Microsoft Office for iPad: the highs and lows

Microsoft Office for iPad: the highs and lows
Markus Kasanmascheff

Markus Kasanmascheff

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Microsoft Office for iPad should transform the Apple tablet into a powerful working tool. But for full functionality you’ll need a subscription to Office 365, so not all users will find the tablet version of Office such a revelation.

Office for iPad: free vs. Office 365 subscription

Office for iPad currently consists of three free apps: Word for iOS, Excel for iOS and PowerPoint for iOS. The name of the free version, however, is rather deceptive. You don’t really get more than a file viewer. To edit and create documents, a valid Office 365 subscription is required.

Office subscription options

Office for iPad feature comparison: Free vs. Office 365 subscription

Free features

All apps can open your documents from OneDrive and can store them there too. In Word for iOS, you can add comments while you’re working with colleagues on the same text.

Word for iPad with OneDriveIn Excel for iOS, you can search, filter and sort tables.

Excel options

PowerPoint for iOS is suitable for presentations and shows material in either full screen or with notes. During the presentation, interesting points can be highlighted with tools such as a virtual laser pointer and marker pens.

Emphasize relevant points

As simple free viewers, the Office for iOS apps should form part of your basic iPad setup. Even if the apps can’t really offer much else, when it comes to viewing Office documents correctly in Word, Excel and PowerPoint on your iPad, there’s really no way around it.

What’s annoying is that although they’re just simple viewers they are relatively large apps. PowerPoint take up 215 MB, Excel requires 233 MB, while Word takes up a gigantic 259 MB. If you’re only using the free version without an Office 365 subscription, the other features are simply blocked.

Office 365 subscription features

With an existing Office 365 subscription you can use the full version of Office for iPad. This  $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year is for the most basic version of Office 365 Home Premium.

The Office for iOS interface is very similar to Office Online from the Windows version. On the iPad, you can also use the individual apps in the Ribbon toolbar.

Office for iPad ribbon toolbar

Word for iOS

Word for iPad offers almost all the features you already know from Word: document templates, fonts and advanced layout features. With the help of the split keyboard, you’ve got enough space on a small tablet to design completely new documents and revise existing material.

Office for iPad -  Word editing

Formatting of text works well and quickly; you’ll achieve good results with it. When embedding elements such as images, however, you must compromise a bit. The orientation to center, left or right, can’t be altered after you place the images. On the other hand, size, rotation, and text flow can be easily adapted.

Word for iPad - text alignment

Normal editing of documents in Word for iOS also works easily. Shared documents can be edited simultaneously with others in real time.

Excel for iOS

In Excel for iPad, Microsoft has splashed out and offers a comprehensive and well-thought out app. The touch controls work surprisingly well. You can easily select cells, columns and rows, and also create or change complex formulas with ease.

Difficulties arise with a rather limited display size, but Microsoft can’t do anything about this. Bear in mind that large tables won’t show up so well on iPad. In order to use the space intelligently, Excel for the iPad is optimized for landscape mode. From here you can access almost all the functions you know from Windows via the menu bar.

Excel for iPad - the usual suspects

PowerPoint for iOS

PowerPoint for iPad is also a fully-fledged app. As on the desktop, you can make appealing presentations from scratch. Adding slides with images and tables can be easily managed too.

PowerPoint for iOS - editing mode

If you’ve got a complex presentation in mind, however, you should resort to the Windows app. On the iPad, it’s missing too many features in comparison with the (now very sophisticated) Windows version. The real benefit of PowerPoint for iOS, however, lies elsewhere. The app is perfect for adding the finishing touches to semi-prepared presentations, then presenting them directly from the iPad.

Conclusion: Office for iPad brings new life to everyday business

Office for iPad is aimed at business customers and is perfect for this market. For those who still don’t use an Office 365 subscription, Office for iPad won’t provide sufficient motivation. As a home user, Office for iOS is only really essential for viewing Office documents. If you’re looking to reproduce Office documents exactly as you’re used to seeing them, you’d be better off with the traditional desktop apps.

PowerPoint, however, is an exception to the rule. This excellent presentation app is sure to reign supreme in the office life of many companies, even without an Office 365 subscription. Running through a finished presentation straight from your iPad is convenient as well as making a great impression.

Related articles

Office Online: Microsoft offers free Office version for the browser

What’s new in Microsoft Office 2013

Free Alternatives to Microsoft Office


Download Microsoft Word for iOS

Download Microsoft Excel for iOS

Download Microsoft PowerPoint for iOS

Microsoft OneDrive for iPhone and iPad

Download Microsoft Office Mobile for Android

Download Microsoft Office Mobile for iPhone

Markus Kasanmascheff

Markus Kasanmascheff

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