Office 365 – Mobile Apps

(Author’s Note:  I provided this content to the European SharePoint Conference Week of Learning and it is posted here.  Their main blog page is located here.  My thanks to all at ESPC for graciously allowing me to repost the content and I encourage you to have a dig around their site as there is a lot of great information made available through ESPC.  And if you can go to Stockholm in November they would love to see you!)


Microsoft has really opened up the candy store for mobile users in the last few months. Office apps for iOS and Android (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) have been released as an adjunct to Office 365 (this post was written in Word for Android on a Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 running CyanogenMod 11) and existing apps such as OneDrive have been enhanced. And let’s not forget the release of Outlook as the end result of the late 2014 acquisition of Acompli. All of this is driven by the ever evolving Office 365 back end and the Online apps that also provide access to Office functionality to mobile users.

The sum of all of these parts means that users can be productive with the tools they love on pretty much any modern device that they choose to use. The rich experience of Office is no longer limited to PC’s and Mac’s.

So the question really is this … “Can I be productive with only a tablet and a WiFi connection back to Office 365?”. The answer is a resounding “Yes!” And with Microsoft pouring resources into both iOS and Android versions there is a growing parity between the mobile tablet (tablet experience) and that of a PC or a Mac.

A little exploring is in order.

Here is my home screen:


It really “feels” like home as it has a similar feel to the desktop on my Windows 8.1 PC! My Office apps are there and the icons look pretty familiar. Tapping on Word brings up the following screens:


This is pretty familiar territory and it emulates what I see on a PC. A new document screen looks familiar as well:


And looking at the File menu also looks familiar:


File saving is oriented towards OneDrive for Business and SharePoint but you can also save to the local device which is really no different from what you see on a PC. And, of course, file format is .docx for compatibility across the various platforms.

Working with a document is very much the same experience as on a PC although there are some navigational differences that are mandated by the complete touch experience of a tablet. One very noticeable difference is the keyboard control that gives you a degree of control over the screen real estate while you are editing. This is pretty important when half your screen is used by an onscreen keyboard!

If you look at the various screenshots above you’ll see in many that there is a keyboard icon with a lock showing in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. Tapping on this icon toggles the screen in and out of lock mode allowing you to keep the keyboard hidden while you work with other screen elements. Of course you might be better off using a Bluetooth keyboard to keep your screen real estate open as much as possible (like I’m doing while typing this article).

And, of course, navigation is controlled by your finger and on screen gestures that makes the experience different from that of the traditional mouse control. I found that for the most part I had no issues but sometimes, especially when dealing with objects like the screenshots that I embedded earlier in the document, that getting placement “just right” using my fingers was something of a chore. Perhaps control is more granular on a system with a higher res screen like a high-end iPad or on a device that uses a stylus such as a Galaxy Note.

Opening Files from the File menu offers no surprises, documents created in Word 2013 on my PC opened with full fidelity and full edit control on my tablet regardless of the source. Big documents took time to open but not so much as to make me unproductive. The various View settings also work pretty much as expected, here is this document in “Read” view:


Just like on a PC!

Leaving Word and looking at Excel offers a similar experience:


The same overall look and feel and control structure is in place. All of the Excel functions appear to be in place. I’m not sure I’d want to be messing with cell data using the onscreen keyboard but it feels pretty decent using a Bluetooth keyboard. And, of course, all the standard templates are available:


Navigation within a sheet feels pretty good as well.

And, finally, there is PowerPoint which also looks pretty good once it opens (this is a PPT I did for one of the MVA courses I presented):


Again, all of the elements are there as you would expect. Editing is actually fairly easy and all the tools I use are there (I don’t admit to being a PowerPoint power user).

When you combine these three apps with OneNote, OneDrive and Outlook you end up with a pretty powerful combination at your fingertips (literally!) on your Android tablet or your iPad. In fact, with the addition of a Bluetooth keyboard you have a small, compact, powerful “Office” available to you that does way more in way less space than many smaller laptops and netbooks of not so very long ago. And you still have access to the Online Apps out of Office 365, SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business that allow you to edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote online, in your browser!

While a tablet can probably never completely supplant a PC or Mac for full-on editing and content creation, the gap has certainly been narrowed significantly with the release of the Office apps for Android and iOS. It is now possible to be truly productive using only your tablet that was simply not possible only a few months ago. A high end tablet could, conceivably, replace a laptop for certain users in the same fashion that Microsoft suggests a Surface Pro can replace a laptop for many users. Even a lowly “base” tablet could suffice for many users in a pinch (my Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is doing a pretty good job for me in the production of this article).

If you have an Office 365 account and a tablet that meets the required specs then you should give the Office for Moible apps a spin. I think you’ll agree that another piece of “the future” has just fallen into place.