more likely to get a meaningful answer as it may introduce factors that are related to how these tasks are performed in the context of their work environment, the type of users, etc. Is there any reference as to how you quantify 'regular' usage versus casual usage?
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 22:13

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