Microsoft Office for iPad review: Yep, it's good

Office for iPad is here. That means you can now download touch-optimized, tablet-specific versions of Microsoft's Word, Excel, and PowerPoint from the App Store and view or present Office documents for free. If you want to do anything more than that, if you want to edit them, you'll need an Office 365 subscription. That can run you anywhere from a few to quite a few dollars per month, depending on the type of account you get. If you're a business user who already has a subscription, you've no doubt been waiting for Office for iPad for a long time and either had to or wanted to get it the minute it became available. If you're not a business user, however, the question isn't just whether Office for iPad is good or not, but whether it's good enough to warrant the recurring price. So, is it?

Office for iPad: Office 365 subscription pricing

You'll need an Office 365 subscription in order to actually edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations on the iPad. The free versions do allow you to open and view documents at no charge. If you've already got an Office 365 subscription, you're good to go and need only log in. Your iPad shouldn't even count towards your 5 allowed devices either. There are several price points depending on where your needs fall but most subscriptions come in right around $100 a year. The personal plan, when launched later in the spring, will cost a little less than $8 a month. If you're a student using the University version of Office online, you can get a four year subscription for around $80 — not a bad deal at all.

Office for iPad: OneDrive and SharePoint

You can work on Office for iPad files locally on your device, with SharePoint links, or from a OneDrive account. There are numerous ways to get OneDrive space, including an Office 365 account. Since Office is Microsoft software it makes sense Microsoft would tie it to their own services. Part of me was still secretly hoping I'd have a way to access my Dropbox or Google Drive files without it being such a hassle. Sadly, that isn't the case.

Office for iPad: Microsoft Word

Microsoft Office Word review

To get a feel for how Microsoft Word really flowed, I typed most of this review using it. While it's not your typical use, it gave me a good chance to play around with settings and test different features. I expected to run into issues with embedding images and manipulating them like I typically do with other document editing apps — but I was pleasantly surprised. Text wrapping is often a funny thing on the iPad when images are mixed in but Word handles the touch screen interface well. Dragging and dropping images anywhere on the document leads to the text guessing where it should be. If it falls somewhere you don't want it, you can adjust the alignment fairly easily.

One oddity I did find in the Word app was that auto correct didn't work nearly as well as I'd expected. I'm not sure if this is more of an issue with iOS 7.1 or the Office app itself. Either way, I felt blatant errors in typing just sat on the screen staring at me. It's something I'd like to see corrected in an update.

Microsoft Office Word review

Typing weirdness aside, I found Microsoft Word for iPad extremely easy to acclimate to and start using. I've never found the iPhone variant appealing mainly because I resent editing text on the iPhone. The screen real estate is just too small. The iPad is a natural at text editing and Microsoft did a really nice job using screen real estate in a way that makes the most sense. Parts of me somewhat preferred it over the Office Online version. Paired with a good keyboard case, you can get some serious work done with Microsoft Word for iPad.

Office for iPad: Microsoft Excel

Anyone who uses spreadsheets extensively understands that formulas can be a tricky beast. Using one program and then opening a spreadsheet in another can easily break shared sheets or in-depth formulas. The great thing about Excel for iPad is that it should eliminate that problem for businesses and individuals.

When it comes to data entry in Excel for iPad, it couldn't be any easier. You can also just highlight a cell and the formula bar magically appears at the top. Some apps require you to double tap to bring up a keyboard, but Excel for iPad lets it stay up as long as you're using it and the bar appearing minimizes reaches and taps you have to make. Anyone entering digits fast will appreciate this subtlety.

One feature I would have really liked to see make an appearance in Excel for iPad is an easier way to paste formulas. Sometimes adding more data requires you applying a formula through several rows or columns at once. Most Excel apps up until this point don't handle pasting formulas in many cells at once very easily, and unfortunately I haven't found a way to do the same in Excel. Some of the smart features do guess when it thinks you'll need a formula based on your current data and formatting — but we all know it isn't always 100% accurate. Every time I have to paste a formula by tapping several times over several cells, I long for my desktop computer and the drag method. Perhaps I'm just missing something but I can't find an easier way.

