Spoiler Alert!This app falls in the pretty good category. Ironically, Apple finally released a version of iWorks that supports iDisk, the night before this release was posted. The update looks like a game changer at first glance, and I will be reviewing it soon. However, if you work with Office files, you may still discover Office2 HD suits your needs better than Pages. It remains my word processor of choice, although I will be giving Pages a longer look.
Why do I spend so much time writing about word processors? Because I spend so much time writing and I’m always looking for the best word processor available to do the tasks I need to be done.
I will also add that most professionals who use the iPad for their professional work are likely to be either writers or artists, and artists will probably use it for sketches and basic work before finishing their jobs on their Macs. The iPad is a pain for HTML coding because no single app can replace Dreamweaver or even a basic HTML editor with ftp capabilities (at least not that I’ve seen so far). Forget video development, at least for anything more important than your kids’ birthday parties. Spreadsheets and databases can be checked on the iPad but forget developing them.
So when Apple touts the iPad for professionals, they really mean professional writers.
That’s not so bad. It’s pretty much where the Mac was back in 1984. And I hope it never evolves into another powerful desktop computer like the Mac did because we have too many of those already. But you can write all day long on an iPad as long as you have a good word processor.
You can write a book of poems. You can even make them rhyme. You can write a novel. You can ask forgiveness and grovel. You can write with power. You can write in the shower. You can write the news. You can write like Dr. Suess. You can whine and grumble or you can simply ramble on and on until you realize your readers want to get on with the review.
Let’s do that.
When I took the blog offline for a couple of weeks I had decided to switch from Pages to Quickoffice because of it’s powerful file managreement capabilities. It had some major downsides (no graphic support, no style sheets, no external keyboard support) but it was cool and it worked.
I think I mentioned that I had played with Office2 HD but decided to pass. It turns out I didn’t look closely enough. Office2 HD looks plain next to Documents to Go and QuickOffice, but once I went back and explored it again I realized it was, hands down, the best Office based word processor on the iPad.
This was pure serendipity and I have to thank Carol. She’s not fond of Pages’ flat file management and having to exchange drafts by email either. So when I told her I was switching to Quickoffice, she found the copy of Office2 HD that I had downloaded to my old iPad (her hand me down iPad with no 3G) when it was first released and assumed that was the program I meant.
I won’t get into the details but by the time I realized why her descriptions of Quickoffice didn’t match my descriptions of Quickoffice, I also discovered that I had made a big mistake abandoning it to the back pages of my iPad.
It may not be as cool as Pages, but it’s far more functional. It may not be as pretty or slick as Quickoffice, but it does more. And, with the exception of style sheet support, it does everything I could ask of it.
Simple but powerful
The interface doesn’t get much more bare bones than Office2 HD. Black and white icons on a black menu bar, no fancier icons than file folders and less than a handful of colors. The most eyecatching element is the text selector rollbar. File management and navigation is a little kludgy, but you can definitely create and organize nested folders on your iPad and online server and you can transfer files wirelessly over the network. But there are some other big bonuses as well.
Decent graphics support
Office2 HD is the only Office based app I’ve seen for the iPad that consistently supports graphics. It’s hard to notice because you have to slide the menu bar all the way to the right to find the entire command set, which is easy to forget when you don’t use the app for a while or don’t want to scour the almost endless pages of online documents. But you can import graphics, align and resize them.
Office HD imports graphics and recognizes graphics imbedded
in files imported from your desktop computer.
Office2 HD won’t recognize graphics from email files any better than its competitors, but it will recognize graphics embedded in .docx files (not the older .doc files) imported from the Mac and PC. I went back to Documents to Go and Quickoffice to double check again, and Quickoffice definitely doesn’t recognize graphics and Documents to Go only seems to recognize .jpg files. Gif files are only read as gray squares.
No one seems to be able to import graphics from .doc files, even Office2 HD, so you will need to convert your older Word files before you port them to your iPad.
You can do a little more with graphics in Pages, but Pages graphics can also behave unpredictably until you’re used to them.
Full keyboard support (well, except for command keys)
Office2 HD also fully suports both external keyboards (with the exception of some important command keys). You can use the arrow keys to jump to any point in the document and to select text as well.
