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

Finally, we have 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 to the iPads of Office users.

Instead of having Word, PowerPoint, and Excel accessible in one app like it did on the iPhone, Microsoft has created separate apps with a lot more features in each. With the iPad’s larger screen, there’s simply more space to work with, and Microsoft has reaped the benefits of better tools, more touch-centric templates and controls that are intuitive, familiar, and work great on the go.

Before you rush out to download the apps, however, it’s important to note that you get limited functionality with the free versions. All three apps allow you to connect to OneDrive to browse your files and read Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents for free. But to take advantage of 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.

Create documents with Word

Microsoft’s word processing software is now iPad compatible and has many of the tools you’re used to from the desktop versions.

When you create 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 can also start from scratch with a blank document, but it’s nice to have predefined options for the most common word processing tasks. One thing you don’t get with the iPad is access to online templates created by other users. Not a big deal, but it would be nice if Microsoft allowed iPad users to access all available models.

Once in a document, you can instantly see how much more robust the iPad version is than Office Mobile for iPhone. At the top of the iPad screen is a sort of shortened ribbon (known to Office desktop users), with tabs for Home, Insert, Layout, Review, and View. Just like on the desktop, in Home view you can choose fonts, change text styles, adjust text alignment, and other common actions while creating your document.

The Insert tab allows you to 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. The features listed so far are already much more than what you get with Office Mobile for iPhone.

The Review tab is especially useful for editing types like me, allowing you to track changes as you edit and view comments from other contributors (more on that later).

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

Touch-screen PowerPoint presentations

With PowerPoint for iPad, you can browse and edit presentations already saved on OneDrive, start over with a blank whiteboard, or choose from 19 available templates.

Once in the presentation, you can double-tap the placeholder text to add your titles, change fonts and styles, and add additional information such as bullets. The templates here are all very stylish with options for further slide variations within each template. In other words, once a presentation is started from a template, there is a lot of room for customization.

Just like Word for iPad, you also have the shortened ribbon at the top, with tabs for Home, Insert, Transitions, Presentation, Review, and Shape.

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