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Microsoft goes freemium with Office for iPad, requires subscription to create and edit docs

We’ve been waiting a number of years for Microsoft to release a version of Office for the iPad, but it has never been absolutely certain the project would see the light of day. However, today, at an event in San Francisco hosted by new CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has finally made it all official. Office for iPad is here, finally bringing Word, PowerPoint and Excel to Apple tablets everywhere.

Visit the iTunes App Store right now, and you’ll find the three apps mentioned above, plus OneNote for iPad, all available separately for download. Each is free, but Microsoft has adopted a freemium style payment model for its suite of Office apps. The free versions are basic. They allow you to view and read your saved documents, all of which can be grabbed from the cloud using your OneDrive or SharePoint account. If you don’t want to do that, you can just save your documents onto the iPad itself.

If you want to actually do things with your documents, you’ll need to pay for an Office 365 Home subscription. Using an in-app purchase, this is going to set you back $100, which will be due again a year later. Once you’ve paid up, new documents can be created, and existing ones edited. If you don’t want to pay without giving it all a try first, then Microsoft is providing a 30-day trial of Office 365. Handily, it’s an all-encompassing trial, so you can see how Office for iPad performs when syncing with Office software on your other devices.

All the usual Office fun, on your iPad

How do all the familiar Office apps look on Apple’s tablet? They look great. Microsoft’s Julia White gave an extensive, rapid-fire demonstration of the app’s abilities on stage, showing off the minimalist interface to good effect. Microsoft has made sure users coming from the desktop feel at home, incorporating the Ribbon layout, and a Home button to access standard features. In Word, you’ll find text editing, images, and formatting options, while in Excel, there are filters, equations, and sums. In other words, the apps include everything you’d expect. The key difference is they have all been adapted for touch use. 

Microsoft made a big deal about Office for iPad’s integration with the cloud. Documents stored in OneDrive or SharePoint can be accessed, and alterations are saved as you work. It’s possible to collaborate on documents with other people, through OneDrive, and more than one person can work on a single document at a time. 

Keen to try them out? The apps are live in the U.S. App Store now, but are taking a while to spread out to other countries. The only requirement is your iPad must be running iOS 7, so if you haven’t updated recently, you’ll need to do so. It also shuts out owners of the original iPad. We’re already using the Office suite on our iPads now, so look out for a review coming soon.