Overall I had an easier time manipulating cells and editing formulas than I've ever had on any other Excel editing app for iPad. The top ribbon menus change based on what you're doing and that's incredibly convenient. Less taps equals more efficiency and from that aspect, Microsoft has managed to nail it.

Office for iPad: Microsoft PowerPoint

PowerPoint has always been a pain point for me simply due to the clunky interface on the desktop and the outdated slides and options it carried with it. That's all changed in recent years and the iPad version now rivals the likes of Keynote (opens in new tab) for iPad. For those that are tied into the PowerPoint ecosystem and need to either work on presentations with others or share them with other PowerPoint users, the iPad is a joy to create them on. Choose a project and begin working, it really is that simple.

A cool feature that I could see a lot of people digging in the iPad version of Keynote is the laser pointer in presentation mode. If you're using an Apple TV or other mirroring device from your iPad, just hold your finger down on the screen in order to point to things. Long gone are the days of needing an external pointing device. Just carry around your iPad and use it to point with the most natural pointer on earth, your finger.

Like Word for iPad, images are easy to embed and can be imported right from your Camera Roll, Photo Stream, or any other album. You can then change the size, move it around, and manipulate it inside PowerPoint. Text wrapping is receptive and works around images rather well. And like always, use the wrapping tools if it does something you don't like. Sometimes the touch screen interface even cooperates better than a traditional mouse and pointer when positioning text and images.

Keynote and PowerPoint are about neck and neck when it comes to functionality and user experience. Microsoft has done a wonderful job brining PowerPoint into this decade — finally. For people who are tied into the Office ecosystem, you won't dread using PowerPoint on your iPad, you'll actually enjoy it. If you're tied into iCloud however, Keynote is still going to be a better option just due to convenience.

Office for iPad: The good

  • Microsoft really has managed to nail the user interface and experience on the iPad
  • Editing options are up front, easy to access, and well thought out throughout all three programs
  • Excel format editing requires less taps than many other office editing apps
  • Image and shape insertion and manipulation works well, even where text wrapping comes into play

Office for iPad: The bad

  • No support for Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud — any service that isn't owned by Microsoft
  • Office 365 subscription required in order to edit documents

Office for iPad: The bottom line

Microsoft Office for iPad review: Yep, it's good

The Microsoft Office suite of apps for iPad may of been late to the party but at least it comes out of the gate swinging. Anyone familiar with Office Online will be right at home with the Office for iPad. If you've used the iPhone versions, you'll notice some similarities but overall, the iPad version is light years ahead of the anemic iPhone versions. Not only are Word, Excel, and PowerPoint functional, they're quite possibly the best available, particularly if you're already using Office 365 and the online versions of Office. If you're tied into iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive then moving over to Office for iPad is a bit of a hassle. However, depending on how much time you spend editing documents and spreadsheets, it may very well be worth it.

Who should get Office for iPad?

Anyone who lives and breathes Microsoft Office on the desktop or online will feel instantly at home in Office for iPad. Not only is each app thoughtfully designed, it's made to work with other Office clients and services. With OneDrive personal and business built right in, all the sharing and collaborative tools you already use are built right in. And if you already subscribe to Office 365, it's a no brainer.

If you don't already have an Office 365 account then there are alternatives that are not only free but are arguably better on the iPad.

Who should get something else?

If you only need to create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations here and there, the cost of the subscription isn't (yet) worth it. There are lots of other great apps that can get the job done, no money required. Apple's iWork for iPad is just as good if not slightly better for most common document tasks at this point. Microsoft simply waited so long Apple filled the void and filled it well.

If you're tied to Google services, Google Drive is an okay alternative as well. It doesn't offer as many features as either Office or iWork but it'll be enough for most Google users most of the time.

What do you think of Office for iPad?

If you've downloaded and starting using any of the Microsoft Office apps for iPad, what are your initial thoughts? Is it enough to make you migrate your documents over? Let me know in the comments!

Allyson Kazmucha

iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.

