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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.

For your iPhone, too

When you use Word on your iPhone you're faced with the same size limitations that plague other word processors and text editors for small iOS devices. But Microsoft has created a workaround that makes editing documents on your iPhone less painful than it might otherwise be.

Word for iPad has a streamlined "Ribbon" (the toolbar you're used to using in every Office application) that allows you to maximize screen space while editing text. On the iPhone, this goes even deeper. The Ribbon on your iPhone is tiny and includes a few small buttons you tap to access all of the formatting tools you're used to. In addition to the streamlined Ribbon, there's also a "Reflow" button that resizes the text, wipes away unnecessary document elements, and floats tools above the text. Admittedly, the text can look a little goofy when you're working on it in this mode, especially when you're working with documents that include tables and other images, but this mode makes no permanent changes to those document elements, it just allows you to focus on the text you're editing.

My personal view of editing documents on an iPhone remains one of "it's nice in a pinch, but I wouldn't want to do this for long." But you may want to temper that opinion with the fact that I'm still using an iPhone 5S. If you're using an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, you may find your phone to be a perfectly valid option for creating and editing all your documents. 

Introducing Dropbox 

Microsoft has added Dropbox integration to the new versions of Office for iOS, which means you're able to add your Dropbox account to Word and open any Word documents you have stored there. While this is a welcome feature, I did find that editing documents stored in Dropbox did not work as seamlessly as did editing documents stored in OneDrive, particularly when more than one person was editing a document. 

One of the handier features Word for iOS offers, even in the free version, is the option to simultaneously edit documents with others. So, files stored in OneDrive or in your Dropbox can be opened and edited at the same time. If the document is stored in OneDrive, an indicator at the top-right of the screen shows you how many people are editing the document and tapping on that button reveals a list of those editors. Sadly, any time I had more than one person editing a document, I kept getting messages to reload the document, which interfered with the actual editing of the document. 

This situation worsened when the file was stored in Dropbox, as there were no indicators that anyone else was editing the document. After changes were made, if the other person editing the document made and saved changes, my only option was either to duplicate the document or discard my changes in favor of the other editor's changes. A spotty implementation, at best.


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