Office for iPad tops App Store charts; reviews tepid

Office for iPad tops App Store charts; reviews tepid

Summary: After its opening weekend Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint have climbed to the top of the App Store's free chart, signaling a huge pent up demand. A closer look at the early reviews reveal a lukewarm response.

Office for iPad tops App Store charts; reviews tepid - Jason O'Grady

Microsoft had a heck of an opening weekend on the App Store.

Its iPad versions of WordExcel, and PowerPoint catapulted to the top of the free app charts just four days after launching on Thursday, March 27.

For a time Microsoft held the top four free app slots – with OneNote for iPad in fourth – but as of this writing the popular game Boom Beach jumped into fourth position, leapfrogging OneNote and bumping it down one slot to number five.

iPad users have been clamoring for a real Office solution since the wildly successful tablet hit the market in 2010. Microsoft kept its venerable Office apps exclusive to the Surface platform for almost two years but Redmond finally acquiesced and released the apps for iOS. 

Microsoft hasn't published download numbers, but Word has 1,900 reviews and Excel and PowerPoint have 800+ each on the App Store - and they're not great. 

Bearing in mind that more people tend to post reviews when they're dissatisfied than not, the App Store reviews still tell an interesting story. Initially, I would have wagered that Word and Excel's mediocre, three-star reviews were because of Microsoft's decision to rent the apps rather than sell them, but users are upset for a multitude of reasons. 

One of the biggest complaints in the reviews is about Office for iPad's lack of file storage options. Not surprisingly, DropBox and Google Drive functionality didn't make the cut, but many users have embraced the popular file sharing services and have built iPad workflows around them. Naturally, Microsoft only supports file storage on Office 365 which requires a subscription. But would it have killed them to include Dropbox?

Others complain about the lack of printing, a huge sticking point that isn't limited to free version. Even Office 365 subscribers can't print their Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents from the iPad. Another is the inabilty to save documents in PDF format and the lack of basic grammar checking. Others complain about the slow download and opening times for anything larger than a trivial file and the relatively large sizes of the apps. 

On my iPad mini Retina the Office apps weigh in at:

  • Word – 459 MB
  • Excel – 433 MB
  • PowerPoint – 643 MB

Their Apple counterparts have slightly smaller footprints by comparison:

  • Pages – 372MB
  • Numbers – 368MB
  • Keynote – 538MB

(via Settings > General > Usage)

Sure, reviews are hardly objective and they only represent a small portion of the overall population (many users are thrilled to finally have access to the apps), it must be troubling to Redmond that Word and Excel can only muster an average of three-stars after opening weekend. 

Update 2014-0214: I mistakenly wrote that Word for iPad lacked spell checking. Word does, in fact contains basic spell checking and I've corrected the error in my post. 

What's your Office for iPad review?

Topics: Apple, iOS, iPad, Microsoft, Tablets

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  • What?

    "Naturally, Microsoft only supports file storage on Office 365 which requires a subscription. "

    No, that isn't even close to the case. The file system is OneDrive, which is free. Also, any one you use while online will be cached to be used offline.
    Michael Alan Goff
    • But...

      ". . . . which requires a subscription. But would it have killed them to include Dropbox?"

      Bit this is an iPad. So more to the point, would it have killed them to include iCloud.
      Henry 3 Dogg
      • Coming

        MS has already said that updates, including file storage options, are coming and that the product will cont. to be enhanced.
        Rann Xeroxx
  • Lukewarm response

    Proves the point that most iPad users are dumb and don't understand or incapable of understanding serious technology. They are more used to playing fart apps.
    • You didn't really read the article, did you?

      The missing features, particularly printing and save as PDF, are not unreasonable things to want from the application.

