Although many use Office for everyday word processing and number crunching tasks, there’s a substantial contingent of customers who live and breathe the presentation leg of Microsoft’s productivity tripod, which has finally made an impressive (though somewhat handicapped) transition to mobile. Together with Word and Excel, PowerPoint for iPad makes up Microsoft’s newly mobilized Office trilogy. This trio of apps features a touchscreen user interface often slicker than their desktop equivalents, but more importantly, documents can be opened and edited with complete confidence that they’ll look exactly as they do on Mac or PC.
Editing or sharing files from iPad requires a monthly or annual Office 365 subscription—otherwise, PowerPoint is little more than a document viewer. At a minimum of $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year, it’s an expensive proposition, especially for occasional users whose only computer is an iPad. When viewed as a complement to an existing Office 365 subscription, however, PowerPoint for iPad delivers a lot of bang for the buck, with an intuitive, streamlined set of tools for creating or editing presentations on the go. The only real exception is when the app winds up being hamstrung by iOS file management restrictions.
For example, images from iPad photo albums (including Camera Roll and iCloud) can be imported with ease, but content stored elsewhere is strictly off limits—including OneDrive, which is otherwise the only cloud storage option available for saving files. Microsoft bundles a generous quantity of fonts, shapes, and templates into a 215MB download, but power users will find the lack of clip art, animation, and audio/video playback limiting compared to desktop versions.
PowerPoint also isn’t nearly as robust as Apple’s Keynote when it comes to playing completed slideshows. While lecturers can scribble notes using a virtual pen or call up a simulated laser pointer, the app lacks any kind of true presenter view, and AirPlay support is frustratingly limited to mirroring only for now.
The bottom line. PowerPoint for iPad succeeds at making presentations finger friendly, but Keynote blows this app out of the water when it comes to actually showing them.