28 March 2014

Microsoft Office now on iPad!

Today the iPad got a lot closer to being able to replace a computer.  This morning Microsoft released Office for iPad.  That’s right, finally the missing link in the ability to use any device for your Word, Excel and PowerPoint docs.   

Office for iPad comes as three separate free apps - Word, Excel and PowerPoint.  These are the same Word, Excel and PowerPoint you know and use on your computer, and although they have been built specifically for the iPad with some differences, you’ll be able to start using them immediately with very little to learn.

What you need to know

You need a subscription to Office 365 to be able to create and edit documents.  Without the subscription you’ll only be able to open and view existing documents. 

Office 365 is Microsoft’s different option of purchasing Office.  Rather than buying the software and installing it on your computer, you pay a yearly subscription – around $100 for five computers (PC and/or Mac) and five iPad or Windows tablets).  The subscription also includes 20GB of storage per user (up to five users in one household) on OneDrive (Microsoft’s cloud storage), which, if you use it, means your documents are accessible from any device.  I wrote about Office 365 here

Save to OneDrive or to your iPad

When you’re logged in to your Microsoft account and you save to OneDrive, your documents are accessible and synced across all your devices.  There doesn't appear to be any delay in syncing – which does happen on some applications I use.   I started typing this post on my PC, as soon as I first saved it, it was on Word on my iPad within 20 seconds.  Of course you can also save your documents to your iPad, instead of OneDrive, and once installed the Office apps are added to the Open With options on your iPad when you want to open a document you've received via email.

As these apps have been designed specifically for a smaller touch-based device there have been some changes:

The Ribbon is not the same as Office on your computer, but you do have all the basic, and quite a lot of not-so basic, tools you need – in fact, for all but the more advanced users, it has everything you need.

Word for iPad Ribbon

PowerPoint for iPad Ribbon

You're not stuck with just creating basic documents on the iPad - there's a great choice of templates.

Just some of the PowerPoint for iPad templates

Depending on the app and what you’re doing you may have a custom keyboard – especially with Excel, when a numeric keyboard is needed.

Speaking of keyboards – if you attach a Bluetooth keyboard to your iPad you can use most of your familiar keyboard shortcuts.  Some menus on the Ribbon will shrink when the on-screen keyboard is being used – if it didn't you’d have trouble seeing your document! Although if you're using a bluetooth keyboard you can avoid this too.

One problem with Office on the iPad is that you can’t print directly from the iPad.  Hopefully the ability to use AirPrint will be something that’s added in the near future. 

I've been working today only on Word and PowerPoint on my iPad, and so far the only thing I haven’t been able to do is to crop a photo in PowerPoint – I had to go back and do it in Photos.  I will still be using Office  on my computer when I'm in the office, but when I'm out I’ll finally be able to get some real work done without having to carry my laptop with me.  Using OneDrive I know that any new documents I create, or existing ones I edit, will be there on my computer when I get back to my office.

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