Trying to decide on an Office app for iPad

I have found myself looking for an Office style app for the iPad, or at least a fully functional word processor. And this seems a hot commodity for the iPad right now with several contenders weighing in. From what I’ve found there is Pages, Documents to Go, Office2 HD and Quickoffice and they all seem to have as much condemnation as praise. Some of the complaints seem down right petty, but others hold much more validity. But the one thing that is frustrating is that not a single one of these has a lite version you can try out. Considering the rather hefty price tag of these apps, that is a little alienating.

My first thought is to go with Pages since it’s by Apple and you would think they know what they’re doing. And oddly it’s much larger than the other apps. Normally that makes the think an app is bloated, but Pages is 42MB and the other apps are no more than 15MB. I’m really not sure what to think of that. Are the other apps just missing major pieces of functionality? Plus, Pages is simply a word processor, all the other apps are full fledged Office suites. To get the same functionality you have to spend $20 for Apple’s solution.

But again, when you read the reviews it’s hard to tell if the app is worth the money or not. Are these people expecting this to render every aspect of a Word document correctly? I think that’s unrealistic since even full desktop apps have a hard time unraveling the crap Microsoft puts in a Word doc.

And quite frankly, I’m not that concerned with being able to open a variety of massive Word docs. I simply want a word processor with formatting capabilities. They all seem to have that, but the feature set and prices seem to vary wildly.

I was reading this article iPad Office app showdown which did offer some insight, but may have muddied the waters even more. Matthew says Pages is the best, but then goes on to recommend Quickoffice. I was ready to give that one a try until I saw the price. It’s nearly double to $16.99 from the $10 that was listed in the article. Again, that’s a hell of a lot to spend on an app without seeing it work. Funny thing is, if you look at the poll on that page, 48% of the users say Quickoffice is their Office suite of choice.

So basically, confusion reigns. I’m still inclined to go with Pages since most people recommend it for standard document writing. It’s things like footers and export to PDF that cause gnashing of teeth. Right now, that’s not on my list of requirements so I’m willing to overlook those complaints. But as you look to the future of the iPad as a serious business tool, those issues do need to be addressed.

It seems like this could be a big market just right for the taking. In many ways it emulates the PC desktop market of years gone by. Everyone was making a word processor and spreadsheet combo. Lotus, Wordperfect, Borland, and Microsoft all had software in the game and then ultimately a victor emerged. And then they got overtaken. I see the same thing happening here. There is no defacto standard yet. There is plenty of room for anyone to come in and stake their claim. Apple would seem like a clear winner, but I don’t get that feeling at all. It’s anyone’s game. The only real requirement is that the app can open and edit Word and Excel documents. And if things really head toward an XML file format that may be a whole lot easier in the future.

And just to say it, seems like this is a perfect opportunity for Microsoft to port MS Office over to the iPad and keep their dominance in the Office Suite market – they need all the help they can get. Everyone wants Word compatibility so it seems like they should offer it and gain that market share instead of letting others come in and do it.

As it stands now though, I’m still not sure which of these apps is worth the money. They all seem to have a lot of strong points and just as many weak points.

It's bad luck to be superstitious.

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