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Using the Latest Microsoft Office Apps on the iPhone and iPad

Jason R. Rich, author of iPad and iPhone Tips and Tricks, Fifth Edition, takes a look at the latest Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote apps for the iPhone and iPad. Now you can easily sync files between your computers and mobile devices, and share Office documents directly from your smartphone or tablet.
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When it comes to work and productivity-related tasks, the gap is shrinking between what you can do with your iPhone or iPad versus your notebook computer. Between the latest functions incorporated into iOS 9 (such as the new Slide Over and Split Screen functions on the iPad), and the latest functionality built into the Microsoft Office for iOS apps, the iPhone and iPad are more viable than ever as work tools.

Since many people work with Microsoft Office applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote on their PC or Mac, it makes sense that these apps should be accessible from mobile devices, providing the same or very similar functionality. The latest versions of the Microsoft Office for iOS apps that are available for the iPhone and iPad offer features and functions similar to those of their computer counterparts, as well as full file and document compatibility. In addition, using the online-based Microsoft OneDrive service, Dropbox, or iCloud Drive, it's easier than ever to sync and share documents and files between computers and mobile devices.

Costs Associated with Using Office for iOS Applications

When you access the App Store from your iPhone or iPad, you'll discover that Microsoft's Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote apps, as well as an optional OneDrive app, are available free. Each app needs to be downloaded and installed separately onto your iPhone or iPad.

The easiest way to find these apps within the App Store is to launch the App Store app and enter the app's title (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and so on) within the Search field. Tap on the Get button, and then enter the password associated with your Apple ID account (or scan your fingerprint with the Touch ID sensor that's built into your device).

With one or more of the Office for iOS apps installed on your iPhone or iPad, launch any of them by tapping on the app's icon that's displayed on your device's Home screen. You will be prompted to sign into the app using your Microsoft account username and password.

Full access to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint requires an active (paid) Office 365 subscription, which ranges in price from $6.99 to $9.99 per month (you can save money with a yearly plan). The Office 365 plan you choose will determine how many computers and mobile devices you can use, on an unlimited basis, with all of the Office apps.

For Outlook and OneNote, you don't need a paid Office 365 subscription, but a free Microsoft OneDrive account is required. If your Microsoft account and OneDrive account use different usernames and passwords, you'll need to sign into each applicable app using both account usernames and passwords for full use of Word, Excel, and/or PowerPoint on your iPhone or iPad.

Until recently, Microsoft OneDrive was needed to back up, sync, and share your Office documents and files, but the mobile apps now support Dropbox and iCloud Drive in addition to OneDrive.

What's New in the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint Apps?

Periodically, Microsoft releases updates to the various Office apps for the iPhone and iPad. These updates typically introduce new features and functions. When used on an iPad, some of the more recent updates include support for the Slide Over and Split Screen features, which allow two apps to run on the tablet simultaneously, making it easy to view, copy, and paste content between apps, for example.

Recent updates have introduced the ability to rename documents and files easily from the Open or Recent screens. You also can open and view Office documents and files that were created on a PC or Mac and have associated password protection. Document and file-sharing options have improved, and the apps offer a greater selection of document or file templates built into each app.

Take Advantage of Office App Add-Ins

The iPad versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint now offer add-ins, which allow you to install additional and optional capabilities for these apps. To utilize this feature, open a new or existing document or file, tap on the Insert tab that's displayed at the top of the screen, and then tap on the Add-Ins icon near the top-right corner of the screen.

The Add-Ins menu window will be displayed. Within this window, tap on the See All option to view a comprehensive listing of all available app-specific add-ins. (This feature requires an Internet connection.) When the Office Add-In window appears, tap on the All tab, and then scroll downward to view listings for your various options.

