Microsoft Office for iPhone is pathetically bad

Just as Office for Windows Phone is unusably crippled, so too is Microsoft's brand-new iOS version for Office 365 subscribers

Microsoft released an iPhone client today for its Office 365 cloud-and-desktop office-productivity suite, an item users have been pining for since there was an iPhone. They'll need to keep pining, though, because Office Mobile for Office 365, as it's called, isn't any Office they'll want. It falls far, far short of Apple's native iWork suite and Google's native Quickoffice suite for iOS. Only Google's similarly cloud-based Google Drive has fewer document editing and creation capabilities.

Microsoft Office for iPhone is pathetically bad

Office Mobile is a pleasant-looking app, and it integrates nicely into Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service, which is essential as Mobile Office depends on SkyDrive and SharePoint to access your files. Although you can use iOS's Open In facility to open a document attached to an email stored in a cloud service like Dropbox or stored locally in, say, GoodReader, you can't save files anywhere but to SkyDrive or SharePoint. This means you also need a live Internet connection to save your work. Apple's iWork also discourages saving to outside services, but at least it has a mechanism to do so and can store locally; Mobile Office, by contrast, is too tied to the Office 365 cloud.

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Office Mobile also has a decent set of basic editing and formatting features. You can't do as much as you can in iWork or Quickoffice, but you can tackle touchup work and create basic new documents.

  • What you don't get in Word is the ability to apply styles (just a handful of local formatting types), search and replace text (you can search), track changes (but you can add comments), set paragraph alignment, create numbered and bulleted lists, or insert graphics. iWork's Pages and Quickoffice do all of these except create and apply styles.
  • In Excel, you can edit cells and apply basic formatting, such as numeral style and color, but you can't apply alignment or merge cells (even Google Drive can merge cells). You can run a chart wizard on a selection to create a graphical chart, one of the nicer touches in Office Mobile. If you drag-select several cells, you can use the very handy AutoSum feature, but you can't drag-select files when entering a Sum formula, as is common in Excel and in other mobile spreadsheet editors, such as iWork's Numbers and Quickoffice.
  • In PowerPoint, you can't edit in place but instead have to open a separate text window, and you have zero controls over slides' layouts and graphic. You also can't create slideshows. In other words, you can only touch up text and edit speaker notes. iWork's Keynote and Quickoffice have no such limits.

Neither graphics usage nor printing are supported in Mobile Office, either.

Editing text in PowerPoint in Mobile Office for iPhone requires leaving the WYSIWYG view
Editing text in PowerPoint in Mobile Office for iPhone requires leaving the WYSIWYG view.
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