Assessing options for running Office on your tablet
by Alan Zisman (c) 2012
published in Business in
Vancouver May 15-22, 2012 Issue #1177 High Tech
Office column; reposted on LowEndMac.com as: 3 Ways to Use Microsoft Office
on Your iPad
Popular wisdom holds that a tech device needs to run Microsoft Office
in order to be successful with business users.
There are no versions of Microsoft Office designed to run on tablets
like Apple's iPad or Android-powered models; despite this, business
users are buying lots of tablets - especially iPads. While lacking
Microsoft's seal of approval, there are many iPad and Android apps to
view Microsoft Office documents on tablets with several (including
QuickOffice, Documents to Go, and Apple's iWorks apps for iPad)
allowing editing of existing documents.
If you really want to, though, there are ways to run "real" Microsoft
Office on iPads and other tablets. Here are a few:
You can remotely access a "real" computer - Windows or Mac - with any
of a variety of remote access services, opening Office (or other
applications), opening saved documents, and making changes as needed,
all on your tablet screen. I like the free
LogMeIn service, which does not require complex set up or poking
holes in firewalls - a practice that's (with reason) frowned on by IT
Nice feature: Remote access gives you access to any document or program
that you can open or run on your "real" computer. Less nice:
Controlling the larger screen of your "real" computer using fingertips
on a smaller tablet screen is awkward.
Online service OnLive offers broadband access to PC games streamed from
OnLive's servers, playable on non-PC devices. This winter, they
expanded on this technology, offering OnLive Desktop,
which provides access to a Windows desktop complete with Microsoft
Office 2010 to iPad and Android tablet users.
Free accounts get a stripped-down version of Windows with the Office
applications, Internet Explorer, and not much else. No Control Panel or
ability to add additional applications. Need to type? OnLive sessions
make use of Windows' touch features - including onscreen keyboard -
rather than native iPad controls.
Free accounts also get 2 GB of online storage. In order to edit an
existing document, it first needs to be uploaded from a users' PC or
Mac - more storage and additional features (including support for Flash
animations and popular online storage service Dropbox) are available
with paid accounts, starting at $5/month.
The miracle is that it works as well as it does. The problems, however,
include (again) the awkwardness of controlling a full desktop system
with fingertips on a tablet. As well, the OnLive Desktop system is
completely independent from the tablet it's running on. Want to check
your email on your iPad? You'll have to log back into OnLive Desktop.
Want to copy and paste information from that open Word document to an
email message? Sorry, you can't.
CloudOn (iPad only) tries to do less than OnLive
Desktop: While OnLive offers a full Windows desktop, a free account and
app from CloudOn just lets you run Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Adobe
Reader fullscreen. In this case, though, doing less may mean doing
Not having a miniaturized Windows start menu makes opening the
applications easier, as does having the applications running full
screen. CloudOn rearranges the Office apps' Ribbon Bar icons to make
them more finger-friendly and uses the native iPad virtual keyboard.
CloudOn supports cloud file-storage services Dropbox and Box.com, as
well as Google's new Google Drive (which integrates with Google Docs).
Many users already have files stored on one or another of these
Google does not yet offer Google Docs editing on the iPad; with
CloudOn, Google Docs files now can be edited on an iPad in the more
powerful Microsoft Office applications. CloudOn suffers, however, from
the same disconnect from the rest of the iPad's system as OnLive
Desktop. Still, I find it the best way to run the Microsoft Office
suite on my iPad.
All of these ways of using Microsoft Office on a tablet require
broadband Internet and will work slower with 3G mobile access than with
WiFi; I haven't tested them with the faster LTE available on new iPads
(or Android tablets), but that should be an improvement.