Yesterday Microsoft suddenly released Office for ios, long rumored, long dismissed by Microsoft. I immediately installed it on my iPad so I could test it for a blog review, this review.
And when I was done, doing some final editing tweeks, the app crashed and my work was gone.
First I thought, it’s connected to Skydrive, there will be a saved version there. No such luck, nor was there a backup on the iPad. So more than half an hour of work was gone.
Having said that, here’s what I can recall of what I wanted to say….
Weirdly, the app is actually an iPhone app, there is no iPad version. This is strange, because there’s no way one would want to do any serious production on an iPhone. The iPad, on the other hand, is almost a laptop. I’ve done a lot of translating and editing on this one, using a Bluetooth keyboard. It’s perfectly adequate, except for the hithertoo lack of Word.
Apple has its word processor Pages, and if you live inside the Apple eco-system, that is probably more than enough. But virtually everyone I work with uses Windows, and their files are .doc files. You can open a .doc file in Pages, edit it, and save again as .doc. But much of the formatting disappears.
There are a number of apps that promise Word compatibilty, but they all seem to fall short. For my work I have needed Word for the iPad, and Microsoft’s refusal to provide it has been very frustrating. (Saving document here just in case…)
What really rubbed salt into the wound was when they rolled out Bill Gates a few weeks ago, so he could rubbish the iPad for not having Office. It was a vulgar attempt to shore up sales of Microsoft’s Surface tablet, and just pushed me one step towards thinking my next computer might be from Apple.
The reason the iPad didn’t have Office was not the fault of the iPad, it was the fault of Microsoft for not releasing it. Did they think we were all stupid?
The fact that the ios app exists now apparently means Microsoft and Apple have solved their dispute over whether Microsoft has to pay Apple 30 percent of all in-app sales. Not that those details have leaked out yet…
The app itself is free, but to use it you need an Office 365 subscription. The app helpfully has a button where you can buy the thing for 99 dollars a year. Since I’m just testing the thing, and wasn’t certain whether it would be worth the price (and trashing my first file turned out not to be a good start), I went online instead and took advantage of Microsoft’s one month free trial (not apparently available in the app).
Microsoft didn’t seem to like my outside the US address, but fortunately you can pay with Paypal, and that worked fine.
So how good is the app itself? Taking part in yestrerday’s edition of “Tech News Today” cartoonist Len Peralta drew a picture with the caption “Thanks Microsoft for something else I don’t need”. I wouldn’t go that far, but the app does have some problems.
The other participants in the program pointed out that the app does not always use ios conventions.
For example, to mark a text, in ios you hold your finger on the spot, the word in question gets a blue background, and you can use your fingers to expand the highlighted zone.
This is a terrible clunky system, and my highest ios wish is for the development of a proper mouse, with left and right buttons, for marking text.
That will probably never happen, but Microsoft’s system for highlighting in the Office app is a step backwards. Instead of doing things the ios way, Microsoft makes you tap the screen twice on the spot. There’s no reason for the inconsistency, and it just irritates.
(Saving again…it won’t let me save under the first name, I had to save under a new name.) (Then, after saving, all of a sudden when I typed, nothing appeared on the screen. I “saved as” again, closed the program and tried again. It still wouldn’t let me add to the text until I pressed what must be an “edit” icon. I’m glad I can type again, but there was no reason for the lapse.)
Other problems I’ve noticed so far:
The cursor keys on the Bluetooth keyboard don’t work in the app. This is also very irritating. Not only do you have to use your finger on the screen to move around, the new cursor location is never where you press your finger, it’s always one letter behind that spot. Really silly….
Running the iPhone app on the iPad is OK. There’s less text on the screen than one would expect, and the letters are larger than necessary. But at my age, that’s not really a drawback.
So a mixed review really. I need for this thing to work. We’ll just have to see how well it works for more documents, whether they get around to releasing a proper iPad version, and whether they go back to the ios conventions.
(It happened again…I moved a sentence, which is clunky enough. You can’t “cut” you have to “copy” then you can delete the original, move to the new place and “paste”. But after I did that, changes stopped appearing on the screen. I had to click the edit icon again, and then I could see that some the changes had actually happened, but had been invisible.)
There were problems as well getting the text from Office for ios to the WordPress app. The only way to select the entire text was to select a word, then expand the highlighted area with my finger, to the end and to the beginning, and then copy.
The Windows control-A and control-C commands did not work (which might not be a surprise since this is Apple’s world. Control-A doesn’t work here in the WordPress app either. But…Command-A does work in WordPress, and does NOT work in the Office app.)
Then, when I had pasted into WordPress, all the bold formatting was gone. Had to do it all again.
So my feeling so far is that the Office for ios app is promising, but needs a lot of work.
And if someone could please release a proper mouse (or at least a trackpad) that works with the iPad, that would make a world of difference….