Microsoft Office makes its long-rumored debut on iPad

An iPad version of Microsoft Office is available starting today through the iTunes Store. 

The iPad version of Microsoft's Office.

Microsoft has confirmed it will finally produce an iPad version of its Office software suite. 

At a press event today, new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the iOS Office, which is available starting today, was the "beginning of exploration for us." The app is free to download through the iTunes Store, and includes the ability to read and view documents and spreadsheets. To actually get your hands dirty and edit those items, you'll have to sign up for one of the various Office 365 premium plans, which start at $9.99 a month, or $99.99 a year. 

"[T]his isn’t simply Office on another device," Microsoft's John Case wrote in a post on the company blog. "We thought a lot about what people want to do when they’re on their tablet, iPad functionality, and touch-first when we were building Office for iPad. We reimagined Office on the iPad, while retaining what people love about Office. We hope you’ll be as pleased with the results as we are." Mr. Case has posted a run-down of some of the new features here

This is obviously pretty big news for iPad users who have been waiting for years for a good iOS word processor. (Which isn't to say there aren't iOS word processors – there are – but for scribblers and spreadsheets accustomed to the Office interface, they can feel like a step down.) 

But how does the new software handle? Well, over at PC World, Mark Hachman is impressed with what he sees, from the touch-centric spreadsheeting features to the word processor. 

"Working with text in Office for iPad should be intuitive to anyone who has used iOS: Tapping once on a word moves the cursor to that location; tapping twice creates a series of slider bars to highlight a block of text," Mr. Hachman writes. "Pressing and releasing brings up a set of options to select or insert text." 

And Ed Bott of ZDNet says the software "sets the gold standard for tablet productivity." 

"What’s fascinating about Office for the iPad is how it leapfrogs Microsoft’s Windows tablets," Mr. Bott writes. "On Windows 8 and Windows RT devices, Office is still a desktop app with some grudging interface tweaks designed to ease the pain of using an app without a mouse. Anyone who owns a Surface RT is likely to look enviously at these iPad apps." 

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