Apple

Office for iPad makes Apple's tablet even more attractive to businesses

With the release of Office for iPad, Microsoft may just have made Apple's iPad the ultimate worker's tablet.

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Microsoft has removed perhaps the biggest obstacle to full iPad integration into the business world's workflow--full Office support.

For several years, Apple has offered its own iWork suite of applications - Pages, Numbers and Keynote - for the iPad, just last Fall CEO Tim Cook decided to make iWork, both for iOS and the Mac, free for new device purchasers. Apple's productivity suite works very well, but interoperability with Office was always an issue.

Sure, simple text documents and spreadsheets transferred over just fine, but for users with more complicated forms, special document layouts and templates, or anything even remotely complicated in Excel, iWork simply wouldn't cut it. There were third-party solutions for the iPad like Documents To Go, but it always seemed like there should have been something better.

With Office for iPad, now there is.

Bridging the Office/iPad divide

Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iPad are well-built iOS applications, surprisingly (or not), significantly better than the Office applications Microsoft built for its Surface tablets. They seamlessly integrate with Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage system, allowing individuals and businesses easy backup and sharing of files, including collaboration (sort of) and the ability to save a file and open it on nearly any platform: Mac, PC, tablet or smartphone.

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Where Office really shines is for power users and business users who use Office on the desktop or frequently exchange Office documents with others. I have heard from a number of friends who have struggled to integrate the iPad into their workflow, that using iWork was somewhat like trying to be a Mac user in the late 1990's. For many, it just wasn't worth the trouble.

Check out our gallery - Microsoft Office for iPad: Screenshots of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint

Now, however, they can quickly and easily move files from the PC or Mac versions of Office to the iPad, whether through email or through Microsoft's OneDrive.

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In my limited testing, I haven't seen any major issues when opening or editing files from the PC version of Office on the iPad. There have been a couple of font-related problems, but for the most part it's smooth sailing, something that was often not the case in iWork. Power users with extremely long documents - think book-length or 20k-row spreadsheets -- may see mixed results, but it's much better than what users will see in competing iPad applications, or perhaps apps on any tablet.

Microsoft's engineers have included a few unique features for tablet users. During PowerPoint presentations, for example, the presenter can draw on the screen or use a "laser pointer" to quickly illustrate certain points.

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Office 365 subscription required to create/edit docs

There is no charge to download Office for iPad. Viewing documents and giving presentations is also totally free. An Office 365 subscription is however, required to create and edit files.

Microsoft offers a $10/month or $100/year Office 365 Home Premium 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). There are also a multitude of small, midsize and enterprise subscription offerings for Office 365. The company will be launching a new Office 365 Personal subscription for $7/month or $70/year that includes one desktop PC or Mac license plus one tablet license, perfect for a sole-proprietor who doesn't have a house or office of devices to cover.

Though Microsoft's pricing is reasonable, those without a strong connection to Office may be inclined to stick with Apple's free iWork apps. For those who want to try-before-they-buy, Microsoft does offer a one-month free trial of Office 365 Home Premium.

Getting the best of both worlds

When it was first released, many people, including then-CEO of Microsoft Steve Ballmer, dismissed the iPad as a content-consumption tool. These days, that's far from true. The iPad is the tablet of choice for many businesses. And finally, choosing the iPad doesn't mean giving up on Office.

Microsoft Office for iPad is available for download via the App Store.

About

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.

7 comments
Jordanphillips
Jordanphillips

Thanks for the article Jordan.

Office was definitely the app missing in the app store to make the ipad a complete business tool. I’ve been using my iPad for work with Beesy (a pretty fine all-in-one productivity app that allows you to set your calendar and to-dos automatically from your meeting notes) but I couldn’t go to work without my laptop in order to create specific documents. Now, thanks to Office I almost never bring my laptop to work and do everything on my iPad. It’s a new way of working!

Nahuel Arosemena Siburu
Nahuel Arosemena Siburu

The best equipment for a well organized office is : Fax Desktop Server Celular Printer Graphics printer with colours ...

coco6809
coco6809

Microsoft needs to rethink their pricing.  I paid $$$ for Office 2007 Ultimate.  I upgraded it to Office 2010.  I have given Microsoft plenty of $$$.  Now to use it on iPad, I need to pay $100 every year for that privilege?  I am guessing they will not get as takers as they thought.  Sure if you already paid for Office 365 and for EVERY YEAR FROM NOW TO ETERNITY it may be okay.  But that is a big expense for the consumer just to do word processing.


Much better to just use RDP on the iPad (which Microsoft has a free app for, and it is a good one!) and remote to a PC with the real Office apps on it.  Cost = 0! 

davidlfoster
davidlfoster

The unfortunate victims of Microsoft's strategic decision to force users of Office for iPad to buy Office 365 subscriptions are those potential users who already possess licenses for Office on the desktop (Office 2007, 2010, or 2013 on the PC and/or Office 2011 on the Mac). To edit documents on the iPad they have to pay again. If Microsoft offered a one-time license fee similar to what Apple used to charge for components of iWork, customers could pay a la carte for just the components of Office they need to use on the iPad.


Also the current version of Office for iPad neither prints or creates PDF files for sharing documents. This will likely be fixed soon, but it's an unfortunate omission from the most expensive productivity suite on the iPad. Several competing products that appeared long before Office for iPad already provide these capabilities for Office documents, as well as the handy capability to also save documents to alternate cloud storage solutions like Dropbox and Box.net.


Nonetheless, to be fair, it is good to see that Microsoft hasn't kept their heads buried in the sand these last few years and have finally seen the value in remaking Office such that it is usable by touch controls without the necessity of pinpoint handiwork with a stylus. Perhaps by the third reiteration they will have established a must have solution for iPad users who need Office on the road. That could conceivably be a very, very large market. It might be larger without the $99 gotcha, but in the long term they'll likely make out like bandits, as usual.

asaturley
asaturley

@coco6809 I am not the biggest MS fan, but why does everyone complain so much when MS does exactly the same thing as everyone else? People have been complaining about no Office on iDevice for the longest time as if MS was legally or morally obligated to provide it. Where are all of the Apple titles for Windows or Android? Do you know anyone running iWork on their Android device? Apple makes no effort whatsoever to play nice with any ecosystem other than their own but we expect MS to behave differently? Why? And as for "renting" software, I'm afraid that is the way of the future. The days of buying a software title and using it for 10 years are going the way of the dodo. Have you noticed what Adobe has done? Besides, people "rent" access to all kinds of things today without complaining, from audio and video streaming services to satellite radio in their car to paid subscriptions for games. Your idea for RDP use is a good one, but doesn't that require a level of expense as well as you have to have that other device and everything goes with it, from the device itself to the software running on it to the electricity it uses, the time to patch and maintain it and on and on and on.

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