Clean design; SkyDrive and SharePoint integration; Useful editing tools; Commenting feature for adding notes
Doesn't support all Office 365 apps; Requires Office 365 subscription; Can't create PowerPoint documents within the app; No Track Changes in Word Mobile
Microsoft's Office Mobile app for the iPhone offers the tools you need to edit and tweak documents on the go.
For years, Microsoft's Office suite has ruled the market when it comes to PC productivity software. The company modernized its suite earlier this year with Office 365, which introduced touch-enabled features and social integration for the first time. Now, Microsoft is expanding its mobile horizons with its Office Mobile for Office 365 Subscribers app for iOS, packing Office 365's three core programs into a 50MB package. But how do Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel translate to the small screen? Read on to find out.
If yo don't have Office 365, Microsoft includes a link within the app to purchase the software. Additionally, you can sign in to your existing account from this same page, where you'll need to enter the email address and password associated with your Office 365 subscription.
For example, a subhead for Today lists any files you've viewed during the current day, while an Older tab shows documents from previous days, weeks or months. Though we find this to be a neat and streamlined view, the Older tab could be more specific. It would be useful to see a time stamp of the last instance in which a certain document was opened or edited.
Along the bottom of the screen, you'll see a light-gray toolbar with four tabs: Recent, Open, New and Settings. When you press one of those buttons, the icon will change from gray to orange, to remind you of the current tab in use.
The Open tab lets you launch documents based on where they're saved. This option automatically lists the SkyDrive folder associated with your Microsoft account, and you can add your SharePoint address for quick access to your library if you have a subscription. After we created a new document on our desktop and uploaded it to SkyDrive, the file instantly synced to our iPhone in the Documents folder.
Overall, Office Mobile's interface is clean and intuitive, and makes it easy to find files you've worked on recently and create new content on the go. There's nothing extraneous about the app's design -- Microsoft's mobile Office suite reflects the simplistic, white-and-gray tone of the desktop app. Having premade templates handy makes the content-creation process more seamless.
However, we wish Microsoft implemented more gesture-based controls for navigating the interface. For example, rather than tapping the top of the screen by pressing the Back button to exit a document, it would be more convenient to swipe backward to return to your Recents tab.
Just like Office Mobile's user interface, its Word application is straightforward and simplistic. You won't find a robust toolbar like the Word Web app or desktop application, but the rudimentary editing functions are there. Don't expect any fancy features such as Track Changes, sophisticated file views or heading options -- this app is bare-bones.
If you open a document that already has Track Changes enabled, the corrections will automatically appear in the document, and any words or phrases with comments will be highlighted in blue. When you tap these sections, the app will display the comments on the lower half of the screen.
We were also disappointed with the app's limited color selection for text; you can only choose from red, yellow or green. This allows for basic markups and editing, but at the very least, we would have appreciated a scaled-down menu offering the standard color selection available in Microsoft Word.
On the other hand, the mobile-optimized font-sizing tool was useful while we edited documents. After highlighting text, you can simply press a plus or minus button to increase or decrease the font size, rather than having to choose a specific size or manually input a number.
If you attempt to exit a document without saving from the File Options menu, Microsoft will prompt you to Save Changes, Cancel or Delete Changes. It's worth noting that there's no Save, Undo or Redo button shortcut on the top of the screen.
Although smartphones aren't optimal for creating lengthy pieces of content, Word Mobile will certainly suffice for quick edits. Double-tapping words to highlight text was a breeze, and we navigated through our sample document with ease when placing the cursor in various spots. Don't expect any fancier means of input; this app is best for making quick touch-ups on the go. For example, you can't insert any images from your iPhone into Word docs or PowerPoint presentations. However, it does support voice dictation.
Office Mobile's function toolbar is just above the rows and columns of cells, and at the bottom, you'll find tabs for Sheet 1, Sheet 2 and Sheet 3, just like on the familiar desktop software. The same three tabs -- File Options, Format and Viewing Options -- are situated in a green toolbar along the top, with different submenus catered to Excel. Editing tools include Format, Redo, Undo, Create Chart, Clear and AutoSum. Under the Viewing Tools tab, you can switch between Outline, Sort, Apply Filter and Find. We were pleased to see that tapping a cell with text pulls up a submenu of options, including Word Wrap, which is crucial when working in those tiny cells.
Microsoft packed its Office Mobile app with the full selection of functions you would find in the desktop version. Tapping the Function button next to the text box launches a scrollable list of these commands, broken down by category. You can also highlight multiple cells by selecting one cell and then dragging across the spreadsheet to the other cells of your choosing. Just like the Word app, Excel will prompt you to save your changes before exiting if you haven't already done so.
Overall, we were impressed with Microsoft's mobile rendition of its Excel software. Touch-optimized spreadsheets are fluid and seamless, and Microsoft has included all the crucial tools you need for editing and creating spreadsheets.
Instead of a View Options tab, there's an icon that lets you view all slides in a thumbnail mode. You can alter the text or rearrange any given slide through the Edit menu at the top of the screen. Tapping the Move Slide option will call up a list of all slides in the presentation, which you can move by holding your finger down on the title and dragging it up or down.
In Word, tap the word or phrase you wish to comment on, and drag the cursor to highlight the text. A tiny dialog box with the option to comment or copy this text will appear just above those words. Any section you choose to comment on will appear in a blue speech bubble within the document, and tapping those words will pull up those remarks on the bottom of the screen.
In Excel, tapping the cell you wish to comment on will bring up a similar menu with options to View Cell, Freeze, Wrap or Comment on its content.
When viewing the desktop version of a document you've commented on in SkyDrive, you'll see tiny speech bubbles alongside your text. Clicking these icons will pull up a sidebar, where you can view all comments in the document.
Other apps in the App Store bring similar functionality to the iPhone without requiring an Office 365 subscription. Documents Free for iOS, which has been optimized for the iPhone 5, is compatible with SkyDrive, Google and Dropbox, and syncs with your email account. You can upload photos from your camera roll, which isn't possible in Office Mobile, and create text documents and spreadsheets as well. Apple's $9.99 iWork office suite is also compatible with Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.
Since it's free with an Office 365 subscription, Office Mobile for Office 365 Subscribers will prove useful for those who need to glance at or make edits to files. For anything more than that, though, you'll want the full-fledged version of Office.
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