Purchase an iPad for a loved one or family member, and without fail, the recipient will ask, “Does this work with Microsoft Word?” Thankfully, the answer is now a resounding yes—at least for those willing to pay for the privilege. With few exceptions, Microsoft Word for iPad is well worth the wait. While the iPad-only app doesn’t offer the same full-frontal feature assault of the Mac or Windows editions, the majority of the most frequently used, make-or-break tools (including track changes, charts, and rich formatting) are all present and accounted for.
Although the app itself is free, Word documents can initially only be viewed. To create, edit, or share, iPad owners must purchase an Office 365 subscription ($9.99 per month and up). That sounds like a bum deal, but the price includes installation on five Macs or PCs and five tablets, plus 20GB of OneDrive cloud storage per user. Folks with a single iPad will rightfully feel gouged—with more and more consumers choosing tablets as their sole means of computing, Microsoft would do well to consider more cost-effective subscription options tailored to such patrons.
For those who can afford it, Word for iPad offers a beautiful, tap-friendly user interface that immediately makes Word for Mac feel outdated by comparison. The polished UI fits in nicely with iOS 7, and Microsoft wisely eschews the complicated Ribbon of buttons for a more streamlined toolbar that makes it easy to jump between key editing modes.
Word for iPad also takes advantage of Siri dictation, and documents can be viewed on the big screen with an Apple TV thanks to AirPlay Mirroring. Overall, this doesn’t feel like version 1.0 software—that is, until you need to print anything, which you can’t do. That’s a huge omission from an otherwise excellent app, but Microsoft plans to implement printing in a future update.
File management is another tricky area at the moment. Word documents can only be saved to OneDrive or the iPad itself, although they can be opened from any app that supports iOS sharing. For example, we had no problem opening a MacBook Pro document mirrored to Bitcasa’s cloud storage, but for now it’s a one-way street. There’s also no way to rename files (short of duplication), and while Word for iPad breezily imports photos from Camera Roll or iCloud, images stored on its own OneDrive service are perplexingly off-limits. We were also frustrated by the inability to crop pictures once placed.
The bottom line. Make no mistake: Word for iPad is the real deal, and it makes third-party alternatives pale by comparison—but it’s still too expensive, especially for tablet owners without a Mac or PC.
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