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
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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.
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.
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.