Last month Microsoft announced Office for iPad. This had been rumoured for some time, however there was a lot of speculation that Microsoft were holding off to avoid cannibalising sales of their Surface tablet. Perhaps with the change in CEO at Microsoft it was time for a fresh approach, however realistically the product will have been in development for some time.

At Ripped Orange we have been using Microsoft Apps on our iPad and iPhone for some time, including Lync, OneNote, OneDrive for Business and Outlook OWA.  They are all good apps and help keep you mobile.

Word, PowerPoint and Excel are good additions to this family of apps, allowing you to present, review and share documents on the go.

The link to Office 365

Before reviewing each application it’s important to understand the links to Office 365 Accounts.  Basically if you don’t have Office 365, then the apps won’t be much use for you. Office 365 is Microsoft’s Cloud Service that connects the traditional Office products to the cloud.  You need this service to make Office for iPad work.

If you don’t have an Office 365 account then you can only view documents with Office for iPad which is not much use and you can do that anyway with some of the built in applications on your iPad.

There is a potential workaround that may work for people that don’t use Office 365.  Microsoft have realisedOffice 365 Personal Edition, for $119 per year you get Office on your home PC and access to Office for iPad. It’s designed for individual not commercial use, but if you bring your own iPad to work then this may be ok. Disclaimer – Understanding Microsoft Licencing can be more complex than advanced physics, talk to a licencing expert if you need clarification.

Getting Started with Office for iPad

Once you download the Apps from the store they ask you for your Office 365 login, it’s smart enough to not ask you each time you start each app which is nice.

Word for iPad

There are plenty of alternatives for editing Word documents on iPad, including Apple Pages. However the frustration people have is not being able to review, mark up changes and keep any formatting in a document.  Word for iPad makes this easy, so you can quickly review, mark-up and forward on a document. If you are using OneDrive to store your documents in the cloud then this is even easier.

Would you construct a 20 page proposal on your iPad?  Potentially you could, but it would be a frustrating experience without a larger monitor, keyboard and mouse. However it’s ideal if you want to quickly edit a document or read and review one.

Excel for iPad

Again there are plenty of alternatives for Spreadsheets, however Excel for iPad allows you to work within a familiar environment.

Excel for iPad is surprisingly feature rich, you can edit and update spreadsheets, add functions and formulas and review. The only think you can’t do is complex analysis e.g. construct a Pivot Table. But again this is normally done at the desk.

PowerPoint for iPad

Team Orange use our iPad and Keynote for presenting, when combined with Apple TV, or Air Server it’s a great option as you are free of cords and can present wirelessly.  It also means you can’t hide behind a laptop screen.

PowerPoint for iPad offers the promise that you won’t need to convert your slides to Keynote, however there are a few weaknesses.  Firstly you can’t insert and play sound or video, which is the best way to bring presentations to life. It also lacks a presenter view and is harder to connect to AirPlay than Keynote. Overall it’s ok, for basic presentations but not a rich as Keynote.

Printing…not yet..

Printing from most mobile devices is challenging, even if your printer is wireless you need to have the right drivers installed and connected.  Apple have made this easier with Air Print, but this only works on compatible printers. While this may be fine for small home office printers not all corporate printers have Air Print.

Office for iPad also has the limitation that it does not yet support printing anyway.  This is coming according to Microsoft.  To prepare for this now is a good time to ask your printer supplier if the printers you have support Air Print.

** Update ** Printing is now available via Air Print for a list of printers click here

Overall

Microsoft have produced a really good set of Office tools for the iPad, they are surprisingly feature rich and this will improve over time.

To really benefit from these you need to be using Office 365, and storing your documents in either SharePoint or OneDrive.  Once you are doing this then you can be truly mobile get the maximum benefit from these apps.