      I am sure those capabilities will come in time (minimum viable product is always a good launch rule), but users are not wrong to ding them for it.
      • You didn't just try and reason with Owl

        Did you?
        You'd have more luck asking a cat to stop licking it's rear end.
  • Typical ZDNet spin

    Always bashing MS on ZDnet, the spin and lack of facts is amazing. I'm convinced Apple owns ZDNet at this point, or the writers are simply on a mission to protect their lovechild OS. The other commenter is right, One Drive is Microsoft's FREE cross platform file sharing and is superior to Dropbox, and the ipad cant' print because ipads can't print...if you want to be able to print to most printers in the world, get a Windows tablet. Why do you think there are no USB ports on an ipad? because if they included them, nothing you plugged in to it would work. These are apple/ipad limitations. If anything, the release of Office for ipad is going to save this toy of a product's lifespan. Now all the people who bought ipads and realized they can't do much but play games and watch movies will be able to get some real work done too. Soon apple will have an iWatch and the iPad will be another obsolete itoy if it weren't for useful apps like these. Remember how everyone needed an iPod? where are they now? Made obsolete by iPhone. So I'm not surprised that there are people downloading free office apps and mad they can't print. They are mad they spent $600 on a toy. Complain to Apple.
    • Actually iPads can print

      hence the complaints. iPads, and most of the document creating apps on them, can print via AirPrint.
      • Print isn't a limit of the Office Apps, but a limit of iOS

        The point is, not everyone has an AirPrint device, therefore not everyone can print from their iPad. So, why should an App, such as Word get dinged for that? If you can't print from the iPad, you can't suddenly be able to print from Word. I can print at my office with my iPhone, but not at home, because my home printer doesn't support AirPrint. Should I blame the application I'm using when I'm at home? Everything else can print to it, such as my kid's tablet running Windows 8.1, just not my iPhone or our iPads.
        • But Office should still support AirPrint

          Having some printing capabilities is better than not having any. My guess is that it is coming, but wasn't a "dealbreaker" in getting it out if it wasn't ready. Microsoft probably felt they had waited long enough and needed to get it out even it meant releasing an incomplete product.
          • If it helps

            From what I've read the print support is one of the things Microsoft has said they will work to add to the apps.
            Sam Wagner
        • Neither is the absense of mouse support with ...

          ... iOS.
          M Wagner
          • Neither is the absence of paper take support with ...

            ... MS Office
            Henry 3 Dogg
      • Printing

        Microsoft already said that the ability to print is coming....
      • Why are these apps limited to AirPrint

        That seems rather limited. Why not print to any shared printer on a local LAN or connected to the device?
        Rann Xeroxx
        • Ipad users who print already have a printer that support AirPrint !

          Many IPpad / Iphone users who want to print already have a printer that support AirPrint.

          This include me.

          Looking forward to updates to Office 365 for Ipad.

          PS: I love the guided help using Excel on Ipad. This is great an much better than any other office product I have seen on tables and smartphones.
    • ??? Apple probably wants Office to do well

      After all, they get $30 from every subscription that is sold from within the apps. Plus, it is validation that the iPad is a true productivity device.

      Scratch the surface of the reviews, and you'll see that there are plenty of 5 star reviews, and plenty of 1 star reviews. The 1 star reviews are mostly complaining about the subscription model. Microsoft needs to do a better job explaining the value proposition, and/or accommodating those users who may already have Office licenses (non-365) who don't want to sign up for a subscription at $100/year simply to add edit capabilities to their iPads.
      • Yeah and putting chrome rims on a Chevy Volt makes is a sports car

        or more appropriately, hooking up a blue tooth controller to a phone and pushing the display to a television doesn't make your phone a true console gaming system by most definitions.

        The iPad is still a consumer device that runs an operating system designed to power phones and media players.
        • Well, whatever you believe it to be

          is not necessarily how the people who own it or deploy it believe it to be.

          My wife's work uses them as mobile clipboards for inventory and inspection. They have an entire fleet of them, and they're not regarded in that company as either being "consumer oriented" or "media players" (except for some streaming content they have on their Intranet.)

          They appear to serve them in that capacity at least as well as those who regard them as giant iPods.

          I would expect them to be a likely candidate for adding Office to them.