Microsoft taps Touch Bar in Mac Office preview

Adds support for context-sensitive displays on newest MacBook Pro laptops

Microsoft yesterday released a refreshed beta of Office 2016 for Mac that includes support for Apple's latest hardware innovation, the Touch Bar that debuted in October on new MacBook Pro notebooks.

On those laptops, Apple replaced the static row of function keys at the top of the keyboard with an OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display whose contents change depending on the active application. Most Touch Bar support has come from Apple and its own software, such as Maps and Safari, but a few third-party programs, including Adobe Photoshop, have followed suit.

The update, which was issued to the "slow" track of the Office Insider program, was announced via Twitter and in a message posted to Microsoft's support forum.

Subscribers to the consumer versions of Office 365, including Home, Personal and University, may participate in the Insider scheme on the Mac by checking the "Join the Office Insider program to get early access to new releases" box in the Microsoft AutoUpdate (MAU) utility. Users can display MAU by selecting "Check for Updates" from any Office application's Help menu. The slow or fast tracks can be selected from the field labeled "Choose how you get Insider builds."

Microsoft launched Office Insider on the Mac more than a year ago.

The debut of Touch Bar support in Office came about three months after the unveiling of the MacBook Pro laptops. Perhaps not coincidentally, that was about how long it took Microsoft to add support for a new high-resolution display, dubbed Retina, after Apple upgraded the screen of the 15-in. MacBook Pro in mid-2012.

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