Following are some of the useful Word add-ins that are available for free:

  • Translator. This tool allows Word to translate text between languages.
  • Wikipedia. This tool offers quick access to Wikimedia articles about topics or keywords that appear within your documents.
  • Symbol Search. Use this tool to find and incorporate symbols and other special characters into your Word documents.
  • DocuSign for Word. In Word, this tool gives you the ability to electronically sign documents (such as letters or contracts) and then send them from within the application. Using your finger or a stylus, simply write on the tablet's screen to incorporate your signature into a document.
  • Bing Dictionary. Use the comprehensive, interactive Bing Dictionary within Word to look up word definitions and related information.
  • Font Finder. Until recently, one drawback to using Word on the iPad was how the app handled unavailable fonts. For example, if a document created on a PC or Mac utilized fonts that weren't installed on the iPad, the Word app automatically replaced the missing font with another available font, which could disrupt formatting and significantly alter the appearance of the document. Using the new Font Finder tool, you can locate and add fonts to Word for iPad, so the app can incorporate the new fonts into documents as needed.

After you install one or more add-ins on your iPad, any of the add-ins can be accessed as you're working within the Office app. To do this, tap on the Insert command tab and then tap on the Add-Ins option. A list of installed add-ins is displayed below the Recently Used Add-Ins heading, or by tapping on the My Add-Ins option.

Some optional add-ins require an Internet connection. Keep in mind that the assortment of optional (and free) add-ins differs for the individual Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps.

Use Your Preferred Online File-Sharing Service

When Microsoft initially released the Office for iOS apps, syncing or sharing documents and files between mobile devices and computers required that they be linked with the same Microsoft OneDrive account. Recently, however, all of the Office 365 apps (for PCs, Macs, and iOS mobile devices) began supporting Dropbox and iCloud Drive in addition to OneDrive.

From the opening screen of the Word, Excel, or PowerPoint mobile app, tap on the account option and sign into your Office 365 account. Under the Connected Services heading, tap on OneDrive and sign into your OneDrive account, or tap on the Add a Service option to select an additional OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, or Dropbox account to use.

From the Open screen of Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, you can choose which connected service you want to access. For example, to access your online-based iCloud account to use iCloud Drive, tap on the More (...) option. Doing this opens the iCloud drive window, from which you can find and/or open a folder containing your saved Office documents and files.

After creating a document or file from scratch using Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, tap on the Save As icon (located in the top-left corner of the screen on the iPad), type a filename for that document or file, and then tap on the More (...) option to access and open iCloud Drive. Tap on the iCloud Drive folder or subfolder where you want to store the document, and then tap on the Save option. That file will then be stored within your online-based iCloud Drive, where it can be accessed from any other Mac, iPhone, or iPad that's linked to the same iCloud account.

Whether you use OneDrive, Dropbox, or an iCloud account to sync and store your Office documents and files, be sure to create a series of separate folders and/or subfolders using that service, so that finding your Office documents and files will be easier, as they'll already be organized. These services also allow you to search by filename or keyword, for example, to find content stored online.

Suppose you're using the PC or Mac version of Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, and you store a document or folder online within your OneDrive, Dropbox, or iCloud Drive account. That document or folder will become available instantly via your Internet-connected iPhone or iPad with the Word, Excel, or PowerPoint app installed. Even if you don't have one of those apps installed, if your device has an app capable of opening, viewing, and/or working with that type of Office-compatible document or file, it will become available via the connected service.

For example, Apple's own Pages, Numbers, and Keynote apps are fully compatible with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, respectively. These apps are offered for free from the App Store. But if you're already accustomed to working with Microsoft Office on your desktop or notebook computer, chances are you'll want to continue working with authentic Office apps on your mobile devices as well.

Final Thoughts

The latest version of the Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote apps for the iPhone and iPad are designed to offer seamless file sharing and syncing with your PC or Mac and your other mobile devices. These apps also offer tools for easy sharing of documents and files with other Office users from directly within each app. This feature makes sharing and collaborating easier than ever from your smartphone or tablet.

For example, while working within Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, tap on the Collaborate icon (displayed near the top-right corner of the screen on the iPad) to access the collaboration tools menu from within the app. You can then invite people to collaborate and share, or send your Office document or file to other people, in the form of an email attachment sent directly from within the Office app you're using.

Jason R. Rich (http://www.jasonrich.com) is the author of Que's iPad and iPhone Tips and Tricks, Fifth Edition, which covers how to use iOS 9 on all of the various iPhone and iPad models, including the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, and iPad Pro. He is also the author of many other Que books, including My Digital Photography for Seniors, My GoPro Hero Camera, and Apple Watch and iPhone Fitness Tips and Tricks. Follow Jason R. Rich on Twitter or Instagram at @JasonRich7.

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