First look: Office for iPad is a mixed bag, but a good first step

Although the long-desired Office version is no match for iWork, it is perhaps a sign of better things to come

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Also, OneDrive is not smart enough to open your Office documents in Office on your iPad. Seriously -- you get a read-only preview.

Microsoft has also overly limited Office's ability to work with other apps and cloud storage services. It doesn't use the iOS Open In facility to send files to other compatible apps, as iWork does. That means you can't send an Office file to iWork, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, Quickoffice, or any other compatible app. You can only use OneDrive or SharePoint -- if you have a corporate Office 365 account with SharePoint included, that is.

OneDrive won't let you share files with other iPad apps, either. You can email yourself the file and open it in a desired app from Mail, but what a waste of bandwidth and time!

Also, forget about exporting to file formats like PDF, CSV, and ePub. Office doesn't do any of these. But, thanks to an update issued on April 29, it now can print to AirPrint printers.

This is the old Microsoft getting in the way of the new Microsoft that Nadella promised -- and getting in the way of users. Isn't it ironic that Apple is more open in iWork than Microsoft is in Office?

Word is a good editor
When people think of Office productivity apps, Microsoft Word is usually the first thing that comes to mind. Fortunately, Word for iPad is a pretty good word processor. It has most of the features you'd expect: revisions tracking, the ability to apply style sheets, search and replace, the ability to apply a variety of text formats from boldface to bullets, a spelling checker and word counter, graphics and text boxes insertion, and footnotes -- just like Pages. And as with Pages, you can't create styles in Word, just use the ones in your document or template. Unlike Pages, Word lets you insert hyperlinks and choose which language to use for spell checking.

Pages has a few capabilities that Word doesn't, such as the ability to insert comments (Word can only display those added in the desktop version), provide snap-to guides for layouts, password-protect files, and of course, print and export documents. Pages's layout capabilities are more sophisticated, as are its table formatting options. Still, the differences won't cause anyone to eschew Word.

Excel is comfortingly familiar
Until Google ruined it, I strongly preferred Quickoffice for spreadsheet work because it was so much like Excel. Apple's Numbers is quite capable, but it works very differently from Excel and is a difficult adjustment for most people. Although I like Numbers's use of contextual keyboards based on the kind of data you're working on, I know many people find them confusing.

But now we have Excel itself on the iPad, and Microsoft has done a good job of bringing the familiar Excel experience to the tablet. It has the neat option of letting you switch between the standard alphabetic keyboard and a numeric one. It accomplishes the same goal as Numbers's contextual keyboards, but with just two options you intentionally select from, it's a less jarring experience for Excel jockeys.

Excel for iPad is chock-full of formulas in lots of categories -- an Excel jockey's dream come true. It also has strong chart-creation capabilities, though no better than what Numbers offers. Excel offers a few capabilities Numbers doesn't, such as sorting and the ability to freeze panes. It does lack the password protection and CSV and PDF export capabilities that Numbers provides.

PowerPoint is the weakest link
PowerPoint for iPad is a weak version of PowerPoint, and it is far less capable than Apple's Keynote for iPad. Keynote is an amazing app, better than PowerPoint for Windows and OS X, perhaps because it was designed for the exacting Steve Jobs. Putting aside that high standard, PowerPoint for iPad doesn't compare well to Microsoft's computer versions, as it should.

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