I use MS Office products all the time – both at home and at work.   I use Excel for multiple different types of reporting and I have written and debugged more VBA than I care to discuss.  Word has been my document editor for longer than I can remember and  when it comes to making up flashy, or not so flashy, presentations PowerPoint is often the choice.  So when it comes to really doing productive work on the iPad, I need some software that will allow me to access these Microsoft Office products without having to convert them from one platform to another and it can’t be too expensive.

This week I tried out CloudOn (version 1.0.487)

This is software for the iPad that provides access to Excel, Word and PowerPoint compatible with Office 2010 and allows you to create and edit files stored on your dropbox account.  In order to use the software, you must have internet connection and you have to have a dropbox account (free).  My testing took place while I was working in my home office and around the house where I have a strong Wi-Fi connection so I’m sure my results, in terms of speed, were better than if I were working on a slow or cellular connection somewhere.

This app is brand new and from what I gather on their web site, they are gathering ideas and gathering up problems from users.  From the discussions, I read on their help pages, I don’t recommend using this for anything mission critical at this point but the app, the cloud storage through dropbox and the functionality of the app seem very promising.

Business Value/productivity value 3/5

On the positive side and at the core, I found it to be very easy to use.  I’ll admit that most of my time was spent on Excel where I have most expertise and interest but I did try out PowerPoint a bit too.  I did not do an exhaustive search for formulas and functions but most of the stuff I tried from the docs I uploaded worked just fine.  Pivot tables, graphs, conditional formatting all worked great.  So there is definitely some value in this application.

On the ‘needs improvement’ side, I really would like to see this have offline capability where it would allow me to save off a local version of a dropbox file, edit it while on an airplane or otherwise disconnected from the net and then synch again when reconnected.  Also, there does not seem to be a way to print from the application.  I’m all for saving trees and only printing when necessary but if I were really trying to replace my laptop with just my iPad, I would need to be able to print from the application without having to jump through too many hoops.

Ease of use – 3/5

It was very easy to sign up for CloudOn and link my dropbox account.  The controls at the top of the CloudOn app were simple and easy to understand.  Switching between documents, opening existing ones and creating new were all ‘no brainer’ functions.  Some other functions, and these were within the instances of Excel and PowerPoint, didn’t really work.  Example, I inserted text box in PowerPoint, wrote some text and wanted to rotate the text to a different position.  I could not click and rotate the text using the green handle.  However, once I was able to select the text box, after multiple attempts, I was able to use the “Format” menu to manually type in a rotation.

Likelihood of usage 3/5

I’m 50/50 at this point.  I will likely test it out some more and follow the company to watch for updates.  Once I feel more confident, I could see myself using it fairly regularly for viewing and evening Office documents.

Graphics and Sound 3/5

The applications look like Office applications but there was no sound enabled.  Animations seemed to work OK in the PowerPoint viewer but again, no sound.

Overall 3/5

After only a few days on the market, this application is not bad but has a way to go before I would highly recommend it.  There is definite promise and at the introductory price of Free, I would encourage followers to give it a try and make suggestions to the developers.  They are actively taking feedback.  It actually seems like an interesting way to save on testing expense.

How much is it?

Currently Free for download and free to use.

In the app there appear to be some time tracking devices so there may be some sort of time based subscription fee in the future.

Where to get it
CloudOn - CloudOn, Inc.

iPad screen shot