CloudOn brings Microsoft Office to your iPhone

Will Kelly takes a look at CloudOn, the cloud-based Office suite for the iPad and Android that is now available for the iPhone.

When I wrote "Tune your mobile office apps for BYOD," I saw that mobile office suites are gaining in features. However, CloudOn sat in a different class, because it runs a full version of the Microsoft Office suite, not a cut-down mobile version of the desktop word processor, spreadsheet, or presentation software. Now, CloudOn is available for the iPhone.

If you're like me and keep certain project files in a cloud account, having CloudOn on your iPhone can help during those times when you need quick access to a document. Please note that you have to be online to use CloudOn. This free application includes the following features:

  • Full versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in a cloud-based virtual workspace
  • Full Adobe Reader and File Viewer that supports PDF, GIF, JPG, and PNG
  • Email support that enables you to email documents that you access and/or edit in CloudOn using your iPhone email

Cloud storage support

CloudOn lets you rename, delete, and manage documents in the following cloud accounts:

  • Dropbox
  • Box
  • Google Drive
  • SkyDrive

Considering that SkyDrive is now part of the Microsoft Office 2013 world, I'm happy to see that CloudOn supports this. It will help put CloudOn at the front of the line for companies who are moving to Microsoft Office 2013.

On the down side, there isn't support for SharePoint or Office 365 directly from the app, which could be a bit of a disappointment for users considering CloudOn as a standard for corporate or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) devices.

Document support

With CloudOn, even if you're using the iPhone app, you're using a full version of Microsoft Office applications. This gives you several advantages, including:

  • Track changes while reviewing Word documents
  • Display, create, or edit charts
  • Full control over formatting
  • Spell check
  • Change formatting
  • Pivot tables and insert formulas in Excel workbooks
  • Display and edit transitions in PowerPoint slides with full presentation mode display
  • Automatically save documents to avoid losing changes

Create and edit documents

Even as a frequent mobile and Microsoft Office user, I'm the first to admit that I'm not going to write documents using CloudOn on my iPhone 5. However, I have used it to make minor edits and to pull up archival documents to review when I'm waiting in line or otherwise away from my keyboard.

When you tap the top left menu, you have full access to files in any connected cloud accounts and can create new documents. Tap New, and the application type brings up a New file dialog box (Figure A). Figure A

New Microsoft Word File dialog box.
When I created a new document, CloudOn uploaded it directly to the Dropbox account that I had connected to my CloudOn account. There was some latency when I created the document, but it was on a test over LTE. If you leave your iPhone, the document you just created will appear in the top of your Recent files lists (Figure B). Figure B

The CloudOn Recent files list.
On the iPad and Android tablets, the CloudOn interface presents a very nice Microsoft Office desktop application experience, but the user interface on the iPhone — while still very well designed — is a bit cramped. Writing this post using CloudOn on my iPhone would have been a very frustrating experience. When I was able to open the Microsoft Word ribbon in CloudOn, the app's performance ground to a near halt. This was far from my experience with CloudOn on my iPad and Android tablets. Figure C shows a blank Word document open in CloudOn. Figure C

Blank Word document in CloudOn.
Figure D shows a blank Excel spreadsheet open in CloudOn. Figure D

Blank Excel spreadsheet in CloudOn.
Figure E shows a blank PowerPoint presentation open in CloudOn. Figure E

Blank PowerPoint presentation in CloudOn.
Existing documents in your connected cloud accounts are always accessible from the Files menu (Figure F). Figure F

Files menu in CloudOn.

Navigating to a file will be familiar to anybody used to accessing cloud files on an iOS device. Tap on a file to select and open it for editing and review.

Manage settings

CloudOn settings control passwords for CloudOn and any cloud storage accounts you have linked to the app. You can also delete your CloudOn account entirely from the CloudOn servers.

The one thing that corporate users may need to consider is that once you login to CloudOn, you stay logged in. This leaves the "barn door open" to any connected cloud accounts as well. While a personal user may not care as much, this open door certainly will not please IT security people.

When cloud meets Office apps on the iPhone

CloudOn on the iPhone does a great job of preserving the features and user experience of the app on the iPad and Android tablets. However, I had enough performance issues with the app during the writing of this post to cause me concern. As such, it's hard for me to recommend this app for any kind of hard-core business use without a caveat about potential performance issues.

Have you tried CloudOn on your iPhone? What was your experience? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.


Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management ap...

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