The Lawyer’s Toolbox: MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint on the iPad

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In late March of 2014, Microsoft released its long awaited Word, Excel and PowerPoint Apps for the iPad. OneNote had already been released several months before. I have been using all of them since the introduction and have generally been impressed. The Windows 8 versions of this same software, with the exception of OneNote, are not touch screen optimized. The iPad versions on the other hand were designed from the ground up for touch screens and visually are works of art.   The irony is that the Word experience on the iPad is actually superior to the Word experience on Microsoft’s own Surface Pro.

The Office Apps are free to download (Word Excel PowerPoint OneNote), and as of the date of this post they have been downloaded over 30 million times. The catch is that unless you upgrade to an Office 365 subscription, you can only view documents—there is no editing capability.   The least expensive subscription option is a “personal” account, which costs $7 per month or $70 for 12 months paid in advance. This buys you use of the apps on both the iPad and one computer (PC or Mac), Plus 20GB of cloud storage through Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud service.

I purchased the “home” subscription which allows you to use the software on five computers (PC or Mac) and up to five tablets, with 20GB of cloud storage for each user. The cost for this option is $10 per month or $100 if you pay in advance for the full 12 months. I am running the apps on my iPad, a Mac, an Asus Windows 8 tablet and a laptop.

The advantage to the subscription model is that you always have the latest version of the software, you can use the software on multiple devices, and you have a respectable amount of cloud storage capability. The downside is that you do not own the software and must pay tribute to Microsoft every year.

Word for iPad

This is the opening screen for Word on the iPad. As you can see there are a number of eye catching templates available in addition to the blank document.

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Here is a view of an open document:

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Most of the core Word functions are available. Here are a few key exceptions:

There is continual spell checking, but no grammar check.

  • You can view, but not update footnotes and end notes.
  • YES- You can you can review and edit using track changes. However, there does not appear to be any way to insert comments.

Now you start a document in the office, work on it on your iPad while travelling and then finish it up on you home computer. OneDrive allows you to have a common secure storage place for your working documents. Once you have created you document you can save it to OneDrive, Email as an attachment, or email as a link to your OneDrive.  [Update: Email as PDF feature added with July 31, 2014 update]

Excel for iPad

Like Word, Microsoft packed the most important functions of its PC version of Excel into a attractive, touch enabled iPad version.   Over 400 formulas are available.   Creating charts and reports will be intuitive for experienced Excel users.

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There are some limitations and the following features are NOT supported for Excel on the iPad:

  • Split and multiple windows
  • Slicers data sorting and filtering
  • Timeline data sorting and filtering
  • Adding or updating conditional formatting
  • Adding or updating data validation
  • Adding, updating, sorting or filtering pivot tables
  • Running macros
  • Updating with external data
  • Adding or updating comments (but can view)

On the more positive side there are a number of preformatted templates:

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All in all, Excel for the iPad has most of the functionality that most lawyers will need on a regular basis.

PowerPoint

PowerPoint for iPad is the most disappointing of the three core iPad apps in the Office Suite. While it will allow you to display your PowerPoint presentations created in Windows, including animations, the tools for creating new PowerPoint presentations or editing existing ones are fairly limited. The following Windows version features are NOT available in the iPad version:

  • Playing, adding or changing video.  [Update this feature was added July 31, 2014]
  • Playing, adding or changing audio.   [Update this feature was added July 31, 2014]
  • Adding or changing animations (but will play existing ones).
  • Adding, removing or changing comments

If you need to create a PowerPoint presentation on the iPad a number of basic templates are available:

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Here is what the creation screen looks like:

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I prefer Apple’s Keynote to PowerPoint for iPad for presentation creation— especially since I tend to add audio, video and animations. But if you simply want to use a created PowerPoint (without video or audio) on the iPad, the PowerPoint iPad app will serve you well.

Overall Conclusion —while not perfect, the addition of the Office suite to the available iPad apps makes the iPad even more useable for legal work. Recommended.


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