A quick first look at the newest version of Microsoft Office.
Microsoft has released a version of Office for Apple’s iPhone – we have had a look at how you can get it and what you can do.
This is a hastily made app released now so that Microsoft can say they have an Office app for Apple devices – regardless of the quality. No-one should subscribe to Office 365 solely in the hope that they’ll get some workable form of Microsoft Office on their Apple devices.
The app is so limited in use and buggy (our requests for support on a basic question of Skydrive access have received no substantive reply) that Office Mobile for iPhone is little more than a novelty at this stage.
Saving documents is limited to SkyDrive alone, not even saving to the internal device storage is supported. Password protected documents can’t be opened at all – which is a major omission for software on a portable device.
Even for a traditionally limited ‘Microsoft 1.0’ release Office Mobile for iPhone is a poor effort.
Getting Office Mobile for iPhone
Office Mobile for iPhone is available from the App Store just like any other iOS app.
Officially it’s only available for iPhone but any iPhone app can run on an iPad too.
Office Mobile for iPhone is only available for now to Apple customers registered with US addresses. Microsoft says Office Mobile for iPhone will be “Coming to 135 markets in 27 languages very soon.” though you have to wonder why there’s any delay at all, at least for other English language markets.
Office 365 subscription needed
To use Office Mobile for iPhone Microsoft says “An Office 365 subscription is required to use this app.” … but what type of Office 365 subscription qualifies?
Anyone with a subscription like Office 365 Home Premium which includes a software rental component can use Office Mobile for iPhone.
But not all Office 365 plans include a software rental component and provide only cloud services. These include plans like Office 365 Small Business or Office 365 Enterprise E1. Many individuals and families have signed up for these plans so they can access Exchange Server email at a decent price while using Office software they already have or have purchased separately.
According to the strict wording from Microsoft you’d think that ALL Office 365 users/plans can use Office Mobile for iPhone.
We’ve asked Microsoft for a clarification. From what we’ve discovered only those with a software rental can really use the new app, regardless of Microsoft’s public statement.
You’ll need an iPhone 4 or better, iPod touch (5th generation or better), iPad (4th Generation) or iPad mini. Either Wifi or cellular support is OK.
Any of those devices needs iOS 6.1 or later.
What you get
Office Mobile for iPhone has very limited versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint only.
OneNote already has a separate free app for iPhone though it hasn’t been updated since Dec 2011. There’s a paid version which gives access to stores of more than 500 notes.
The focus seems to be on viewing and commenting on documents rather than editing.
You can open and edit any Office document however documents with more complex formatting aren’t handed well by Office Mobile. Only the ‘new’ format documents, docx xlsx and pptx can be edited.
Password protected documents won’t open at all.
You can open and view documents in either docx or doc format but will only edit docx documents.
If you open a .doc file, you can’t Save As to the newer format since Save As in Office Mobile for iPhone will only save to the same format with a different name! To convert you’d have to open the document via Word or the Word Web App and ‘Save As’
The buttons across the top are:
- Go back to previous screen, usually a list of documents.
- File Options – Share, Save and Save As
- Switch to Outline view and Find
There are extremely limited text formatting options and typing is difficult on the small virtual keyboard.
All documents have to be manually saved, there is no auto-save option.
This is Microsoft’s given example of an Excel document in action. You can edit cells and even create a chart from existing data. Though the features to customize that chart are limited; you can’t even delete a chart!
Many, but not all, Excel functions are supported.
This is a sample slide from Microsoft in full screen view. You can also view in portrait mode with notes showing or a slide view.
Microsoft says “PowerPoint Mobile displays all animations. You can edit presentations. Obviously, on a small screen, the edit functionality is focused on what’s appropriate for that type of device (e.g. more advanced editing options are not available), so you can edit text, tables, notes.”
Office Mobile for iPhone is tightly linked to SkyDrive either in the cloud or perhaps an offline version.
We’ve had trouble accessing SkyDrive properly. The ‘Add to Place’ option won’t connect to SkyDrive and when we asked Microsoft about the problem they replied with a link to their blog announcing Office Mobile for iPhone! So at this stage we can save documents to SkyDrive and open those documents but can’t access any documents already there. Others can access SkyDrive as promised but yet other people are having problems with slow or poor synchronization or a failure to automatically connect to SkyDrive. In summary, Microsoft seems to be having trouble reliably connecting Office Mobile to its own cloud storage!
Saving to other locations
We could not find any way to save a document to the iPhone’s local storage. Nor can you save a document to the device via iTunes via Device | Apps | File Sharing because Office Mobile for iPhone isn’t one of the apps listed there.
Documents received by email can be opened in Office Mobile for iPhone. Send a document via email using the ‘Share’ option.
A document in Dropbox or other cloud storage can be opened via the ‘Open in …’ menu in iOS which shows a list of the compatible apps for that file type. However you can’t save back to the same cloud storage – any document you save goes to SkyDrive regardless of its original source.
What do you think about Office for iPhone?
If you’re trying out Office Mobile we’d love to hear from you.
Some Office-Watch.com regulars have already emailed is with great comments and discoveries in Office Mobile for iPhone.
Your feedback, g
ood or bad, let us know [email protected] will reach our iPhone’s.
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