CloudOn for iOS review: use Microsoft Office on your iPhone and iPad

By , May 1, 2013

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.

CloudOn 1

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.

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  • Faisal Mahmood

    OnLive Desktop app for iPad is way much better than this.

    • Mohammed Sahib

      My thoughts exactly.

      • Mamta

        Hi, can u suggest me a good app to create word files in ipad. Cloud on doesn’t work for me. I could not find onlive desktop app in apple store

      • Mohammed Sahib

        Try quickoffice. Free. All mobile office apps offer basic functionality AFAIK and can’t be compared to desktop apps.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rafaelmelo2000 Rafael Melo

    You wrote that it has a lag, that is true, but considering its price (totally free) and its competitors (Smart Office and Docs to Go) which are not as versatile as CloudOn because both lack of buttons; this IS the best Office Suite app available in the AppStore!
    I love it, even though version before the current one was better. This app makes anybody’s day!!

    • lorygil

      I agree that full access to MS Office makes this app worth downloading. But, I wouldn’t be a good app reviewer if I just skipped over the part about it having serious lag issues.

  • http://twitter.com/aidanharris1 ✪ aidan harris ✪

    It would be good to see an entire article on apps like these comparing their advantages and disadvantages. I have a VNC server setup on my home computer of course the main disadvantages of that are a) my pc has to always be on and b) port forwarding and firewall tweaks to allow for remote access may weaken my systems security. If I can find a good cloud based system like the one mentioned in this article I would gladly switch to it…

    • pegger1

      QuickOffice Pro HD for iPad lets you create and edit all office documents. Unlike CloudOn doesn’t need internet connectivity to run. It can save files locally on the device. But it also has the ability to save to cloud storage.

      For remote access there apps like TeamViewer but it needs to be installed on the PC as well. Or any of the many remote desktop apps (I like “2XClient”). But you need to setup the router with port forwarding. You can also change the default port used for remote desktop, which adds a bit more security.

      • http://twitter.com/aidanharris1 ✪ aidan harris ✪

        I don’t mind offline apps in fact I have and do use Pages. The problem is most apps (at least Pages is) are woeful at keeping complex formatting in a .docx file, hence the need to look for a cloud based system rather than an offline app although I’ll be sure to check out the aforementioned apps

      • Spatra07

        AstralPad is another free Cloud Office app alternative.

  • Bob

    Cloud services like this are terrible, don’t work well and rely constantly on a internet connection. Too much lag for me. If you want to edit word/excel/powerpoint documents get the Apple alternatives Pages, Number & Keynote or look for superior products.

  • http://twitter.com/andrewr727 Andrew Roth

    Yay! You used my suggestion. :-D

  • asdlb4

    Did something change? CloudOn has been around for a long time.

  • Dave

    I use Documents to Go with Dropbox and have full access to all my docs, spreadsheets etc. Seamlessly.

  • http://twitter.com/AskCloudOn CloudOn Support

    Hi Lory, would you be willing to talk to us further? We would love to set up a call with you if you have the time so that we can gather some additional direct feedback from you. Please let us know if that would be possible and if so what time would work best for you. You can reach us at help@cloudon.com – thanks!

    • lorygil

      Sure. Nothing beats direct communication from a developer. I’ll let everyone know what I find out.