Microsoft Office for iPad review

Microsoft Office has been available on the Mac for decades, so the lack of an iOS version has been a frustration for iPad fans. Now, Office for iPad is finally here, bringing Word, Excel and PowerPoint to the platform, alongside the already-available OneNote.

Let’s make one thing clear from the start, though: the Office for iPad apps aren’t standalone apps in the way that the iWork apps are. They’re free to download from the App Store, and free to use if you simply want to view and download documents from your OneDrive store. To exploit their full capabilities, however, you’ll need to have an Office 365 subscription already, or sign up to one – at a cost of at least £7.99 per month.

Office for iPad review: Word

At first glance, Word looks awfully pared back compared to the Windows version. The bustling ribbon interface we’re used to has been downsized to just five tabs with a handful of options in each. Some adaptation to the smaller screen was obviously necessary, but with no way to insert fixtures such as SmartArt, charts or drop caps, some may feel cheated.

Word for iPad

Once you get going, however, that feeling dies away. There are 15 templates to choose from when creating a new document, and even if you’re starting from a blank canvas, there are enough tools to make documents look smart. There’s a wide selection of fonts, too – although some of these aren’t included with Office for Windows, and will get substituted when you open your document in Word 2013. This is disappointing, and undermines Microsoft’s promise to preserve formatting no matter what device you’re working on.

Inserting photos or shapes into documents is simple, and Word for iPad automatically reflows text around images as you move or resize them. The PC-like bounding boxes and handles work well enough, although we prefer the pinch-to-zoom and rotate facilities in Apple’s Pages app.

Word for iPad shows its real power when opening heavily formatted documents created on a PC. In our tests, Pages made an absolute car crash of an image- and table-heavy report produced in Word 2013, but Word for iPad preserved it beautifully. The only hint of trouble was a warning that some fonts weren’t supported – even though the document used only staples such as Calibri and Cambria.

Opening files stored on your OneDrive is easy, with a separate menu for recently opened files. Oddly, though, Word seemed unable to see some of the folders in our OneDrive Documents folder. We hope that’s a bug that’s rectified quickly.

Support for features such as Track Changes and commenting will be welcomed by those who spend their working lives labouring over document revisions. Simultaneous editing of documents remains clunky, though, with edits taking several seconds to appear, in contrast to the real-time editing available in Google Docs. We also find it a little strange that there’s absolutely no support for printing via Apple AirPrint.

Overall, Word is no better than Apple’s Pages for document creation, but if you’re an Office 365 subscriber with documents already stored in OneDrive, there’s no easier or cleaner way to work on an iPad.

Office for iPad: Excel

If you’ve ever tried to move a spreadsheet from Excel into Numbers, you’ll know that it isn’t exactly an elegant experience. Although formulae come across successfully, formatting rarely does. Excel for iPad, on the other hand, preserves almost everything, including conditional formatting, charts and even sparklines and comments – and you can make edits without stripping out features or ruining what’s already there.

When it comes to features, iPad for Excel is understandably less fully equipped than its desktop counterpart. Although it’s possible to read conditional formats, you can’t apply them; the same goes for sparklines, pivot tables, slicers. But the basics are covered: browsing and applying formulae works well, as does selecting and applying number formatting, creating charts, adding shapes, pictures and text boxes.

If you already use the application on the desktop, Excel is also a lot more familiar than Numbers, whose quirky approach to spreadsheets takes some getting used to. From the familiar green logo to the ribbon toolbar running across the top of the screen and positioning of worksheet tabs at the bottom, Excel for iPad is an easy transition.

That’s not to say Excel for iPad is without niggles. Navigating spreadsheets generally works well, but you can only zoom out to a certain degree, which makes it difficult to traverse extensive spreadsheets, and impossible to get a large-scale overview. It’s a pain to select large ranges, too: without being able to zoom back further, you have to drag a finger to the edge of the screen, then hold your finger there and wait while the spreadsheet scrolls – slowly – across the screen.


Software subcategory Office software

Operating system support

Other operating system support Applie iOS

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