The Pros and Cons of Microsoft Office for iPad

Microsoft’s native Office apps for iPad, long rumored, finally debuted in late March. But are they too little, too late?

No, according to many reviewers; the trio of Word, Excel and PowerPoint on the iPad “isn’t at all what we expected,” said Engadget. “In fact, it’s a lot better.” Microsoft “built a software suite that takes advantage of the iPad’s extra screen real estate,” among other highlights.

ZDNet’s reviewer said: “These three apps are feature-rich, powerful tools for creating and editing Office documents. They look and act like their Office 2013 counterparts on Windows. And although these iPad apps obviously can’t replicate every feature of the full desktop programs, they deliver an impressive subset of those features. Anyone who was expecting Office Lite or a rehash of the underwhelming Office for iPhone will be pleasantly surprised.”

Though also acknowledging that the apps lack some features, Mashable noted: “Microsoft has done a more than admirable job of finding the middle ground between Office Suite familiarity and the iPad’s native, touch-and-gesture responsiveness.”

For small businesses, native Office apps on an iPad provide the flexibility to take an iPad instead of a laptop when you work on the go. Because iPad batteries last about 10 hours on a charge and the tablets are often lighter than laptops, this can be a compelling reason to use Office iPad apps. But there are downsides, of course. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

Microsoft Office for iPad: The Pros

  • A similar look and feel to desktop Office. Microsoft did a good job making desktop Office users feel at home in the iPad apps. For example, Word for iPad’s menu ribbon uses the color blue; Excel, green; and PowerPoint, that reddish-orange color, just as their desktop counterparts.

    The iPad apps menu tabs correspond to the desktop Office programs’ menu tabs, at least partially. In Excel 2011 for Mac, for instance, you’ll find tabs for Home, Layout, Tables, Charts, SmartArt, Formulas, Data, and Review. In Excel for iPad, the tabs are Home, Insert, Formulas, Review, and View. The downside: You can tell right away that it’s only a subset of the features you’d have in desktop Office programs.

  • A solid set of mobile features. In most cases, you get what you need to create and edit Office files on your iPad. Example: Word on the iPad supports Track Changes; comments (as long as someone added them in a desktop Office app; you can only view comments in the iPad version), headers and footers; tables; footnotes; word count; spell check; support for styles; find and replace; the capability to flow content into columns; and more.
  • You get plenty of templates. Just as with desktop Office programs, each iPad app provides an assortment of templates to get you started. Or you can just create a new blank document, workbook, or presentation.
  • Formatting fidelity. Unlike other options for working with Office docs on an iPad, Microsoft’s apps maintain file formatting across platforms. The Word file you created on your Windows PC will look the same when you open it in Word for iPad, for example.
  • You can dictate text. The Office apps support the iPad’s voice-to-text feature, which means you could dictate an entire Word document. Just say “new paragraph” when you want a paragraph break; “period” when you want to end a sentence; and so on. You’ll most likely need to use the iPad’s onscreen keyboard, as most Bluetooth keyboards don’t include a microphone icon for voice input.
  • Office apps automatically save a copy of the files you’re working on to the iPad. If your Internet connection disappears, you can still keep working. The file will automatically be saved to your Microsoft OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) account when you’re back online.

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