Office for iPad tops App Store charts; reviews tepid

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?

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