Test drive: Is Microsoft Office for iPad a strong start for mobile Office?

Microsoft delivers familiar apps on iPad

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ms_office_mobile_ipad.jpg Source: Apple

Long rumoured, now delivered: Microsoft unveiled Office for iPad on 27 March 2014, with immediate availability in Apple’s App Store. The suite consists of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and the already-available OneNote. The apps are free but with a catch: OneNote aside, they are view-only unless you have an active subscription to Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud platform which includes hosted Exchange, SharePoint and Active Directory. Not all Office 365 subscriptions qualify, but only those which include the right to download and install desktop Office.
Even the free viewer apps have a value, in that they are the best way to render Microsoft Office formats, ubiquitous in business. Alternative apps like Apple’s iWork suite (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) do support the Microsoft formats, but are sometimes tripped up by complex layouts.
Another issue is collaborative editing. Documents are often emailed between colleagues with Track Changes enabled and comments in the text. Third-party applications may not show these correctly. Microsoft’s Word for iPad has full support for viewing and editing changes and comments, while PowerPoint and Excel let you view comments but not add your own.

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