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Microsoft Word for iOS review: This classic word processor shines on every device

Jeffery Battersby | Dec. 9, 2014
A few months back, when Microsoft first released Word for iPad, there were wildly varying responses, from, "Who cares and who uses Word any more?" to "I've been waiting forever for this!" to "Wait, what? I have to pay to use this app?" But, no matter what camp you were in, there was one reality: Word for iPad was (and is) an excellent iOS word processor--an Office app for your iOS device that offers substantial document creation and editing tools, with an interface that's clutter-free, so creating and editing documents on your iPad is a cinch.

A few months back, when Microsoft first released Word for iPad, there were wildly varying responses, from, "Who cares and who uses Word any more?" to "I've been waiting forever for this!" to "Wait, what? I have to pay to use this app?" But, no matter what camp you were in, there was one reality: Word for iPad was (and is) an excellent iOS word processor — an Office app for your iOS device that offers substantial document creation and editing tools, with an interface that's clutter-free, so creating and editing documents on your iPad is a cinch.

Microsoft's most recent update offers free editing for all, adds Dropbox integration, and now includes an app for your iPhone that you can use to create and edit documents.

Free for all

The most significant change to Word for iOS, and the missing feature garnering the most complaints when the app first shipped, is that you can now edit documents in the app regardless of whether you have a paid Office 365 account. Previously, without an Office 365 subscription, you had read-only access to docs. Now, while you are required to have a free OneDrive account in order to use the app for storing and accessing documents, a paid account is no longer required and editing features are intact.

While the free version is has some limitations, the differences between Word's free and subscription-based versions are subtle and many users may not feel the pinch of the free app's limitations. In short, if your word processing life consists of creating documents with standard text formatting, including selecting and changing a document's paragraph formatting, adding and making basic changes to tables and charts, and merely viewing changes and making editing updates in change tracked documents, the free version will work perfectly for you. But if you work in a business environment you may find the limitations to be significant, depending on your editing needs or where your documents are stored.

Most features requiring Office 365 access are kind of deep-dive layout and formatting tools. Although it's important to note that, no matter what, you can always make content changes to the text in any document, no matter which version you're using.

So what requires "Pro" access? To start, pro features include page orientation changes, additions or reductions to columns and page sections, and change tracking. If you want to track changes, or accept or reject changes, you'll need Office 365, but, if change tracking is already turned on for a document, any changes you make are tracked — you just can't accept or reject changes. Word Art, custom text colors, adding reflections or other image editing options, advanced table and chart editing, (i.e. adding or changing a chart label) all require Office 365. And the final, very important detail: If you expect to be accessing files stored in OneDrive or Dropbox for Business accounts or on your own private Microsoft SharePoint, you'll have to have a paid account. Any documents accessed from these services open as read-only, with no editing options.

 

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