Three Powerful New Microsoft Office Apps for iPhone and iPad

July 20, 2013

In the last 30 days, Microsoft has released three major Office app suites for the iPhone and iPad including Outlook, a Word-Excel-PowerPoint suite, and OneNote. All are free, and their functionality is very good. However, access to two of these three apps is quite restricted.

Here’s the lowdown on each one.

1: Office Mobile for iPhone

In mid-June, Microsoft released the Office Mobile for iPhone app. It provides simple editing capabilities for Office documents you’ve stored on a Microsoft SkyDrive account.  Most Office modules are supported except for Outlook and OneNote—those two are implemented in separate apps (see next). But access to this Office app is limited only to Office 365 paid subscribers. I’ve tested it and it works quite well. More about this app here and here.

2: OWA for iPhone

In mid-July, Microsoft released OWA for iPhone and OWA for iPad, and these are the Outlook modules many have been waiting for in iOS. The naming is a bit confusing: OWA stands for Outlook Web App, but this is not the browser-basde OWA you may have used on a PC or Mac. Rather, this is a real iOS app. It include access to Exchange-based Mail, Calendar, and Contacts, but not Tasks. This goes well beyond the iOS built-in Mail/Calendar/Contacts apps because there are a number of features here including some things found only on Outlook, like meeting scheduling and viewing mail by Outlook Categories.

But the ability to activate this app is so limited that very few people can use it. How limited? It’s limited to Office 365 paid subscribers. It’s also limited to users of iOS 6 and only on newer iPhones. But the biggest limitation is your Exchange server. For example, I have all the iOS requirements and own a qualifying Office 365 subscription, and use Exchange, but I still cannot use the App. It turns out that the Exchange Server the Office 365 subscription connects to needs to be a particular build of Exchange 2013, one that only Microsoft has on its hosted servers. So for now, it appears you have to be using Exchange Online—hosted only by Microsoft—to make this work. Our Exchange is hosted by; so no go. This limitation cuts the potential user base WAY back. Supposedly, updates are coming at some future date to corporate Exchange 2013 installs that will enable the app.

Also, what about tasks? No tasks module in this app. But the TaskTask iOS app is so good, I really don’t think we need one from Microsoft. And TaskTask connects to nearly any Exchange server.

Again, tons of great features in this app, but only a tiny percent of Outlook users can use it for a while. You can find more technical information on features and requirements here.

3: OneNote for iPhone Update

In July, Microsoft also released a major update for OneNote for iPhone. This update has gotten rave reviews about how it has fixed all issues with previous OneNote iPhone apps, particularly with syncing to cloud based OneNote files. I’ve been using the app recently and agree it is fantastic—I may be moving off Evernote as a result since OneNote now syncs well to all my devices, and has more features. And just about everyone should be able to use this app. However, for some reason it’s a huge app: 278 MB.

A Good Month for Microsoft iOS Apps

In general, Microsoft has rolled out some very useful iOS apps in the last month. OneNote is the big winner for most of us. And if you have access, the other two look very good as well.


Update: See this post too

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