  • I think the subscription requirement to Office 365 in order to edit is a dealbreaker. I don't mind paying a purchase fee for software, I do mind paying a subscription charge for using it. For me, iWork is not a free suite, because both of my iThings are older than when they were free. But even if they were free for me, for ME they are not a suitable alternatve because they do not save in MS Office format natively, and conversion back and forth causes some formatting issues (I do have Numbers and the conversion back and forth to Excel always caused problems with formulas and layouts). I recently purchased Polaris Office, and so far, so good. And it connects to my Dropbox and Google Drive. It does not connect to my OneDrive directly, but I can use Open In from Polaris to send the doc to OneDrive or from OneDrive app to open it in Polaris.
  • I really only think it'll be worth it for those that live and breath Office on a daily basis. For personal use, it probably doesn't make sense.
  • I agree with Gordol. Microsoft put Office high on a pedestal if they think regular users are going to pay that much. Sent from the iMore App
  • Understandable for some. However, my PC didn't come with Office installed, so when I recently went online to purchase it I chose 365 because it comes with 5 office installs plus mobile access (this was pre-iPad office release). I'm sure there are others out there in my shoes, so it does make sense for Microsoft to do this. It just kinda screws over legacy users.
  • I have been using it on my iPad Air and I have enjoyed it so far. I use Excel far more than word so I haven't used that one as much. Looking forward to it, though. I have to use a Windows PC for work (I know.) so the ability to have all of my stuff save on both devices allows me to use my iPad more than the crappy computer I have at the office lol. I give it an A+ for my uses
  • Subscription in a deal breaker. Pages, Numberrs and Keynote works great for me albeit I'm not a heavy user of any including Office. An annual subscription for a light user like me is out of the question..
  • It depends on what you have already. If you need office and don't own a copy yet, then 365 can be a decent alternative. Sadly, a lot of the major players are turning to rentalware (my word for subscription based software).
  • Fully agree with the review. It is an astonishingly solid 1.0 release and more feature complete than iWork on the iPad after several years. The "big" missing items are PDF-export, printing, template import, and, for some, macro support, but what is there is a lot and it has, so far, been absolutely stable and fluid (on an iPad Air). The pricing is OK considering the included desktop licenses and online storage (up to 100 GB with 5 accounts), if (big if) one needs all this. For corporate users not being on Office 365 licenses (but "regular" ones) just wanting to support a private iPad in addition, and people not needing a PC or Mac license, it is unfortunately far too expensive. There should be a plan for those.
  • I got a free subscription when I walked into the MS store last week. I use word exclusively on my MacBook and I'm open to using it on my IPad. I've always had a problem typing on mobile devices but if I get a solid bt keyboard I suppose it will be a good experience with office. The issue I have with it so far is there is no option to AirPrint since my ipad is my final editing device for papers Also no Dropbox ! Come on all my important documents are store in Dropbox and it would be nice to be able to import it. But so far it seems that office for ipad would be a great alternative to pages.
  • I work for a large corporation that is MS and Office all the way. I spend a lot of time traveling and would love to have Office on my iPad Air. But not if I don't own it. I hate to "rent" anything. Not only do I have a problem with the subscription pricing but I don't want to be in a position where MS could possibly force me into an upgrade (remember Vista, or for that matter Win 8).
  • I sometimes receive Word files in e-mail, but when I'm reading e-mail on my iPad, I can already view those files from within the Mail app (or the Gmail app, which I've been using lately). But I try to get people to send things to me in PDF, so I don't need to worry about issues between different versions of office, etc. And when I do presentations, I write them in LaTeX and convert to PDF, so no need for PowerPoint. So although I've been following the news/rumors for a while about Office for iPad, I think I will hold off downloading it unless I end up really needing to view some document while on the go. And did you, as someone who does professional writing, really write "may of been late to the party"? I think Word for iPad should raise big red flags whenever someone writes "would of," "could of," or "may of." :-)
  • I have been waiting for quite some time for Office on the iPad. Previously, I kept my PCs around just for Word and Excel. I just purchased the discounted Office subscription from Amazon so I will be able to replace Pages and Numbers on my Mac and ditch my PCs. I find both Pages and Numbers to be woefully inadequate.
