CloudOn 3Microsoft has been hinting at the possibility of bringing its suite of productivity applications to iOS for a long time now. We’ve heard that Microsoft may bring Office to the iPad next fall. We’ve heard that the software giant is holding out until Apple agrees to take a smaller cut of the profits. What we haven’t heard is that Microsoft is officially bringing Office to iOS in its full capacity.

Most of us have figured out workarounds that make it possible to access Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents on our iPad or iPhone. But nothing will beat the original. If it ever happens.

CloudOn is a universal app that brings Microsoft Office to your iPhone or iPad. CloudOn lets you manage your cloud-based files, plus edit, create, and present Microsoft Office documents.  That’s right. You can now use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on iOS…

Design

Once you’ve either created an account or logged into your preexisting CloudOn account, you will see a list of cloud services that are compatible with the app. You can connect your Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, or Box account. Once connected, you can see files from all accounts in one location. If this were the only thing the app could do, it would be worth the download just for its convenience.

You can view Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, as well as PDFs, JPGs, PGNs, and GIFs. Currently, Apple’s Pages files are not compatible with CloudOn.

If you select an editable file, you can open it in a replicated version of one of Microsoft’s Office applications. For example, if you open a .docx file, it will display the document with Word’s familiar settings and controls, including font adjustments, paragraph alignments, Style, Insert, Text and Symbols, Page Layout, and more. You can even track changes and restrict editing options.

You can also create new files. Create and save new Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents that you can start working on in the app and then finish on your desktop.

The user interface is very intuitive. You can easily back out of a section by tapping the back arrow or the “Home” icon. There are three icons at the top of the screen that represent the main uses of the app. The “Views” section lets you change the way you view files be either workflow, icons, or lists. The “Status” icon lets you view your profile and change your password. The “Applications” section lets you start a new file.

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App Use

After you have connected all of your cloud-based files from the compatible services, select a file that you want to edit. If it is a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document, you can use it almost exactly like you would one of Microsoft’s Office applications.

If you are editing a Word document you will be able to access font options, paragraph alignments, text styles, references, and more. In PowerPoint, you can add text, insert clipart, adjust themes, or create a slideshow. The Excel program lets you format cells, including inputting formulas, creating data sets, and basically everything else that the full application can do.

All changes are automatically saved to the cloud storage you are currently using. So, if you have to stop working suddenly, you won’t lose your changes.

If you want to create a new file from scratch, you can tap the Applications icon and select from Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. All files can be saved to your cloud storage and accessed from your desktop computer, or other iOS device running CloudOn. For that matter, the file can be accessed from anywhere the cloud service is available. For example, you can start a Word file in CloudOn and grab it from Dropbox on any computer or mobile device in order to continue working on it.

PDFs, JPGs, and PGNs can be viewed as full files. Large JPG files are difficult to manipulate, so be sure to decrease their size before saving them in the cloud.

You can also cut, copy, rename and delete documents and folders. If you want to share your file with others, you can either email it to them, or copy a link and send the link address through email.

The Good

You have access to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and a limited version of Adobe reader on iOS with CloudOn. Everything you need to create, edit, and save documents is available here. All you need is a cloud storage service, like Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive, or Box. Files are easily accessible and automatically saved in your cloud application so you never have to worry about losing changes. The best part is that you can create new Office files that can be edited later from any compatible device.

The Bad

This app lags so bad that it is almost not even worth downloading. I had a difficult time editing any of my files. Every movement on my third-generation iPad and my iPhone 5 happened at least a full second later than my gesture. It was absolutely impossible to use a Bluetooth keyboard. In Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, any time I tried to type using my iPad Bluetooth keyboard case, nothing happened on the screen. Or worse, sometimes, letters would “take off” and suddenly I’d have two lines worth of “MMMM.”

Some serious work needs to be done to get the Office applications in working order. The only reason it is not a complete waste of time is that you can create and edit Office documents with full-featured Microsoft applications.

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Value

This app is free to download and the value is immeasurable for anyone looking to access Microsoft’s full productivity suite inside their iPhone or iPad. Even if you don’t ever want to create or edit Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents from your iOS device, the fact that you can manage multiple cloud storage services in one location makes it worth downloading.

Conclusion

I’d like to say that everyone should download CloudOn because it brings Microsoft Office to iOS. However, the lag is excruciatingly bad and it makes the productivity applications practically useless for anyone trying to actually create or edit a document. However, this app does offer full access to Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, even if it performs poorly. If Microsoft isn’t going to do it, someone has to. Plus, the ability to manage multiple cloud storage services in a single app is not a bad feature.  You can pick it up for free in the app store today.