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Microsoft Enhances Office For iPad

Office for iPad includes better pivot table support and expanded presentation tools, but can it maintain momentum against free competitors?

Microsoft Office For iPad Vs. iWork Vs. Google
Microsoft Office For iPad Vs. iWork Vs. Google
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Microsoft on Thursday announced several updates for Office for iPad, highlighted by expanded pivot table support in Excel, new presentation tools in PowerPoint, and an "export to PDF" function for the whole suite.

Earlier this month, Microsoft revealed that Office for iPad has been downloaded more than 35 million times since launching four months ago. Though the company did not provide granular financial breakouts, Microsoft also indicated that Office for iPad, which is free but requires an Office 365 subscription for full functionality, contributed to soaring consumer Office 365 revenue over the last quarter. With the new features, Microsoft hopes to continue this momentum.

Before Thursday's update, Excel for iPad users could view pivot tables in existing documents -- but without support for creating or modifying tables, that was about it. The app still isn't as fully featured as the desktop version but now offers the ability to sort, filter, expand, collapse, refresh, and show details within tables whose data is contained in the workbook. Users can also change a pivot table's style and layout.

Excel for iPad now includes expanded pivot table support, and the ability to select large amounts of text with a single gesture.
Excel for iPad now includes expanded pivot table support, and the ability to select large amounts of text with a single gesture.

The update also makes it easier to use touch gestures to work with large amounts of Excel data. If a user grabs the selection handle and flicks in any direction, Excel will now select everything from the handle to the next blank cell. In a blog post, Microsoft illustrated that a user at the top of a column of data can select all the way to the bottom by simply flicking down, for example.

Rounding out the Excel enhancements, Microsoft added support for not only external keyboards, including a variety of shortcuts, but also additional printing tools, including options for more paper sizes, and more scaling options.

PowerPoint for iPad, meanwhile, gains Presenter View, which enables the user to see notes and upcoming slides while a presentation is being projected. PowerPoint also now supports hyperlink editing from within the app, as well as the insertion of video and sound files. Users can insert video directly from iOS's Camera Roll. PowerPoint's eraser, and pen tools also include new settings to enable easier annotations.

Office for iPad gains two new photo-editing tools: Crop and Reset. Unsurprisingly, Crop lets users crop images, either manually or with a menu of presets. If the user wants to remove changes he's applied to a picture and start over, meanwhile, Reset covers the job. Additionally, Office for iPad now supports fonts that users can install from various third-party iPad apps.

Word for iPad includes a new tool for cropping photos, as well as the ability to export files as PDFs.
Word for iPad includes a new tool for cropping photos, as well as the ability to export files as PDFs.

All three apps can now export files as PDFs. Located in the Share menu, the feature is available to all Office for iPad users, even those who don't use Office 365. The other new enhancements, like almost all the apps' existing features beyond basic file viewing, require a subscription.

In addition to building on Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's cross-platform strategy, the Office for iPad updates continue Office 365's "rapid release" cadence, in which updates are continually pushed via the cloud, rather than added in big chunks every few years. Microsoft released its first update for Office for iPad 33 days after the apps launched, when the company added support for printing.

Even before this week's updates, Office was arguably the iPad's most fully featured productivity suite, especially for spreadsheet power users. Unlike Apple and Google's competing offerings, however, Office for iPad isn't free. By continuing to add new features, Microsoft hopes to show that even as basic features become commoditized, its software is still worth paying for.

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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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Li Tan
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
8/2/2014 | 5:09:37 AM
Re: PowerPoint
I am not an analyst or statistics intensive user so I am not able to comment much on Excel shortcuts. But I do love Office on iPad, especially the look/feel and usabibility. It will help business people a lot during traveling. But I have one doubt - if MS tries to put in a plug for Office on iPad, will it affect MS Surface business? The reason is that iPad can also have Office.:-)
User Rank: Apprentice
8/1/2014 | 3:38:14 PM
Re: PowerPoint
The Excel enhancements on the iPad are definitely a huge step up for usability. We like to use Google Sheets for it's simplicity, but there are times when we want to do more advanced operations and that's where Excel on the desktop thrives. Good to hear that Microsoft is adding more advanced functionality to the iPad to make Excel as robust on the iPad as it is on the desktop.

Curious to learn more about the external keyboard with the "shortcuts." Has anyone seen the keyboard yet? We developed an innovative solution for helping people learn Excel keyboard shortcuts specifically for the Mac. We created a silicone rubber keyboard cover that shows the 20 most commonly used keyboard shortcuts as used by analysts and MBA students. Our goal is to make you more productive by not wasting time doing manual operations for data formatting and data manipulation. 

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User Rank: Author
8/1/2014 | 1:02:19 PM
The PowerPoint tweaks sound quite welcome. What else is holding you back with PPT on iPad, readers?
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