iPad Office apps available at last

Microsoft has finally put Word, Excel and PowerPoint on the iPad – after holding them back for years in a vain attempt to persuade users to buy its unloved Surface tablets.

They look good – like many web sites and apps on the iPad, the limitations of a tablet have made the designers think harder and produce more elegant and intuitive interfaces.

You need to use them with an Office 365 account – the hosted version of Microsoft’s Exchange and Office applications – but most companies using these apps should be moving over to 365 within a few years.

What’s good?

  • Layouts are preserved faithfully.
  • Important features such as document tracking and reviewing are there.
  • You have enough formatting and tools for editing on the move.
  • Excel works fast – we tried a 3000 row sheet and it recalculated instantly. (Shame there’s no scroll bar to help you reach the bottom.)

What’s bad?

  • Collaboration – several users editing a doc at the same time – is ¬†cumbersome.
  • You have to click to move a document into ‘edit’ mode, after which you can’t see others’ edits and they can’t see yours.
  • You have to ‘save and refresh’ the doc to update everyone’s changes. You may see marks showing that others have edited some lines, but you may not.
  • If your edits clash with others, you may have to ‘resolve’ the differences – the tool is slick, but it’s still a fiddly hassle.


If you work alone on Office docs, get the apps – they work beautifully.

If you work with others in a structured editing process, they’ll also work fine for you.

If you want to edit shared docs in real time with others, consider Google Apps – the docs are updated live and allow users across the globe to see others’ changes instantly.