Microsoft Office on your iPad, for free
It’s a deal that sounds too good to be true, but CloudOn does indeed give you the three core programs of Microsoft Office – Word, PowerPoint and Excel – optimised for your iPad. Even better, it doesn’t just let you open files created in these programs, but you can create original ones in-app and then save them to CloudOn alongside the other files in your Dropbox account.
It is worth noting that CloudOn will not work without a Dropbox account, but you can set one up for free on the website. Also, when you create new files within CloudOn, they are also saved to your Dropbox; so you can create a Word file on your daily commute one morning, and then pick up where you left off on your office computer once you’ve arrived.
The sense of heightened productivity is constant when using CloudOn, and this is no doubt owing to the fact that the app has created a direct and seamless (and wireless) link between your desktop and your iPad, enabling you to work on them on both setups without any issue or technical cleverness.
The functionality of CloudOn is pretty straightforward, with a tidy interface that allows you to rearrange the layout of your files by tapping an icon. There are also shortcuts for creating a new document and for accessing the settings and other menu options. Cleverly, the app has directly ported the interface of Microsoft Office, so when you open Word or PowerPoint, you see it how you would on a desktop, which is great for familiarity, and therefore productivity.
CloudOn also has an autosave feature, so if your quick burst of editing is interrupted, everything will have been saved for when you can come back to it.
One other notable aspect of the functionality is the ability to pinch zoom while working on a document. You can still go through the View tab in the formatting bar, but having this optimised feature is a nice touch.
Working in the same format as on a desktop is true to every extent in CloudOn, even when the time comes to make a presentation. Rather than using a PDF viewing setup as other apps like this do, CloudOn presents in full PowerPoint mode, which is definitely impressive. It also means you don’t have to worry about saving your presentation or formatting it in a certain manner so that it works on your tablet.
Interface wise, CloudOn keeps it very simple, with a black background throughout. Although, you can alter the layout of your files within the app, with the choice of a list view, an enlarged icon based setup, or a grid patten that shows you everything in the folder in one go. All of your view choices can be found in the top menu, with tap cycling through your options. It’s a neat, minimal way of doing things that is common throughout CloudOn.
Directly below this menu is the second menu bar, and it’s from here that you can select the type of file you want, as previously mentioned. You can also refresh the menu, so if there is more than one person using the combination of app and Dropbox account at the same time, you can keep on top of what has been uploaded and access the latest drafts if you are file-sharing.
The issue that users will pick up on when using CloudOn is the keyboard lag. There is a slight delay between touching the keys and the letters appearing on screen, and this does make the typing process feel disjointed at times. You might also start to notice how useful Apple’s autocorrect actually is, as when it’s not in use when working in a Word document here, you’ll find having to go back and tweak all those minor typos slightly frustrating.
CloudOn also does not support images, so when it comes to using PowerPoint this works more effectively as an editing or checking tool, rather than a full-blown creator of presentations. You can see images that are in presentations slides, but you’ll be unable to add new images to the slideshow, or indeed open any images that are saved to your Dropbox folder while in CloudOn. But then you can use Track Changes to log the edits you make in Word, so there are still plenty of positives to take from an app that has taken a big step in redefining what is possible in terms of document creation and editing on the iPad.
With a few updates CloudOn has the potential to become the go-to app for anyone looking to transport their home PC to their iPad.
One or two teething problems, but with time this app could become an iPad mainstay.
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