Office 2016 for Mac users lambaste Microsoft after upgrading to Apple's OS X El Capitan

Unclear whether Microsoft or Apple is at fault for irregular crashes of Outlook, Excel and Word

After Apple released the new OS X El Capitan on Wednesday, users streamed to a Microsoft support discussion forum to report that Office 2016 for Mac regularly crashed, crippling their productivity.

"This is beyond the Pale. We basically can't use Office on our computers," wrote Watson Scott Swail today on the longest thread related to the crash problem.

"I finalized the El Capitan upgrade this morning and since then I can't use my Mac with Office 2016 any longer ... Multiple random crashes from any of the Office 2016 apps," added Francisco Chaves, also today.

The discussion thread where Swail and Chaves posted their complaints had over 140 messages and had been viewed more than 13,300 times, both extremely large numbers for Microsoft's Office for Mac support forum.

While the thread's kick-off message was posted July 25, about two weeks after Microsoft shipped Office 2016 for Mac and Apple delivered the first public beta of OS X 10.11, aka El Capitan, the volume of messages added to the thread swelled yesterday, when Apple released the OS X upgrade.

Some Computerworld staffers have been experiencing the same irregular crashes of Office 2016 applications, notably Outlook, but also Excel and Word, that have been reported on Microsoft's support forum.

The application crashes and the ensuing lock-ups come at various times and when performing various chores with the software, users said. Some have seen Outlook go dead when their Macs awoke from sleep, others asserted that the downfall of one Office application caused all other open Office applications to crash as well, while a few noted that even after a crash, the applications were unresponsive, requiring a Mac restart to clear the decks.

Computerworld has seen all those scenarios, too.

"If I have more than one Office app open and a crash occurs on one of them, the other one locks up too," wrote a user identified only as "EJZK" today. "But only the Office apps. Other apps continue to work fine."

Typical for a peer-to-peer support forum, users proposed multiple solutions and forwarded a host of theories about the crash cause. Invariably, others chimed in to say that the speculated fixes did nothing to help them, or disagreed with another's technical diagnosis.

But the one area of agreement was that the situation was untenable and unacceptable.

"This issue has been happening on [OS X 10.11] beta for months. And it appears that Microsoft still isn't doing anything about it," said Swail in a later post. "As someone else reported, they know about this but do not appear to be doing much about it. It is not an Apple issue. It is a [Microsoft] issue. All my other programs are fine, including the entire Adobe suite, which I think is infinitely more complex than Office."

"Any sane developer should be proactively ensuring compatibility with GM [golden master] prior to release," added "fryle" today. "That's kind of the point of GM. Otherwise you get what we're seeing now: customers upgrading to El Cap and finding Office, a mission-critical suite for most people, is now broken. At worst, Microsoft hasn't taken this seriously enough, and at best, it hasn't been communicating with its customers well enough. There has been no advisory (to my knowledge) warning of the known issues and certainly no ETA on a fix. It's disappointing, to say the least."

"Golden master" is a term used to describe the last testing release of an upcoming program or operating system. Apple released the first El Capitan GM on Sept. 9.

It's unclear whether Microsoft's or Apple's code was responsible for the Office 2016 crashes, or a combination of both. Computerworld has experienced similar Office 2016 crash behavior on the GM and official releases of El Capitan, as well as on a Mac equipped with the public preview of OS X 10.11.1. The Office applications were downloaded from Microsoft's website as part of both consumer and commercial subscriptions to Office 365, which provide rights to locally install the suite on up to five Macs.

The Sept. 23 update that Microsoft released for Office 2016 for Mac did not stop the crashes for Computerworld.

Microsoft did not immediately reply to a request for comment and whether it had a fix in the works.

But someone identified as Sunder Raman -- who said he was a program manager on the Mac Office team -- left several comments on a story about the crashes published earlier today on Thurrott.com. There is a "Sunder Raman" listed on Linkedin.com, who has a title of senior program manager for Outlook on Mac.

"We have been working with Apple through the Beta period and have collectively resolved several issues," Raman said as he responded to criticism that Microsoft dallied during OS X 10.11's three-plus months of developer previews. "Some issues are hard to isolate given the nature of hardware configuration differences like graphics cards, number and type of accounts used, etc."

Microsoft has acknowledged a different issue with Outlook 2011, the predecessor to the email client bundled with Office 2016, on El Capitan. In a support document, Microsoft said it was "researching the problem," which caused Outlook 2011 to crash when trying to sync with an email server.

Office 2016 for Mac sells for either $150 or $230 in perpetual license form, or is available with an Office 365 subscription, which range in price from $70 to $240 annually for the entry-level consumer plan and the most expensive corporate deal, respectively.

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