Last month, Office for iPad was finally released, perhaps making it the ultimate worker's tablet. The lack of Office was one of the biggest obstacles to full integration of the iPad into the business world's workflow.
Though Word, Excel, and PowerPoint were mostly feature-complete, well-built iOS applications, they were lacking one notable ability: printing. Now, with a recent update, iPad owners with an eligible Office 365 subscription can print to an AirPrint-compatible printer from within Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
The iPhone and iPad gained the ability to print in the Fall of 2010 as part of iOS 4.2 as part of a new feature called AirPrint. At the time, only 12 printers were AirPrint compatible -- all from HP -- but these days, there are hundreds of compatible printers that can connect natively to iOS devices, and there are numerous solutions to connect non-AirPrint compatible printers to iOS devices as well (I use Printopia).
Printing options are not particularly powerful, but it should be enough to take care of most common situations. Users can select a range of pages to print, or choose a number of copies and... that's about it for most printers. Still, most users will not need to print multiple pages on a single sheet of paper, though it would be nice to have more powerful options in a future update.
In Word, users can choose to print a document with or without markup. In Excel, they can print in landscape or portrait, choose a selected range, a single worksheet, or an entire spreadsheet. And in PowerPoint, users can choose just the pages or slides they want to print.
Also in the update, Microsoft has added SmartGuides to PowerPoint, allowing slideshow wizards to properly place pictures, shapes, and textboxes in the app without difficulty. Excel has gained AutoFit, which allows users to adjust the width or height of multiple rows or columns simultaneously.
Microsoft promises more updates and enhancements for Office for iPad soon.
There is no charge to download Office for iPad. Viewing documents and giving presentations is also totally free. However, an Office 365 subscription is required to create, edit, and print files.
Microsoft offers a $10/month or $100/year Office 365 Home subscription that includes licenses for five PCs or Macs, plus five mobile devices, including the iPad (the iPhone edition of Office is free for all users) -- or a $7/month or $70/year Office 365 Personal subscription with one desktop and one mobile license.
There are also a multitude of small, midsize, and enterprise subscription offerings for Office 365. For those who want to try-before-they-buy, Microsoft does offer a one-month free trial of Office 365 Home through the Office 365 website.
Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.