It's taken Microsoft six years to commit to and create a version for iOS devices. In the meantime, a lot of apps have come along that fill the gap of providing an Office-compatible word processor, spreadsheet and presentation package, including Apple's own iWork suite, the Google-owned QuickOffice, and many more. All deliver a lesser or greater degree of compatibility with Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, but nothing had the Microsoft seal of approval - until now.
Or at least, 'until now, if you're using an iPhone'. Yes, Microsoft has released a version of Office, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but if you're using an iPad you're basically out of luck.
That's the bad news. The good news is that the snappily-titled Office Mobile (opens in new tab) for Office 365 subscribers is free – as long as you’re a subscriber to the £79.99/$119.99 year Office 365 service. This gets you not only the iPhone app, but also the full Mac or Windows suite, for up to five machines in total and 20GB of storage on Microsoft's Skydrive service. This isn't a bad deal if you have multiple machines, but if you're looking for something just for your iPhone it's much more expensive than the competition.
However, if you're wedded to Microsoft applications or already have an Office 365 subscription, then Office Mobile looks initially like a good option. It has a simple, modern-looking interface that allows you to quickly get to your Skydrive-stored documents, with the most recent ones listed first.
The app's design makes up a little for the lack of functionality, which is best described as 'basic'. Offline document creation is supported, up to the point of saving the document. Although Office Mobile claimed it would save the document offline, once we reconnected it was nowhere to be found - not a great experience if you've just spent 30 minutes on the tube typing out 400-odd words with your thumbs. And only new files are supported: Word 97-2003 files can't be edited.
Word supports basic character-level formatting, but doesn't support styles - something that's absolutely vital if you're a hardcore Word user, and which is supported by Apple's Pages. Although we'd expect Word to be basic given its transition to the iPhone, this just feels too basic - even lacking support for changing the font or creating bullet points.
Interestingly, Word does support commenting. Tap-and-hold on a word, and you can highlight a phrase and insert a comment. This betrays what we think is Microsoft's assumption about what you're most likely to be doing with Word on a phone: reviewing docs created on a 'real' computer.
Excel, at least, feels a little more powerful. You can edit any spreadsheet freely, although you have to write out any formulae and not that many are supported. You can lock cells, change the width of columns and change formatting for individual cells, although again you're limited to one font and a few options. You can even create charts, although the types are quite limited. Of course, Excel also suffers more than any of the other apps from being on a small screen: spreadsheet power users will know that you want a big screen to fit as many cells on as possible.
PowerPoint, on the other hand, is pretty much a glorified slide viewer. You can edit the text on slides, add notes, and that’s about it. You can’t add or reorder slides, edit graphics or transitions, or pretty much anything else.
Overall, this feels very much like a 1.0 product. You're given basic editing tools and the ability to tap directly into your Skydrive – and that's about it. There are plenty of better options out there that do the Office job well.
- Works with: iPhone
- Price: Free (IAP subscription)
- Developer: Microsoft Corporation
- Version: 1.0
- App size: 58MB
- Age rating: 4+