Microsoft Expands Office for iPad and iPhone Capabilities for Free

Users of Office apps on iPads or iPhones can now create and edit documents at no cost, Microsoft said on Thursday.

Previously, the apps only had document viewing privileges, with users needing an Office 365 subscription to create and edit Office documents on their devices.

It's worth noting that Microsoft didn't distinguish between free use for consumer or commercial users in its announcements on Thursday. However, its Office licensing doesn't permit the use of consumer Office apps for business purposes, as pointed out in a blog post by Wes Miller, an analyst with independent consulting company Directions on Microsoft.

Despite the expanded capabilities announced Thursday, some features are still tied to having an Office 365 subscription. Microsoft describes those capabilities as "premium features," which are listed at this page for Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps. For example, Word users wanting to insert section breaks, set up columns, use customization for headers and footers and track reviewer changes need to have an Office 365 subscription to use those premium features on an iPad or iPhone. Similarly, Excel users lack the ability to customize pivot table styles and "add and modify chart elements" unless they have an Office 365 subscription. PowerPoint users can't check their speaker notes when using the presenter view, among other restrictions.

Another perk for Office 365 subscribers is the coming unlimited OneDrive storage space, which Microsoft announced late last month. Users of the free consumer OneDrive service are limited to 15GB of space.

Microsoft today also released new Office app versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iPads and iPhones, which are available for free via Apple's iTunes preview store. OneNote apps for iPhones and iPads were released late last month. All of these Office apps require iOS 7.1, or later operating system versions, to run. The new apps are available in 29 languages.

In related Apple platform news, Microsoft released Outlook for Mac for Office 365 last month. It's also planning the general availability release of its newest Office for Mac productivity suite in the second half of 2015.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella first unveiled Office for iPad back in March. That release for Apple's platform surprisingly arrived before the touch-based Office for Windows version, which is still under development by Microsoft. However, Microsoft also said Thursday that it is planning a "touch-optimized Office for Windows 10" release, with details to come later. It's not clear when that Office suite will be available, but Windows 10 is expected to be released on new devices in the summer of 2015, according to veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley. Currently, Microsoft offers Mobile Office for Windows Phone devices, but it lacks the ability to create documents, according to this Office devices description page.

Also announced on Thursday was a preview of Office apps for Android tablets. General availability is expected in "early 2015," but Android tablet users can sign up to try the preview now.

Microsoft shows the new Office apps in work on all three platforms in this video.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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