Office Comes to the iPad - At Long Last

Steve Ross

Written by Steve Ross

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece on the new Microsoft Surface Pro 2 and at the time mentioned the lack of a version of Microsoft Office for iPad as a key barrier that means the iPad isn’t quite yet a proper tool for business users. Well, the situation altered quite dramatically when Microsoft released Office for iPad on the 27th March - how things change. 

Starting from Scratch

According to Microsoft, the development team started from scratch with the new apps, in an effort to create products that are native to the iPad but also look and feel like the very familiar Office application environment we all know and love.

Screenshot of Microsoft Word for iPad, editing a document

I must confess that having played around with the apps on my iPad, the experience is good, very good in fact and can imagine many other business users are going to feel the same way. Particularly interesting (and this has been an issue with the Apple iWork/Pages/Numbers/Keynote suite), is that documents seem to appear consistently across my iPad and my desktop PC - a real necessity if you want to be truly productive on the move, and confident your work will be available when you arrive back at your desk.

Before I get too excited, there are a few key caveats to mention:

You’ll Need an Office 365 Subscription

Although you can download a free version of the apps to try, you do need an Office 365 subscription in order to edit and create new documents - not a huge surprise given Microsoft’s direction of travel. Happily the apps can be installed on up to 5 tablets with a standard subscription - a boon for the small business along with all the other benefits a subscription to the service brings.

There is also a personal subscription available at a very reasonable $7 per month. Naturally there are restrictions - the licence only covers one PC and one tablet, and you only have access to 20GB of storage.

Microsoft Office for iPad showing Powerpoint presentation being edited

No Printing Quite Yet

There is no printing functionality available within the applications, an omission that took me by surprise but is apparently in the works for a future release. To be honest I am printing less and less these days, and if I can do so from my desktop PC, which happens to be in the same office as my printer, I’m happy.

No Custom Macros in Excel for iPad

Custom macros simply won’t run on Excel for iPad, so if you depend on them for your work, the product won’t be suitable - back to the desktop.

And Finally…

Whilst it’s very interesting to see these apps released, having just recently purchased a Surface Pro 2, I’m not going to be switching to iOS for my mobile work any time soon, but if you've been holding off on an iPad until Office comes along, now might just be the time to take the plunge! If you're sitting on the fence, or need some advice, please give Philip or myself a call and we’ll be delighted to help.

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