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3/29/2014
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Michael Endler
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Microsoft Office For iPad: 7 Questions Answered

Is Office for iPad a good fit for you? We go hands-on and answer seven key questions to help you decide.
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Microsoft Office for iPad arrived this week, two years overdue, and with millions of tablet users already entrenched in Google Docs, iWork, and other alternatives. But now that the desktop era's top productivity software has finally landed on the world's most popular mobile device, here's the worst thing I can say: Office for iPad is the best tablet work software so far.  

No, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for iPad aren't perfect. Want to use the new apps to print a document? Too bad. You'd like to edit documents without signing up for Office 365? Sorry, you'll have to use Office Online, the browser-based version.

Office for iPad won't change the market. The apps might set the standard in their category, but it's not clear how many people care about that category to begin with.

For millions of professional users, Office for iPad is a no-brainer. Office 365 subscriptions were already growing rapidly, and the new apps only sweeten the offer. Road warriors rely on iPads to review and annotate documents on the go. With native Office apps, they now can do so with not only perfect file fidelity, but also a wide range of tools and strong cloud support.

For consumers, the outlook is murkier. Had Office been available to iPad users at a reasonable cost back in 2011, competing products might never have gained traction. Will people who do only light work care about Office's most sophisticated features? Will they accept recurring Office 365 costs when so many viable options are free?

Some people might be won over. I wrote parts of this article using Word on a non-Retina iPad Mini -- and it was easier than I'd anticipated. I began the story while crammed into a crowded train. Using OneDrive, I picked it up seamlessly on my PC once I got back to my desk.

But am I about to stick my laptops in a drawer and rely mostly on my iPad? Hell, no.

Typing on glass simply isn't as fast and accurate as typing on a full keyboard. There's a reason iPad commercials show people using their devices to photograph epic waterfalls at the top of the world, not writing the next great work of literature. In a pinch, could I use Office on the iPad to create documents? Absolutely. Would doing so be preferable to other methods? No.

When modifying or reviewing a document, though, the apps are outstanding. I can't see a student composing an entire essay on an iPad, but I can imagine a professor using an iPad to annotate essays and provide feedback. And for some layout work, the touch interface is great. When you press on a picture in a Word document and begin moving the image, surrounding text adjusts dynamically. It's an intuitive and pleasing experience that makes it possible to polish a presentation while walking between meetings.

Office for iPad represents a big shift in Microsoft's strategy. When new CEO Satya Nadella introduced the apps, he repeatedly said they'll help users "do more" -- a slogan borrowed from the Ballmer era. But under the previous regime, no one at Microsoft would have ever suggested people should "do more" on an iPad. Ballmer famously claimed that his children were forbidden from using Apple products, but during Thursday's press conference, Microsoft employees talked openly about owning iPads.

For his part, Nadella claimed Microsoft held nothing back in creating products. He said the company is focused on delivering the best user experience possible on all platforms. Compared to the Windows jingoism of yesteryear, this is anathema. It raises obvious questions about Microsoft's device strategy, and how Windows will remain relevant as the cloud becomes the nexus of the software world. Nadella confidently promised to deliver answers to these questions next week, when the company will host Build, its conference for developers.

Despite these uncertainties, Office for iPad is the crème de la crème in its genre. The apps generated immediate interest, at least in their cost-free form. By Friday, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint occupied the top three spots among free apps in the iPad's app store. Microsoft's recently introduced OneNote app was right behind them at number four.

What do the new apps offer? Read on for the answers to seven key questions about Microsoft's Office for iPad.

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
3/29/2014 | 3:26:09 PM
A Seismic Shift for Microsoft
So, Microsoft has finally surrendered to reality. But wiill it be to little and too late to preserve Office's unique place as the premiere Office Suite for all platforms, mobile and otherwise?
ANewNickname
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ANewNickname,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/29/2014 | 5:43:47 PM
The catch(es)
To use Excel (and probably everything else), you need iOS 7. I have an original iPad, so it seems I can't use Office at all. I wanted to use it primarily to show Powerpoint presentations, but to use Powerpoint, you need a front-facing camera. God knows why.
awebb199
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awebb199,
User Rank: Strategist
3/30/2014 | 11:42:38 AM
Re: A Seismic Shift for Microsoft
Not really much of a shift to ship.  The decision was taken years ago to do a specific Office implementation for iPad.

 
dlavenda
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dlavenda,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/31/2014 | 2:27:35 AM
Office with a Keyboard
One annoying issue with Office of iPad is the lack of screen space when  you use the virtual keyboard. When you use a Bluetooth keyboard however, the device and app become much more useful.
zman5819
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zman5819,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/31/2014 | 7:44:46 AM
A couiple of alternatives
There are some extremely capable alternatives available.

RollApp.com provides OpenOffice and LibreOffice cloud service. You can use it for free with ads or directly as a paid service for $1.00 per month. You can edit all the documents you want to.

https://www.rollapp.com/
https://www.rollapp.com/libreoffice

The cost is a small fraction of the cost of Office 365 and it can do far more.

Fern app is also available. It allows you to host your own cloud based app server. For example provide the latest LibreOffice for remote access through broswer. It uses h264 for network compression. See the demo.

http://www.fernapp.com/

 

 

 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
3/31/2014 | 5:01:45 PM
Re: A Seismic Shift for Microsoft
I've gotten by without Office on the iPad since the iPad was released. Some people may find the software comforting, but I'm glad to no longer be dependent on it.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
3/31/2014 | 6:01:23 PM
The day windows OS died?
"Regardless of whatever new products arrive, Microsoft clearly no longer considers Windows sacrosanct."

This is an important observation. Office on iPad means more symbolically for Microsoft than in practice. Sure, Office on iPad options are great for fine-tuning and will make the Office experience more fluid and democratic via cloud services like Microsoft OneNote and/or Dropbox. That's a good thing.

But on a deeper level, Microsoft is absolutely minimizing the relevance of the Windows OS, the consequences of which we'll see play out in the next few years. But it had to be done, and big kudos to Nadella for bursting Ballmer's reality distortion field bubble.

 

 

 
J_Brandt
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J_Brandt,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2014 | 9:03:15 PM
Re: The day windows OS died?
That's a valid point, but I am not sure it's quite the minimization that you think.  The casual user may be able to use Word outside of Windows, but for now the professional wordsmiths, number crunchers and presenters will have to have the main products.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2014 | 11:49:39 PM
Re: The day windows OS died?
I'm not convinced compatibility = minimizing relevance of the OS.  Microsoft software still works most seamlessly in its natural environment.

Besides, I am convinced that the consumer market ultimately drives the enterprise market (what the execs buy for themselves and their families at home ultimately lead those same execs to buy those same devices for the business) -- and gaming still lies in the realm of Windows.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2014 | 11:50:53 PM
Re: A Seismic Shift for Microsoft
I suspect the primary use for Office for iPad is less about original document creation and more about reviewing and editing work from Windows-using colleagues and collaborators.
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