Microsoft Office For iPad: Everything You Need To Know

Microsoft has officially released Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iPad users — and the basic apps are free. Here’s what you need to know.

Microsoft launched the much-rumoured software bundle at a press briefing in San Francisco this morning Australian time. While CEO Satya Nadella led the event, the main demo was by Office product manager Julia White.

Which apps are included? Word, Excel and PowerPoint are in the initial release. No word on other Office stalwarts such as Outlook, though a basic mail client for Office 365 has been available since last July. OneNote has been available on iOS since 2011.

Are there any extra features for iPad owners? There are some tweaks for the touch environment: in PowerPoint presentations, for instance, you can bring up an on-screen laser pointer to highlight elements, or an annotation tool.

Some of the menus on the Ribbon have also been customised: they automatically shrink if the on-screen keyboard is visible.

There are also custom keyboards in some areas, such as this one for Excel:

“This is not the ported Windows app on iPad,” White said. “These are uniquely built for the iPad.” Note that also means it won’t run on an iPhone (which seems reasonable given screen size).

Are these the full versions? Yes — but only if you’re an Office 365 subscriber. The free versions allow you to open and read Office files, but if you want to edit them, you’ll need to be a paid-up subscriber. Editing includes collaboration for multiple users.

OK, so how much does Office 365 cost? Microsoft now offers Office 365 in two versions. $89 a year for the Personal Edition allows you to run on one laptop and one mobile device (phone or tablet). With the $119 a year Home edition, you can run across any 5 devices of your choice. Corporates can score licensing discounts for site-wide implementations.

Any plans for other mobile platforms? At the launch, White said similar full versions of Office apps would be forthcoming for “the Windows store as well as other popular platforms” — the latter obviously means Android — though no timeframes were provided. These will work on the same model: basic free apps for everyone, full features for Office 365 subscribers.

The existing Office Mobile basic apps for mobile phones are now free on both Android and iOS, and don’t require an Office 365 subscription.

OK, what else happened? Microsoft also previewed its Enterprise Mobility Suite, a tool designed to combine its existing Intune management platform with a range of mobile devices. And CEO Nadella argued that Office 365 would prove to be Microsoft’s most important API for developers in the future, since it enabled easy access to multiple platforms for developers and enabled features such as single sign-on.

Office [iTunes App Store]

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