The iPad Finally Has Its Own Unified Microsoft Office App

The iPad Finally Has Its Own Unified Microsoft Office App
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

If you like using the iPad to work on the go, there’s good news. Microsoft’s updated its mobile Office app and it’s finally optimised for the iPad.

The new update means you can now use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint from a single app. Technically, you could use the programs before. In 2014, Microsoft added three individual apps to the App Store for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Then about a year ago, Microsoft rolled out a unified mobile app for iOS and Android. You could use that app on the iPad, but it would run as a windowed version of the iPhone app. Now, in the year of our lord 2021, you can finally download a single, iPad-optimised Office app that combines Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

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The new iPad app also has some additional tools for mobile work, including a way to quickly create and sign PDFs (with an Apple Pencil, if you choose). Another highlighted feature is the ability to turn pictures into editable Word or Excel files. The app is free to use, but it does require a Microsoft 365 subscription if you want to use the sharing and collaboration features. Meanwhile, iPad Pro users still need to have a paid subscription to even do anything at all. However, if a unified Office app isn’t really your jam, for now, you can still download and use the individual Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps.

This is, incidentally, good news for Apple too. In recent years, Apple’s been pushing the iPad as a work device that could potentially supplant a laptop. This is especially true with the iPad Pro, which now has trackpad and mouse support, and if you splurge on the new $499 Magic Keyboard. But even with fancy new accessories, the main problem for most folks is the gap between iPad OS and macOS apps (and hell, even iOS apps). A lot of times you end up working off windowed iPhone apps — like the Office app before today’s update — or reaching for your laptop’s more full-featured versions. Considering how many folks rely on Microsoft Office, having an iPad-optimised version of the software makes it a more compelling work device. Though, let’s be real, the iPad will always be better for consuming media.