If you don’t use a keyboard this isn’t an issue, but in my experience if you do a lot of typing sooner or later you are going to want to type with a keyboard. The virtual keyboard is great but switching back and forth between layouts can be a hassle and cuts down on typing speed.
Office2 HD also supports most Mac command keys, such as copy and paste. The most notable exception, however, is the essential Command+Z (undo). You have to scroll through the rolling menu to find undo, which is a pain in itself.
Hopefully, future updates with fix this.
Full file management
Flat file management is the biggest drawback to Pages. If you are only keeping on top of one or two files, Pages is perfectly adequate. But when you need to manage and organize dozens of files, not to mention back them up, any of the Office based word processors is a better choice. They all allow you to create nested folders and move files to iDisk or any other online storage service.
Office HD supports full file management capabilities,
including nested folders on your iPad.
You can move or copy files to any other folder or server.
Office2 HD goes a step further by allowing you to connect wirelessly to your folder from your home computer. You don’t need a secondary app running in the background, you can connect to the folder as though it were a networked drive. Nor do you need to maintain a local folder on your hard drive for the secondary app to keep track of your files. You can copy and move files between the iPad and any folder on your hard drive.
Office2 HD does have a few irritating glitches, including some very un-iPadlike behaviors. It won’t open images with mail files, it can only extract the text (with formatting intact, at least). In this it’s no different than it’s competitors, but still it would be nice to work with documents that clients email and have them completely intact.
New paragraphs often, and unpredictably, default back to the normal font settings (in my case, Helvetica 10). It really is irritating to hit the return key and discover the formatting hasn’t carried over from the previous paragraph. I have tried to select all the text in a document and reapply a global text format, but it doesn’t matter. Sooner or later I will hit the return key and the paragraph will default back to Helvetica 10.
The app doesn’t remember the last document opened. This is the only iPad word processor I know that doesn’t open to your last working document. This is the one time nested file management isn’t beneficial. With flat file management, you can open to the one folder level and find your file. With Office2 HD, you have to navigate back to the folder you last used to find the document you last used.
Office2 HD doesn’t remember text color. It’s the wierdest thing. If you have selected red text inserted between black text, the replacement text will accept the color of the surrounding text, not the highlighted text. Conversely, if you’re typing with text formatted in red, as soon as you add punctuation, the color reverts to the normal font color.
In order to accomodate more command features in the menu bar the developers made the menu scroll. But this also means you have to take the time out to touch and drag the menu to the command you need. Even worse, the “undo” command is at the far right of the menu bar, which means you have to manually scroll through the menu to the very last point. Since “undo” is probably second only to “save” as the most often used command, this makes little sense to me. I would like to see the developers collapse the scrolling menu into a single window menu with drop down options.
No stylesheet support
Longtime readers know how I feel about style sheets. If you write for a publication that requires strict style formatting and multiple style requirements, style sheets are essential. Office2 HD will strip all style information from a .docx file. Unfortunately, no iPad word processor has strong style sheet support so this will have to come to the entire field sometime in the future.
Weak spell check
Finally, the spell check doesn’t work. Office2 HD will recognize the iPad’s automatic spelling while you type (somtimes), but it also substitutes very strange spellings for words. Sometimes it will replace one small string within the word, for instance it might replace “sent” with “snet,” thinking “ent” is really “net.” Furthermore, if a word is mistyped, Office2 HD doesn’t highlight the misspelling the way other apps do, nor is there a global spell check feature. Proofreading becomes doubly necessary.
Now that I list all these glitches, Office2 HD may seem to be a kludgy, buggy program. To be honest, it is, and that’s why I moved it to the back pages of my original iPad and forgot about it.
But after looking at it again I have to admit that the things it does well, it does so well I’m willing to use the app and hope for a product update.
It’s far from perfect, but I have tried a lot of iPad word processors and Office2 HD is the only one—with the possible exception of yesterday’s release of Pages—that seems to meet most of the demands of every day word processing.
Jenny Manytoes rates Office2 HD
Jenny Manytoes alternates between purring and napping around Office2 HD. But it seems to perform best in the ways I need a word processor to perform.