Office for iOS review

Microsoft Office finally lands on iOS, but is it worth the wait?

  • Free for Office 365 subscribers; Simple interface; Offline editing
  • Basic features; Only syncs with SkyDrive and SharePoint; Not optimised for iPad

Microsoft Office has finally landed on iOS. It's currently optimised for small form factor devices such as the iPod and iPhone, but an iPad version is expected in the future.

Office is still one of the most popular content creation suites on the planet, so it's a surprise Microsoft has taken this long to make it available on iOS. Has it been worth the wait, or do other third-party alternatives do a better job?  

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Interface and syncing

Microsoft keeps things simple when it comes to the interface for the Office for Mobile app. To start using the app you have to sign into your Offfice 365 account. Once this is done the app will automatically pull in all the files that are stored in your SkyDrive account. The process takes seconds.

It's also possible to sync up an Office 365 SharePoint account to access documents from your workplace. Office for iOS doesn't allow you to sync up to third-party repositories such as Dropbox or Google Docs, unlike other applications on the market such as QuickOffice of Kingsoft. 

When you start the app your most recent documents are displayed. There are four tabs along the bottom that allow you to navigate between recent docs, accounts, new documents and settings.  

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Creating and editing documents

It's possible to create Excel and Word documents within the app. Office for iOS gives users the option to work with a blank canvas or utilise one of the six templates (three each for Word and Excel). It's not possible to create PowerPoint presentations, but users can edit existing PPT files.

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Users expecting this to be a comprehensive app will be disappointed. When you're inside a document, you have barebone editing options. There are three icons in the top right corner. The page icon allows you to save and share files. A formatting button lets you add in basic modifications bold, italicise, strike through or underline text as well as change colours and font size.

Finally it's possible to skip through the article using the Viewing options tool this enables you to either jump through the article using the outline view or find.

Other useful tools include offline editing, resume reading and the ability to leave comments within documents.

Offline editing makes it possible to open up recently viewed documents when you're in an area with poor internet connection. Changes will save when the internet connection is re-established. Resume reading lets you carry on reading a document where you left off which is particularly useful when you come back to a 75-page thesis.

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Office for iOS also allows users to leave comments within articles, which is useful when you are editing documents, as it means you don't have to change copy.

Requirements

Microsoft claims Office for iOS app has been optimised for small screen devices including the iPhone 4, 4S and 5 along with the 5th generation iPod. Users will need to be running the iOS 6.1 version of the operating system. 

To access the recent documents and resume reading feature, Microsoft Office 2013 on a PC is needed.

Although the app is free to download, users will only be able to access it if they have an Office 365 subscription.

Verdict

Office for Mobile is useful for those who want to view documents and carry out minor edits on the move. It's not built as a comprehensive standalone app hence why it comes free for those with an Office 365 subscription. We would prefer an iPad version and the ability to sync with non-Microsoft cloud repositories as well.

iPhone 4, 4S, 5 and 5th generation iPodiOS 6.1

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