Microsoft Office for iPad (iOS) review: Office anywhere finally makes sense

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The Good The new Office for iPad apps give you a rich set of tools for managing and creating documents. Sharing features let you work with others. The tools work great on the touch screen.

The Bad The iPad versions don't give access to user-created templates online.

The Bottom Line The Office for iPad apps are a great middle ground between desktop and smartphone versions, and are a must-have for frequent Office users.

Available for free on Apple iTunes

8.6 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 9
  • Interface 9
  • Performance 8

Finally, we have the Office for iOS that we've always wanted. Released today, Office for iPad is a much more robust app than what we got with Office Mobile for iPhone. Packed with tools and elegantly optimized for the touch screen, it belongs on the iPads of Office users.

Instead of having Word, PowerPoint, and Excel accessible in one app like it did on the iPhone, Microsoft made them separate apps with far more features in each. With the bigger screen of the iPad, there is simply more room to work with, and Microsoft took advantage with better tools, more templates, and touch-focused controls that are intuitive, familiar, and work great on-the-go.

Before you rush off to download the apps, however, it's important to note that you get limited features with the free versions. All three apps let you connect to OneDrive to browse your files and read Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents for free. But to get the full power of the Office apps that let you create and edit documents, you'll need a subscription with Office 365, Microsoft's service that lets you work on your documents from anywhere.

It's also important to note that this review will cover all three apps, with sections dedicated to each.

Creating documents with Word

Microsoft's word processing software is now iPad-friendly, and has many of the tools you're used to from the desktop versions.

When creating a new document, you get 15 common templates to help you get started, with everything from brochures and business correspondence, to invoices and personal letters. You also can start from scratch with a blank document, but it's nice to have pre-made options for the more common word-processing tasks. One thing you don't get with the iPad is access to online templates created by other users. It's not a big problem, but it would be nice if Microsoft let iPad users get access to all the available templates.

Once in a document, you can immediately see how much more robust the iPad version is over Office Mobile for iPhone. Across the top of the iPad screen is a sort of abbreviated Ribbon (known to desktop Office users), with tabs for Home, Insert, Layout, Review, and View. Just like on the desktop, your Home view is where you can choose fonts, change text styles, adjust text alignment, and other common actions as you create your document.

The Insert tab lets you add images, tables, shapes, footnotes, and provide links to online sources in your document. Layout lets you set margins, adjust page size, format your document with columns, add headers and footers, and more. Already, the features listed so far are much more than what you get with Office Mobile for iPhone.

The Review tab is especially useful for editing types like myself, letting you track changes while editing and view comments from other contributors (more on this later).

When you save your work, you can store it on OneDrive or directly onto your iPad for offline use.

Touch-screen PowerPoint presentations

With PowerPoint for iPad, you can browse and edit presentations already saved to your OneDrive, start fresh with a blank slate, or pick from 19 available templates.

Once in your presentation, you can double-tap place-holder text to add your own titles, change fonts and styles, and add more information such as bulleted lists. The templates here are all very elegant with options for additional slide variations within each template. In other words, once you start a presentation from a template, there is a lot of room for customization.

Just like Word for iPad, you also have the abbreviated Ribbon across the top, with tabs for Home, Insert, Transitions, Slide Show, Review, and Shape.