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Free App Friday: Microsoft Office iPad

Yesterday Microsoft followed up its release of One note for the Mac with releasing Microsoft Office for the iPad. And the amazing thing is, it’s free…well not really. The apps are free to download and to view documents but you require a subscription to Office 365 to make use of these new apps to create and edit documents. These subscription options might hurt your wallet coming in at $69.99 for a home subscription and up to $120 for a business licence, it isn’t the cheapest in app purchase ever created. However, Microsoft products have never been the cheapest and as an Apple user I’m sure you’ll agree a good product is worth paying good money for. So the only question remains…is it any good?

What I Like

Switching on the Office apps for the iPad was a strange experience, although I haven’t owned a copy of Microsoft Office for a long time I used to use Office daily and went through several versions of the system. The design of the Office apps is great. The flat design and smart touches make it feel very at home on iOS. Microsoft has also transferred it’s Tabs design language that Microsoft more recently brought in.

The new templates are very reminiscent of some of the templates that you can get within the iWorks suit. This isn’t a criticism, especially considering the quality of the stock templates in pages, but more a stating a fact. If you are looking for good templates, your in luck. If you are looking for spectacular templates, you’ll need to look else where.

The apps are also fully featured. If you have found Office 365 to be enough for your office tool needs, then the iPad apps will be right up your street. You can do standard functions like adding images, charts, links as well as more advance features like tracking changes and many more complicated Office wizard tricks that I’ve never had to use. Plus, If you shell out the doe for a subscription to office 365, you’ll have access to the amazing online office service, which far outshines Apple offering and even Googles Docs, as well as 20GB of SkyDrive storage and free Skype minutes. Not bad eh.

What I Don’t Like

My main problem with the Office apps is…do I need them? They aren’t bad apps in fax they are probably the best Work apps you can get out there, but I don’t really need the best. Although they contain many extra features to the iWorks suit, the iWorks suit is free and doesn’t require a subscription to be able to edit documents.

Furthermore, although Microsoft has done a good job of creating a good clean interface for it’s applications there is still the lingering issue of being overpowered. To butcher Steve Jobs metaphor on computers and tablets, the Office suit are like trucks. If you need to do some heavy office work then these apps are what you need to do the work. However, if you only need to do some light work (say write a letter or blog post. Create a simple presentation or do a personal budget in a spreadsheet) then these apps can do the function but they may not be as agile as some others out there.

As Patrick Rhone remarked this morning, by waiting so long to put a suit of Office apps onto the iPad Microsoft has shown us a world without Office and most of us realised we were fine without it.

Buy/Don’t Buy

If you have an Office 365 subscription already then this is a no brainer. Of course you should download them. However, if you are like me and haven’t used Microsoft Office for a while then you might face a tougher decision. Sure the apps are more powerful than Apple’s iWorks offerings but do you really need that for $70 plus a year? For me, I’m erring towards no.

About Chris Wilson

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