Friday, October 21, 2011

Guest post - Elaine Hirsch - iOS vs. Office

 This week's blog post was created by Elaine Hirsch. Elaine Hirsch is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history, to medicine and video games. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead.
Productivity Programs: iOS vs. Office

     Microsoft Office is the desktop productivity suite familiar to users from elementary school to online PhD programs and used on a daily basis for word processing, spreadsheets, and preparing presentations. However, what happens when you need to make a few edits on the go? Thankfully, Office isn't without competition, and Apple has you covered with apps that perform the same functions as Office on your iOS devices.Word Processing

     One of the best programs available for iOS is the Pages app, which was recently made available for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The document editor offers the ability to change settings for just about anything, including text weight, height, headers, and even editing tables on the fly.

     While it may seem like a hassle to perform these tasks on a small mobile touchscreen, Pages' interface is rather intuitive, so you quickly get used to editing and performing the functions you're used to doing in Microsoft Word. What makes Pages so great to use even on the iPhone is the smart zoom feature, which zooms in on the part of the document you're editing, then zooms out when you're finished so you get a good overview of everything.

The only downside is Pages currently has no syncing options, not even with Apple's new iCloud service. Dropbox support would be nice, but without syncing, files have to be moved manually to the phone using iTunes which can be a hassle.

     Microsoft PowerPoint has long been the default tool for creating presentations, and Apple has tried to mimic and surpass it by making Keynote available for mobile devices. While Keynote does get a lot of things right in terms of being able to create elements from scratch, one problem that does pop up with the iOS version is importing presentations. Images can only be selected from their respective photo albums, and adding audio has to be done by importing a presentation with audio attached, then pasting the audio where you'd like it to go within your presentation.

     For all of its problems, Keynote is a decent presentation editor for people on the go, but the lack of features designed for importing make it an impractical choice for users who want to begin a presentation on their desktops and move to their mobile devices. Microsoft's importing feature goes off without a hitch, and the ability to get started quickly probably makes it a superior program even in the face of Keynote's mobility.

     Although Numbers can now import Excel files, it still fares far worse in our comparison, as
several major design flaws make it nearly impossible to use as a day-to-day spreadsheet editor. The biggest problem is simply that Numbers doesn't support landscape orientation on the iPhone, thus making it very hard to edit spreadsheets with any efficiency. Thankfully the iPad interface is much better, as it supports landscape orientation by default and sports a dedicated undo button instead of the iPhone's annoying shake-to-undo gimmick.

     In terms of how it performs against Microsoft Excel, the editing functions are similar and anyone familiar with one should be able to use the other without issue. Thankfully Numbers does support integration with iCloud, so you can instantly synch spreadsheets on all your devices.

     Overall, Apple's productivity apps are undeniably better than Microsoft Office when it comes to their mobility. However, they're lacking in important areas such as the ability to edit in both landscape and portrait orientations, and in terms of easily importing and synching files. Perhaps with the exception of dedicated iPad users, it's hard to imagine anybody using the iOS productivity suite as a complete alternative to Office. It may not be long, though, before Apple fixes these usability issues and stands a real chance of eclipsing Microsoft's long dominant workhorse software.

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