We’ve always had some way to edit text on the iPad. From the start there was Pages, and although it’s great, for those of us who work with Microsoft Office documents all the time, there are certain features that Pages just doesn’t have. High on that list is the ability to track changes in a Word document, something that lots of people need.
Office2 HD fills that need and more. It’s almost like having the complete Office suite on your iPad, with a few exceptions. Let’s get into it after the jump.
What It Does
Office2 HD is three apps in one. It can handle Microsoft Word files (in both .doc and .docx), Excel files (in .xls and .xlsx) and PowerPoint presentations (in .ppt and .pptx). Not only can you open all these formats, but you can also work on them too, editing and changing them to suit your needs.
I don’t use PowerPoint, so I have no real way to test how useful or not it is in Office2 HD. However, I do use Word and Excel on a daily basis, so most of this discussion will veer towards that direction.
Files Without a File System
The iPad doesn’t use a traditional file system like your computer does, so moving files around and working with them can become a bit difficult. This process isn’t necessarily made easier with Office2 HD, but there are a few workarounds that make it work well enough.
Office2 HD can connect to your Dropbox account, so that’s the first thing I did. I then navigated to the folder that contained the docs I wanted to use, then tapped to open one up. Just like you’d expect, the document appeared right on the screen and I was able to edit it immediately, no problem.
Getting your documents back onto Dropbox however, is a different story. Since you can’t just save right over the doc, you have to save it first to Office2 HD’s Local Files section. From there you can touch the filename and then hit the Open In… button, and open it in Dropbox. This triggers the iPad to switch over to Dropbox, where you’ll see a “Save As” menu. It lets you save the doc to your Dropbox — kind of.
In my tests, the file did save to my Dropbox account in the specified folder, but it appended a (1) to the file name since the file already existed in that location. Had I renamed it, then it would’ve just saved it as is. Point is that it’s not really easy to save things between your Dropbox and Office2 HD, but the ability to access, edit and then export to Dropbox at all is pretty sweet.
Working With Word
If you have to work with a word processor, Pages will do just fine. But some jobs require you to have the Track Changes feature turned on, something which is very Microsoft Word-centric. I had never experienced this myself until just recently, when a client told me that it had to be done or else the job wouldn’t be accepted. I hate using Word on the Mac, so Office2 HD became my next best option.
To turn on the Track Changes feature, I went to the wrench in the upper right corner of the screen, then to Track Changes. After flipping the switch to “On,” I could then tweak a few settings and call it good to go. As soon as I started changing things around, those little windows popped up to the side, indicating that these changes were recorded. I even tested the file on my Mac, and sure enough, they all showed up.
Otherwise, working with Microsoft Word files in Office2 HD is just like working with any other word processor. There really aren’t any special bells and whistles to talk about, it just works and works well.
Excel and Spreadsheets
I use spreadsheets all the time, but I use Numbers because it’s pretty and it works really well for my needs. Again, some clients prefer (or require) Excel, so that’s what I have to use.
For testing purposes this time around, I pulled up a few Excel files in both .xlsx and .xls formats, no problems at all. Adding items into cells though, that was a little bit trickier.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m so used to using Numbers or if Excel is just that much different on the PC, but I kept trying to enter in text or numbers into the cells themselves, when I should’ve been filling in the box at the top of the screen. It was a bit counterintuitive for me, and I’m not sure if that’s down to the app being more PC-centric, or me just being slow at that particular moment, but it was a bit of an issue. Once that mind block was figured out, I was able to work with the spreadsheet the same as I would on my Mac. It’s about as 1-to-1 as you can get.
The UI on this app isn’t pretty. That’s not to say that it’s ugly, because it’s not. It’s just not very attractive though, in a passable but not show worthy sense. The icon is probably the best example of that, as it’s something you don’t necessarily want on your home screen.
But Office isn’t about being pretty, it’s about working, and that’s what Office2 HD does: it works. I never had it crash, nor did I have a problem saving docs. There was always an option, and it always worked.
OK, so it’s not pretty, but it works and works really well. It’s the only app you’d need to have a mobile office loaded with the Office Suite, and it’s all on your iPad. For some, that’s all they need to hear and it’s a done deal.
Here’s the way I use it: I like the app because of its functionality, but since it is so close to Microsoft Word and Excel in looks and usage, it’s not the one I’ll go to for initial drafts. Instead, Office2 HD is more about working with existing documents, not for making things fresh. That’s not to say that you couldn’t, but from my perspective, there are a lot better spreadsheet and text editors out there that look and function just as well.