The Lawyer’s Toolbox— The Current State of Tracked Changes Using iPad Word Processing Apps


photoScreen shot using track changes on a virtual desktop on the iPad via VMWare

From the time that the iPad hit the market, the elusive holy grail for iPad word-processing apps has been the ability to display, edit and insert tracked changes and editorial comments in Word documents. A work around solution has been to edit the document with a genuine copy of Microsoft Word on a cloud-based system accessible through an iPad app. One of the best of these options is CloudOn.  The app is currently free to individuals and provides cloud based access to servers running actual Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2010 software. It also integrates with E-mail, DropBox, Google Drive, SkyDrive and box.  You essentially edit your document using Word on the cloud and then share it by Email, Dropbox, etc.

Tracked changes using CloudOn

CloudOnKeep in mind, like every other situation where a lawyer entrusts confidential client information to a third party vendor, the lawyer needs to take reasonable precautions to ensure that the data is adequately protected.  This at a minimum requires a review of the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy of the provider.  For example, the “CloudOn” privacy policy provides in pertinent part:

Files. We will share access to any Files you make available via the CloudOn Services only in accordance with the selections you make via the CloudOn Services.  For example, if you choose to invite a third party to access and edit your Files via the CloudOn Services, we will provide such third party with access to the applicable File(s).  Accordingly, please carefully consider inviting any third party to access your Files via the CloudOn Services.

Compliance with Laws and Law Enforcement.  CloudOn cooperates with government and law enforcement officials and private parties to enforce and comply with the law.  Thus, it may be necessary − by law, legal process, litigation, and/or requests from public and governmental authorities within or outside your country of residence − for CloudOn to disclose your Personal Information and Non-Identifying Information to respond to claims and legal process (including but not limited to subpoenas) and to protect the property and rights of CloudOn or a third party. We may also disclose information about you if we determine that for purposes of national security, law enforcement, or other issues of public importance, disclosure is necessary or appropriate.

Protection of our Operations and Users.  We may also disclose information about you if we determine that disclosure is reasonably necessary to enforce our Terms of Service, or protect our operations or users.

 CloudOn Privacy Policy Effective April 6, 2012

One provision notably absent from the CloudOn privacy policy is a representation that CloudOn will notify the user, unless legally forbidden to do so, if legal process is served upon it requiring the production of the user’s information.  Because this provision is not present, I would hesitate to use this service for highly confidential documents for fear that an errant subpoena could cause protected documents to be disclosed without the opportunity for a challenge.

A more private cloud based alternative is to use a service that provides secure access to your own Windows desktop. Many firms, including my own, use systems such as VMware to allow their users to have secured access to their Windows desktops from the iPad or virtually any other computer.  From this virtual desktop, Word documents can be edited, saved and shared just like in the office. Obviously, there are security advantages using of a closed system over the more public CloudOn model.  Small firms and individuals can use similar but less expensive products to access their desktops e.g., GoToMyPC  and Splashtop.

As for apps actually running on the iPad itself i.e.,  not in the cloud, there is no current Microsoft product for the iPad that provides full Word track changes and comment functionality.  However, there are programs that do closely emulate the function of the MS Office suite.  A longtime favorite and bestselling app is Documents To Go Premium (“docs to go”  $16.99 App Store) which can open and edit almost any type of file you would normally be working with on an iPad. Unfortunately, it only provides the ability to review tracked changes, not edit or make them.  It does show editorial comments and footnotes– not an insignificant feature.

The current number one seller in the Microsoft Office simulation app category is QuickOffice Pro HD ($19.99 App Store).  This app does allow the user to review, edit and make track changes and insert/ edit comments.  However, it is missing an equally important  piece—it does not display headers, footnotes or endnotes.  This is a significant omission which the developer is reported to be working on a fix.

QO1   QO3QO2















Finally, Apple’s proprietary Pages ($9.99) word-processing application has recently incorporated a track changes feature which allows the user to track and edit Word changes on the iPad.  However, as always seems to be the case, something fundamental is missing— for Pages it is the ability to edit or post editorial comments.  Written comments do not come along when the document is converted over to Pages.

Pages Pages drop down








So that is where we are now in the quest for a full set of correction and editorial tools for the iPad.

There is some hope on the near horizon. It has been reported that sometime in the first half of 2013, Microsoft will release an iPad version of its popular office suite. This application has long been rumored to be coming, but the date always seems to be pushed out as it approaches.   It is presumed by many that the Word track changes and footnote features will be included in this App.  We will report back to you when it is released.


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