Microsoft Office for iPad review

Indeed, the whole business of selecting, copying and pasting cells and formulae could be more elegant. There’s too much tapping and double-tapping for our liking, although there is plenty of power on offer once you get the hang of it. It’s possible to apply formula and number series fills and even paste formatting.

Overall, Excel for iPad is by no means the finished article, but thanks to its non-destructive support for most features of the desktop application it is a more useful business tool than Numbers.

Office for iPad review: PowerPoint

PowerPoint for iPad is the most impressive part of the new suite. From the moment you open it, it’s striking how much time and effort Microsoft has invested in creating an app you can actually enjoy working on. This is no cut-down substitute for the desktop software but a powerful app in its own right.

It helps that you get plenty of templates to choose from (there are 20 to be precise), and where PowerPoint for iPad really excels is in the quality of those templates. Whichever you pick, you can be confident the final version will be slick and professional, and you’ll get good results quickly. Each template includes several different slide types, such as titles, section headers, side-by-side comparisons and pictures with captions; only Apple’s Keynote can match it in this area.

Powerpoint for iPad

The ribbon interface offers five tabs: Home, Insert, Transitions, Slide show and Review. PowerPoint aficionados will note the loss of animations, but there’s no shortage of transition effects. As ever, we’d suggest using these sparingly: the Airplane transition, where the screen reduces to the shape of a plane and flies away, is great the first time you see it; less so the second time.

The app opens in the Insert menu, letting you create new slides and insert tables, pictures, shapes and text boxes. Adding a table gives a good idea of the power on hand: a 3 x 3 box appears by default, but you can change its style to match the template or choose from any one of the other 73 styles on offer. You can also add shading, automatically scale the column width to fit its contents, align it to the left, centre, right… you get the idea.

The only disappointment is limited support for placing media. Only photos that are already on your iPad can be inserted, so you can’t use images from the internet or files in your OneDrive. Nor can you apply a crop: your only option is to add slightly cheesy effects such as picture frames and drop shadows. And there’s no way to add video at all.

One nice touch, though, is that you don’t need to close a presentation on the iPad if you want to quickly jump onto a PC to make a more sophisticated edit, or if someone else is making a change at the same time. A message pops up prompting you to save and refresh, and once you do any changes appear instantly.

Presentations created on the desktop look superb on the iPad, with all your existing formatting carried across. Because there’s “one version of the truth”, as Microsoft likes to say, there’s no destructive import or export process; if a feature isn’t supported, such as video, it simply won’t show on the iPad. And, although you can’t add animations, they will still play on PowerPoint for iPad.

Powerpoint for iPad

When it’s time to show off your finished work on a projector, some final nice touches appear. Press on the screen for half a second and a laser pointer appears; moving to the next screen is a swipe away, and exiting the slide show is a simple pinch and zoom.

PowerPoint for iPad is a great app, and one you’ll want to download even if you haven’t signed up to Office 365. It’s a superb way to review and share presentations on the go – and if you do have an Office 365 subscription, it’s a handy and effective way to create and edit them too.

Office for iPad review: Dropbox and iCloud support

And the good news is that you don’t have to stick with OneDrive for sharing files if you don’t want to. Office for iPad also now supports opening and editing files from both the Dropbox and iCloud sync services.

To open or edit an Office file from Dropbox, you can either open the file in Dropbox then tap then Edit button to launch the relevant Office app, or you can simply access Dropbox files from within the apps – simply add Dropbox as a new “Place” and you’ll see it as an option next to. 

iCloud support, however, is a little more restrictive. While it’s possible to open files from iCloud and save them back to the same location, you can’t yet open files from OneDrive or Dropbox and save those to iCloud, or add iCloud as a different “Place” within the Office for iPad apps.

Office for iPad review: Verdict

Office for iPad marks an impressive iOS debut for Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Although some compromises are evident, we’re impressed at the apps’ ability to import and display desktop Office documents without ruining the formatting, and to edit those documents non-destructively. It’s a big step up from the workarounds we’ve previously had to put up with.

The big disappointment is that the apps aren’t available standalone, as other iOS-based office suites are. For those who already pay for Office 365, downloading and installing Office for iPad is a no-brainer, but ultimately the suite isn’t powerful enough to justify stumping up for a subscription on its own.


Software subcategoryOffice software

Operating system support

Other operating system supportApplie iOS

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