Microsoft's PowerPoint for iPad finally makes it possible to open, edit, create, and present native PowerPoint files on your iPad, no file conversion required. This is a huge benefit for anyone who frequently uses PowerPoint on a Mac or PC but likes the iPad's portability. But comparisons with PowerPoint for OS X 2011 (4.5 mice, $119) on the one hand, and Apple's Keynote 2.0 for iOS (4.0 mice, free) on the other make it clear that, though PowerPoint for iPad is very nice as far as it goes, it doesn't go far enough.
Like the other Office for iPad apps, PowerPoint requires you to have an Office 365 subscription — either Office 365 Home Premium ($9.99 per month), the upcoming Office 365 Personal ($6.99 per month), or one of several business options — if you want to create or edit presentations on your iPad. Each such subscription includes access to OneDrive, Microsoft's cloud-storage solution, which you'll need to transfer files to and from your iPad. (You can also add a SharePoint location.) Alternatively, if another app contains a PowerPoint file, you can use the Open In command to send it to PowerPoint. There's no support for other cloud storage services, such as Dropbox.
PowerPoint can read .ppt files but prompts you to tap a link that converts them to the newer .pptx format before they can be edited. All the PowerPoint files I imported from my Mac opened without incident.
Whatever else you might say about PowerPoint for iPad, Microsoft got the touch interface right. This is a real iPad app, with evident care given to easy fingertip operation. The controls are all where you expect them to be, and every operation from applying boldface to rotating a graphic is intuitive and obvious. Anyone who has used PowerPoint on a Mac, or pretty much any iOS app, should be able to pick up PowerPoint for iPad in moments.
When creating a new slideshow, you can choose from among 20 themes, each in your choice of widescreen (16:9) or standard (4:3) aspect ratios. Oddly, there is zero overlap between the themes in the iPad version of PowerPoint and those in the Mac version — and no facility to create new ones. The iPad version also lacks templates (which supplement themes with sample content you can customize quickly).
Styles and layers
PowerPoint for iPad includes a reasonable array of text editing controls — you can adjust font, size, style, color, alignment, and indentation; apply bulleted or numbered lists in a variety of styles; and use any of 20 predefined text styles. You can also add and format tables, a number of shapes and lines, and graphics from elsewhere on your iPad. Although you can apply picture styles (that is, frames), shadows, and reflections to imported images — and resize or rotate them to taste — you can't crop them. PowerPoint for iPad includes no built-in chart capability, but you can copy a chart from Excel for iPad and paste it into a slideshow.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.