I was moderately excited when I heard about CloudOn, a new, free iPad application that purports to let you create, view, and edit files directly in Microsoft Word, Excel & PowerPoint on the tablet. I don’t use any MS Office programs on my Mac, but given the paucity of choices in text-crunchers and text formats supported by the iOS, this sounded like pretty good news.
However, upon downloading CloudOn and checking out its Word module, I came away disappointed. Perhaps it’s partly because of my lack of familiarity with current versions of Word for Mac. Back in the day, Word 5.1 was my main writing program, but I jumped ship with the introduction of the execrable Word 6 (AKA Word for Windows for the Mac), and never returned. Ancient history.
I’ll put it this way, CloudOn’s Word facsimile does nothing to entice me back. Of course, that can’t be blamed on Microsoft, but the execution of CloudOn’s Word module is so clunky that there’s no way I would ever consider doing anything with it beyond using it as a “can-opener” app for viewing, and perhaps editing Word documents that come my way on the iPad.
This screed is not intended to be a full review of CloudOn, since the app’s angularities dissuaded me from exploring its capabilities very extensively.
For starters, while CloudOn supports Dropbox synching, and does so very well, it couldn’t open most of the content in my Dropbox Folder, which is full of plain text (.txt) files. I mean, c’mon. There’s nothing more basic than a text file, especially in the iOS orbit, but no go.
Strike two was my early discovery that while one can select and copy text from a CloudOn Word document, you can’t paste it into a text document in another application (such as the NotePad or PlainText) via the Clipboard. Nor can you copy and paste text from another app.’s plain text document into a CloudOn Word document. This deficiency renders CloudOn Word essentially useless for my purposes.
My workaround for the iOS’s lack of multitasking support is to shuttle bac and forth among two or three text applications, cutting and pasting as needed. Can’t do that with CloudOn Word. Even within the app, text selection support is incredibly clunky.
However, even if text copy and paste did work satisfactorily, CloudOn Word makes switching back and forth among apps painful, in that it closes the active document when you switch away to another app., making it necessary to reload the workspace, then root through the Dropbox file list, and re-open the document. Life is too short.
Incidentally, there’s another new iPad app that claims to provide a seamless, no-compromise, instant-response Cloud-based MS Office PC desktop on the iPad. OnLive Desktop is like CloudOn free, but instead of using DropBox, OnLive Desktop has its own Cloud Storage, which is also free up to 2 GB.
OnLive Desktop looks very pretty in screenshots, but I can’t evaluate it beyond that because it’s not yet available on the Canadian App Store. I just get a “Your request can’t be completed” dialog when I try.
Getting back to CloudOn, whatever virtues it may have beyond the deal-breaker limitations outlined above will have to remain lost on me, but if you think you can work around them, you’ll need to open a Dropbox account if you don’t already have one. No hardship in that; Dropbox is great for a whole bunch of reasons, and it’s free up to 2 GB storage.
Or, alternatively, you can sign up when you launch CloudOn for the first time.
CloudOn’s WorkSpace allows you to:
Use Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint on your iPad to create or edit documents
Rename, delete and manage documents with your Dropbox account
Display, edit or create charts, change formatting, spell check, insert comments, into any Word, Excel or PowerPoint files
Track changes while reviewing Word documents
Use pivot tables and insert formulas in Excel workbooks
Display and edit animation or transitions in PowerPoint presentations
Present in full PowerPoint mode (not in PDF)
Open files directly from your iPad email accounts or Dropbox account
Automatically save documents to avoid losing changes
CloudOn is compatible with iPad and requires iOS 4.2 or later.