With Office finally showing up for iPad, you have three options to pick from: Apple’s very own iWork suite, Google’s Docs (which comes from Google Drive), and Microsoft Office. All three suites help you with documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. You can create, edit or view these files right on your iPhone/iPad.
Between the three, almost everything varies: functions, cost, usability, sometimes even stability, sync, offline support and whatnot. So which one is the better option? Let’s find out.
One of the first things that you notice is the interface. This is the thing that lets you work with the app (consequently, the documents, spreadsheets and presentations).
Apples iWork consists of the three apps: Pages, Numbers and Keynotes. The Mac counterpart is designed to be the perfect replacement for Microsoft Office so, in keeping with that attitude, Apple made sure iWork was exhaustively design-oriented. iWork on iPhone and iPad is equally driven by its seamless interface that allows for an easy way to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
Following closely is Office for iPhone and iPad. If you’ve been using Office elsewhere, you’d feel compelled to choose this one over the other two options. Familiarity is just one of the reasons. Microsoft developers really did walk the extra mile to optimize the workflow in Office for iOS so that it meets and even exceeds that of iWork apps in some cases.
Google Drive’s focus on minimalism and simplicity leaks over to the iOS app which has the built-in Docs suite. The interface is as minimal as it can get without what appears to be an attempt to limit function.
Apple’s iWork is exhaustive here. And easily so, because they’ve got the upper hand in integration and native ecosystem. With iWork for iCloud (which we’ll cover in the next section), it only adds more power to the user. iWork for iOS brings almost all the features of the Mac counterpart in order to make creation a very easy process.
We’ve heard pretty good reviews of Office for iOS too. In its latest avatar (Office for iPad), we saw that the suite is completely built from the ground-up to enable users to create documents, excel spreadsheets and presentations easily. Almost every feature that you’ll find on Office Desktop is here: except that you have to deal with a limited screen space.
The most-minimally-featured of the three is Google Docs/Drive. First off, it’s not a dedicated app for documents, spreadsheets and presentations; instead, the office-part is just an add-on for the Google Drive interface. Secondly, Google probably intended it to be more for consumption which is probably why you find minimal editing capability.
In the Cloud
The singular feature that dictates the stature of office-productivity apps these days is the ability to sync a document across devices so that you can continue from where you left off, irrespective of what device you are on. The other feature is offline support: so that you don’t need to be connected to the network when you want to create/edit a document.
Apple’s iWork comes fully-featured here. Not only can you sync your iWork documents between iOS devices, you can also have it sync to iCloud (on the web) and have it sync to Mac (via iCloud). And yes, there’s offline support which doesn’t even require any configuration. It just works.
Office for iOS works through your Office 365 account and pretty much offers a similar experience as Apple. Since Office is not native to iOS (relative to iWork), setting up involves a few extra steps.
Google Drive completely works through the web even though you can make documents “available offline”. The downside is that you can’t edit these offline and then have them sync later. There are workarounds. You can use CloudOn or other Office apps to edit the documents in your offline cache. Not Google Drive though.
Each of Apple’s iWork app costs $9.99.
Office for iOS is free but just for home use. You’ll need an Office 365 account starting at about $12.50 per month. It’s a recurring fee, yes.
Google Drive is free for a wide range of uses and user-numbers.
Apple’s iWork is a winner in terms of features and sync. Google Drive wins if you consider the cost but it’s definitely not the app you want when you going to be offline. Office is great if you already have an Office 365 account and are used to Microsoft Office.