Not everyone gets excited about spreadsheets and word processors. Some people prefer to get their kicks by creating slideshow presentations instead, the jezabels.
Regardless of which is your favourite industry-standard productivity application you'll be thrilled at the arrival of Microsoft's Office suite for iPad. Spanning the Apple and Microsoft ecosystems, this trio of mobile apps makes the iPad a viable workalong mobile device for anyone that chooses or is forced into using Microsoft's wares on a regular basis.
Word for iPad
Word processing on an iPad isn't the most fun you can have on a Friday afternoon, or any other day. This is a job for a laptop, but if you must do it on a tablet, it can work quite well so long as you add a decent hardware keyboard. In this set-up the Word for iPad app works well and offers most of the functionality of the desktop equivalent.
Because it tries to emulate as much of the desktop app it can feel less intuitive, slightly more cluttered and less touch-friendly than Apple's rival, Pages. The ability to output to an AirPrint printer was absent from the initial launch version but this has now been added.
In terms of usability we'd put Pages in front, but Word edges it for features. File handling is the main area in which Word needs to improve. Currently you can save documents locally, to a OneDrive cloud account or email them - but those options are spread across two or three screens and separate menus.
PowerPoint for iPad
PowerPoint is as old as the hills but hasn't had to change that much over the years because really it's just about combining a few words, pictures and graphs into slides. This is something that works a lot better on the iPad than word processing, assuming you have all your images on the device.
Comparisons with Apple's Keynote app follow much the same pattern as with Word and Pages. Although Keynote looks more basic, it does offer most of the same features, it's just that they're not all presented to you at once. The patchy file-handling continues here, and Keynote gets our vote in this area for its ability to output a wider range of file types, including Powerpoint files.
Excel for iPad
With spreadsheets we're back into desktop or laptop territory, so it's no surprise that Excel feels awkward in its iPad edition. Frankly, it's awkward on a computer, and so is Apple's opposite number, Numbers.
Of all the Office apps, Excel is the most businessy, and while Apple's Numbers makes spreadsheeting more fun, consistency with the industry standard makes Excel the winner here. Not that there are any winners in the world of spreadsheets.
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Office for iPad: how much?
So it's a bit nip and tuck between Office's offerings and their Apple rivals. Until price comes in.
Apple's mobile and desktop App Stores allow users to install their apps on as many devices as they own. For example, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote (Apple's take on Word, Excel and Powerpoint) cost US$9.99 and US$19.99 each for the mobile and desktop apps respectively. They're yours forever and come with free updates as standard.
Microsoft's apps are free to download and install, but if you want to actually create documents rather than just open them, you'll need to pay for a Microsoft Office subscription, with prices starting at US$69.99. That fee entitles you to unlock all three Office apps on one iPad and one desktop computer, for just one year. That's regardless of whether you want to use one, some or all of the Office suite of apps. That doesn't sound like a great deal to us.
READ MORE: The Best Free Apps for iPhone and iPad
Office for iPad: summary
If you've been happily using Pages, Numbers or Keynote on your iPad there's no reason to jump ship, but existing Microsoft Office users will welcome the similar working methods used across the desktop and iPad editions.
Microsoft's trio of apps is so closely matched with Apple's that any decision between the two camps is going to come down to one of two things: pricing and user experience.
Microsoft's subscription format isn't to our liking but it is at least fairly flexible, so it might suit you and your business or university better than one-off payments. As for useability, we come down on the side of the Apple apps but your personal preference may differ. You can check that our for yourself by downloading the free versions of the Office for iPad apps here.