  • I have recently gone back to school, so picked up the $79.99/4 years subscription. In four years I will likely, if the price is still the same, renew. So Microsoft has 8 years of me paying a total of $160 to prove its worth. I had been all in on iWork, mainly because office on mac 2011 is such a beast. If the iPad versions are anything to look forward to? Office for Mac 2014 will be a welcome change. Sent from the iMore App
  • I might pick up the 4 year subscription for students as well. Did you have to prove you're student by showing classes you signed up for? Or just a student ID? Sent from the iMore App
  • It's usually done with a student email. That's how adobe gave me my student pricing. So you'll need to be able to verify a .edu email address.
  • I'll give it a whirl. My office recently migrated our mail to O365 so that gives us the ability to have the sub.
  • While I haven't fully mess around with all of the Office for iPad apps, it's fairly on par with Apple's iWork apps, but moreover you're not going run into the font compatibility issues when you open Office formatted files. Also I found that in Word for iPad, you can also access the Apple fonts that Pages uses.
  • I think in the bad points section it should be mentioned that there are no printing, no PDF export and no "open in" support to hand over edited files to other apps (Dropbox, GoogleDrive, PDF Convert, etc.). But Microsoft already announced they will add printing. Hopefully they add PDF export as well because currently all PDF converter apps for iOS are not able to get the layout of MS Office files correct (except for Adobe's extremely expensive online service).
  • Forgot about that, thanks! I'll add it!
  • I'm with the other here regarding the subscription being something i don't really like. But, that being said it's not unreasonably priced, and this seems to be the way software is going. I might give it a shot in the future. Regardless, I'm glad to see Microsoft launching this for iOS. I think its a positive sign for the industry.
  • In the article when talking about PowerPoint, you keep saying keynote, and in your download link to PowerPoint it says keynote. I know what ya mean, but it says the wrong thing. Great article otherwise. Sent from the iMore App
  • Totally thought this was a Dalrymple review, he should trademark "Yep."
  • totally agree .having such a good concept and also very informative ..i have found such a new app for the Now no need to find any websites for jokes, now you can get huge collection of funny jokes at POPULAR JOKES android application. Must Download application for jokes lovers.
  • Office for iPad is useless for anything unless you only have a very few folders or files, as, if you have any folders or files at all, it is completely unable to access them. Don't get me wrong; I love the apps in and of themselves. They are much more capable than any other office apps I have on my iPad, and I have 10-15 office apps I have or have tried. None of them have any problem accessing any of my folders or files in Onedrive. And I'm sure none of them have anything close to the resources Microsoft has. Yet, they can all access any folder or file in Onedrive within seconds. But not MS Office for iPad! Hours or days later, it's just sitting there repeatedly telling us that they cannot access the server, and to check our internet connection. By the way, I have a Verizon FIOS 30 Mbps connection, that works very well, thank you. I have been on numerous MS forums, as well as other sources, talked with several MS techs, some of whom hadn't even heard of the problem????, and I find it hard to believe that no one has a clue what to do to resolve the problem. The only ludicrous "solution" we have been given is to delete our folders and files!, as then these incompetent apps might then be able to access a very few folders!!!! I cannot believe that any sane person would suggest that a reasonable solution is to delete our folders and files!!! Perhaps they should delete all of their folders, files and records off there computers and devices! What a foolish thing to suggest!!! Meanwhile, we're asked to pay $99 a year, with their promise that we can then create, edit, and save documents in these apps, and they are completely unable to deliver on their promise. That smacks of fraud to me, as they are charging us the $99, and giving us nothing in return. In addition, they refuse to reimburse us for our money spent on apps that are clearly not delivering what they promised. If no other office apps were able to do it, I might be able to allow that it was not fraudulent, but all of my other apps are able to access those same folders and files with no problem. I have filed a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, and I am pursuing other third party solutions. I have also suggested pursuing a class action suite against Microsoft for their lack of action and their refusal to provide reimbursement in this matter. I am open to other possible remedies as well.