Microsoft releases Office for iPad

The release of Office for iPad last week immediately makes an iPad a better productivity tool for anyone in business. It’s only one part of a major effort at Microsoft to make sure that Office continues to be the ubiquitous toolkit for everyone.

• Office was originally developed for keyboard and mouse users. The new world is moving to touchscreens and mobile devices. Office for iPad is the most visible result of an ongoing project to rewrite the Office programs for touch on all platforms.

• Office was originally developed to work with files stored on your local computers or servers. Office for iPad, like all the recent Office programs, are designed to connect naturally to files stored in the cloud.

Here are some details about Office for iPad. In the next article I’ll sort out your options for using Office and buying a license if you need one.

Office for iPad

Word, Excel, and Powerpoint are available individually in the Apple Store. Search for each one by name; there’s no “Office” app.

Each program has been rewritten for use on a small touchscreen. I haven’t used the new versions but reviewers are uniformly impressed. They don’t have every bell and whistle from the full desktop versions but Microsoft made smart choices about what to include and leave out.

Office for iPad is designed to connect to files stored in OneDrive. Straighten out your Microsoft account and become familiar with OneDrive before you install the apps on your iPad.

The basic version of Office for iPad is free (although you’ll still need to sign in with a Microsoft account or Office 365 account). The free version will allow you to view – but not edit – documents, spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations with all of the formatting intact.

You need an Office 365 license to edit and create documents – either an individual Office 365 Home Premium license associated with your Microsoft account, or a business license associated with your Office 365 business account. There are details in the next article about the licenses.

If you sign into Office for iPad with an account that has an Office 365 license for the Office programs, everything is fully enabled. In general, each Office 365 license allows installation of Office programs on 5 computers and 5 tablets. You can see which devices are using the license by logging in to that account at

You cannot print from your iPad with this initial version of the programs. Printing support will be added in future updates; there’s no specific date but the Office general manager promises that Microsoft will be working “very fast.”

Outlook is not included as one of the new iPad apps. If you have a business Office 365 account with hosted Exchange mail, you can install OWA for iPad, an app that closely resembles Office 365 webmail but with some extra functionality.

And remember, OneNote is now available on all platforms for free. You need to connect it to a Microsoft account but no license is required to use it without limitations.

In the next article, I’ll summarize the options for buying a license for Microsoft Office, and some details about different versions of the Office programs for different platforms. For now, step back and you see an interesting big picture. Microsoft is successfully adapting the Office programs so they will continue to be ubiquitous tools in a brand new world with different devices, a different revenue model, and different file storage. There has been much speculation that Microsoft was moving too slowly and the world would give up its dependence on Office and move on to different programs – Google Docs, say. It’s a bit of a surprise just how effectively Microsoft is responding to that threat. People are slowly becoming familiar with the new licensing scheme and the apps are undeniably full-featured and polished. Microsoft may have a place in the new world even if Surface tablets and Windows Phones never become any more than niche devices.

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