By Brenda Bethman
If you follow tech news at all, you likely know that in late March Microsoft (finally!) released a version of Office for the iPad — and also made the iPhone version free. The iPad apps (Word, Excel, and Power Point) are also free, as are versions of OneNote for the Mac and iOS.
Well, technically free. With the free versions of the iPad apps, you can view and read files, but not edit them. Editing requires an Office 365 subscription, the cost of which varies depending on the type of plan purchased. For folks working in higher education, it’s not a bad deal. If you don’t already have a subscription through your university (which many do), you can purchase Office 365 University. The cost is $79.99 for 4 years, and includes 2 installations of Office on Macs or PCs, access to the tablet apps, 20GB of storage on OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) and 60 Skype minutes per month.
Even if you don’t buy the subscription, I recommend downloading the apps for anyone who works with a lot of Office documents and uses their iPad in meetings. Unlike former solutions where formatting would be a hot mess, these apps preserve the formatting, meaning your documents look basically the same on your iPad (first photo below) as on your laptop (second photo below):
While Microsoft obviously couldn’t include all the functionality of the computer apps, the important things are there, including document review and the ability to add/read comments. If you use and love (or even like) Office a lot and want to be able to work on Office documents on your iPad, you will love these apps.
What you will not love — the price (especially if you don’t qualify for a University subscription), the inability to print (which Microsoft says is coming), the lack of cloud options other than Microsoft’s OneDrive (no saving to Dropbox or iCloud), and the inability to work offline. Nonetheless, these are solid, well-built apps, and a vast improvement over previous options for the iPad.