The 7 best alternative iPad apps to MS Office and iWork

by Sean Michael Kerner

February 11 2012

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that it would be bringing native MS Office apps to ARM-based versions of Windows 8. That's exciting news, and we can't wait.

But what about today's needs? For IT departments, office workers, and anyone interested in using their iPad as a productivity tool, the Office-compatible app suite is an essential tool.

The defining Office apps for the iPad are Apple's own Pages, Numbers and Keynote, collectively known as the iWork suite. However, iWork isn't the only alternative for iPad users. Below, in order of preference, TabTimes examines 7 promising alternatives.

Links & Apps

  • 1 Smart Office
    Slide 1
    Smart Office

    Smart Office is a solid choice for basic content needs. It doesn't offer much in the way of formatting and other style options. Oddly, it doesn't seem to be properly optimized for the iPad interface. Includes sync capabilities with Google Docs and Dropbox.

  • 2 OliveOfficeBasicHD
    Slide 2

    For some reason this app stays locked in portrait mode. If you can get past that hurdle, OliveOfficeBasicHD is a practical, workable office suite for viewing existing files. From an access perspective, it uses a browser-based file transfer approach, which works well.

  • 3 Documents to Go
    Slide 3
    Documents to Go

    The basic version of Docs To Go needs to be paired with the desktop version in order to transfer documents, and it also lacks the ability to do presentations. The premium version adds sync options and Powerpoint compatibility. Overall formatting and presentation options are limited, and it doesn’t compare well against other apps that we tested in terms of usability.

  • 4 Documents 2
    Slide 4
    Documents 2

    Even the free version of this program includes Google Docs syncing and browser-based sharing. Unfortunately it seems to be locked in a portrait only mode. Not a bad choice, but the available formatting options are too basic for higher levels of production.

  • 5 Office 2 HD
    Slide 5
    Office 2 HD

    Office 2 HD is a solid complement for those that need full Office suite functionality. One particularly interesting feature it has that Apple's iWork does not is the ability to share files directly between an iPad and your desktop. Provides sync capabilities with Google Docs, Dropbox, myDisk, Box, Alfresco and MobileMe, but not iCloud. From an apps perspective, it's easy to add images to documents, but there is no export to PDF. There are no transition options for the presentation backgrounds.

  • 6 Quickoffice Pro HD
    Slide 6

    This is the single-most expensive alternative, but it's also the most usable in terms of interface and features. Formatting options aren't quite as robust as iWork. As an example, it lacks Keynote's transition options and on the document side, there appears to be no easy way to insert images. Sharing options are easy to use and robust and include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, Yammer, Sildeshare, .docstac and Scribd. Synchronization options include just about every service on the planet except iCloud.

  • 7 CloudOn
    Slide 7

    We've saved the best for last. CloudOn is free, it's usable and it is feature-rich. This app also has the most Microsoft-Office like interface of anything TabTimes tested for this round, right down to the Office Ribbon at the top. Compatibility is excellent, with a nearly complete set of Office 2010 features, including pivot tables in Excel and full PowerPoint mode. One potential flaw: You can only sync via Dropbox.


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