Wednesday, March 20, 2013


One of the major complaints about the ipad is "What about running office ?" Or the question "When is Microsoft going to release an Office app for the ipad?  After all you can get the OneNote app ! “ With the release of it's own tablet - "The  Surface"- I can't see Microsoft being in any hurry to do so. 
So - what are the alternatives if you live in a Microsoft environment but want to use an ipad  ? Well - there are more alternatives than most people realise. There are many apps that will now do the job if you really need it. The satisfaction of using them is highly varied and I will start by saying they are not as smooth or satisfactory as using iWorks (Pages,Keynote, Excel), which  are specifically made for the ipad. 
I am not going to do a review of all apps - but simply mention a few that I have personally used and the one I feel is best.

The first is an app called Cloud On. Like most of the apps of this type they are based around Cloud based storage. CloudOn can connect to your dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive for any cloud storage you have. You can edit any Word, PowerPoint and Excel document saved in your linked storage. You can also make new documents in the Office format. 
When you open, or start a Word document you are presented with a full blown version of Word. 
I haven't really found much that isn't there. Anyone needing Office on the move -this will do the trick. The interface is rather "grainy" and jagged but the functions are there. You cannot print but can email documents. It has a clip art function but you don't have access to your ipad photo app ( which is generally a default with most ipad apps - if you are editing work documents this may not be an issue.) Can be a bit laggy , especially on larger documents. Seeing the app is free - a fairly good app.

The next one is  SmartOffice 2 . It can make Word Excel PowerPoint documents in the doc or docx  form. It even has some built in templates. Again - this one links to your cloud based storage. But I was only able to find links to DropBox, Google Drive and Box. If you use any other you may be out of luck.
The interface I found rather limited. Although you can edit and create Office documents the  interface wasn't anything familiar to Office. It certainly didn't have the features of CloudOn.  May suit many - as you are probably not going to try complex formatting on the ipad , leaving that for the computer. I also found formatting rather tricky and annoying. If you want to highlight a word or phrase for formatting, you needed to tap a number of times. It always seemed hit and miss. It costs $9.99.

QuickOffice Pro HD is another app that will handle Office files. It links to most cloud based storage. It is now owned by Google but I don't know what that will mean in the future. It handles all doc and docx formats. Costs $20.99 and seems to work effectively although a number of people have reported bugs - especially in Excel. 

The last one I only became aware of recently. Although I am sure a lot of people have been aware of it for ages. It comes from Microsoft themselves ( so one expects it to be the best at handling Office files). This one is Office Web Apps. This one is a bit tricky in a way. It is web based (it is not Office 365) and links to your Skydrive. It is not the Skydrive app but accessed through a web interface. Once you have logged in, you have your total Skydrive ( Mail,People, Calendar and Skydrive ). In Skydrive you have access to any document you have saved there ( I use it for saving other documents besides Office files). 
You can edit and create new documents - Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote and Excel Survey. It has an interface like Office 2010 with the ribbon. It isn't the full program but they have done a dam good job of including the common features that you are going to use most (it's a fact that 90% of Office users use only 10% of its functions). It includes a connection to your photo app as well as clip art. 
You can create hyperlinks. It saves back to Skydrive. You can share your file with someone else for joint editing.  You can only edit a document in your Skydrive folder - therefore any existing files would need to be saved to it. You can only upload from your camera roll. A work around would be to open where the file is - say DropBox, select "Open in ... ", select "Skydrive App".  Save in Skydrive app. Then open the Web interface and your file will be there. Convoluted I know - but a way around it if you have files stored all over the place. A very good way of working with Office docs if you really must use Microsoft. Best of all - it's free.
Links directly to SkyDrive. All your files are accessible.
Has most of the main features of a basic office suite
Will save back directly to SkyDrive. Good for people who are worried about getting documents off the iPad to use on a windows computer.
If you are using this web based app ( can't think of an appropriate word - because it's not really an app) - on a win machine with office installed it will edit in the full ( computer ) version of Office but save back to SkyDrive.

Can't copy and paste to another document or app.
Selection of text not as smooth as Pages.
Being Web based - not as fast or as smooth as Pages
The Office 2010 type ribbon interface gets in the way, You lose some screen space. You can minimise it - but most people operating in Office with it showing.Also operating in a browser you have browser tool bar in the way.
Being web based - may have some difficulties with some school servers (maybe proxy settings ? - not sure).

The bottom line ? Quite frankly iWorks still remains the smoothest and most satisfying experience of the lot. Also you can save each to the corresponding MS Office format ( Pages to Word, KeyNote to PowerPoint, Numbers to Excel). Probably for most - this is sufficient.
   But, if you really need to use the Microsoft format - it is really hard to go past MS own Web Based Apps.    Chances are you are already using Skydrive and it integrates nicely with it. More accurately it is part of the web based Skydrive. My second choice (although it looks horrible - was probably designed for the iphone) would go to CloudOn. Again - free. I haven’t taken cost into it - I just feel these two would suit my personal needs best.

This is only a look at 4 (5 if you include iWorks -which can save in the format) apps capable of editing and saving in MS - be aware there are many others I haven’t looked at. I have tried to limit it to programs I have personally used.