Expert tips for Office for iPad and iPhone

Microsoft's unleashed its definitive office suite on iOS, and even offers most features for free, so here are 10 tips that let you get the very best from Word, Excel and PowerPoint on your iPad or iPhone

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  • 1 Drag to sync
  • 2 Match formatting
  • 3 Extra apps
  • 4 Reset
  • 5 Extra fonts
  • 6 Use DropBox
  • 7 Edit simultaneously
  • 8 Fill Excel cells
  • 9 Insert line breaks
  • 10 Laser pointers
  • More stories
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Drag down to update

You can force any of the core Office apps (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) to instantly sync their files to OneDrive (or Dropbox – see later) by returning to the main file listing – tap the back button at the top left when editing – then dragging down in the main file listing at the right.

You’ll see a progress wheel appear and within seconds any files saved on other devices or computers should appear. 

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You can force any of the core Office apps (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) to instantly sync their files to OneDrive (or Dropbox – see later) by returning to the main file listing – tap the back button at the top left when editing – then dragging down in the main file listing at the right.

You’ll see a progress wheel appear and within seconds any files saved on other devices or computers should appear. 

 

Match formatting

In Word you can quickly make something you’ve typed match the style of existing text by highlighting the original, then selecting Copy from the pop-out menu, and then highlighting the text to which you want to apply the formatting and tapping Paste Format from the pop-out menu. 

This can be particularly useful if you open a document that uses a font which isn’t installed on your iOS device and that you therefore can’t select to use in your document – just copy any text that already uses the font, as described above, and then use the Paste Format feature to apply that font to any new text you’ve typed. 

 

Explore the suite

Word, Excel and PowerPoint aren’t the only tools offered by Microsoft as part of its Office line-up on iOS.

On the App Store you’ll also find messaging app Lync (both 2010 and 2013 versions), plus OneNote, which unlike the other core Office apps doesn’t require an Office 365 subscription – it’s entirely free and fully-featured.

OneDrive gets an app of its own – useful for emailing files to other people – including a version of Business accounts. There’s also a client for Outlook Web Access (OWA) email, as well as a tool that lets you work with Office 365 Message Encryption. This allows you to decrypt messages via any Mail app on iOS.

There’s much more, including a useful SharePoint Newsfeed tool. Just use the App Store’s search function and type Microsoft Corporation. 

 

Reset the apps

It’s still early days for the Office for iOS apps and, to put it in polite terms, you may encounter a few bugs here and there.

Sometimes the only sane way to continue is to reset everything and resync your files, which can be done by opening the Settings app, selecting the Word, Excel or PowerPoint entries in the list of apps at the left, and selecting Reset at the right.

There will be two options: Clear All Files, and Delete Sign-In Credentials. For each to work you’ll need to quit the apps afterwards – open the iOS recently-used apps list (double-click the Home button), then swipe the app upwards to quit it. 

 

Install more fonts

Although it’s not part of the Office apps, the excellent AnyFont app costs just £1.49 and lets you install additional fonts on your iOS device that all apps can use – including Office for iOS. It does this by legitimately subverting a tool designed for system administrators whereby add-ons can be added as system profiles.

It requires you to sync with your Mac via iTunes to upload the fonts (instructions are provided when the app starts). Adding fonts is a little time consuming but it works fine and only needs to be done once. Don’t forget, however, that the Office for iOS already features the Microsoft “C” fonts (Calibri, Cambria, Candara etc.) although you may still wish to install them to add support for other apps. 

 

Use DropBox

Microsoft would like you to use OneDrive for the storage of your documents but it also includes support for Dropbox.

Cynics might suggest this is a concession to how awful the OneDrive client for Macs can be. Reviews on the App Store suggest it doesn’t sync properly, with one reviewer pointing out that one of his files took 18 hours to get uploaded! At the time of writing the Mac version hasn’t even been updated for Yosemite’s new icons.

Luckily, adding your Dropbox account to iOS is easy – just tap the back button if editing a file so the file listing is visible, then tap the Open button and then Add A Place. Select Dropbox. If you’re already logged in with Dropbox on the device you merely need to click Allow, but if not you’ll need to type your username and password when prompted. Finally, use your Mac to copy existing files from the OneDrive folder to Dropbox. 

 

Edit simultaneously

A key feature of Office nowadays is the ability to simultaneously edit documents. The idea is that you can share documents with colleagues to work on a file at the same time, but it also means you can edit a file on your iPad then instantly switch to your iPhone to carry on.

You can also simultaneously edit documents using the basic Office apps online – just login at http://onedrive.live.com, then select the file to open it – and on your Mac using Office 2011.

The file must be saved in the latest Office format (that is, .docx rather than .doc, for example), and there are a few other important notes too.If the file was created using Office 2011 on your Mac, it needs to be saved in a special way in order for simultaneous editing to work: DON’T simply save it to the OneDrive folder. Instead, in Word/Excel/Powerpoint click File -> Share -> Save to OneDrive.

To open a file on your Mac when it’s being edited elsewhere, again DON’T open it via the OneDrive folder. Instead, visit http://onedrive.live.com, open the file, select Edit Document, then select Edit in Word/Excel/PowerPoint. This will open the file on your Mac.

Confused? Luckily, it’s a little easier to simultaneously edit files on iOS – if the file has been shared in the ways mentioned above, you can open it for editing just like you would any other file. Any files you create using Office for iOS will automatically be enabled for simultaneous editing on other iOS devices, or online via the basic Office web apps. 

 

Fill Excel cells

A nifty feature in the desktop version of Excel is the ability to start typing a sequence in adjacent cells (January, February etc, or 1,2,3,4 etc) and then dragging the handles to make Excel automatically complete the sequence.

In Excel for iOS this can be done by selecting the cells containing the start of the sequence, then selecting Fill from the pop-up menu. Then drag down or across. When you release the cells will be filled. 

 

Inserting a line break

Inserting a line break rather than a paragraph break is a little more complicated in Office for iOS, but it’s still possible.

In Word and PowerPoint you’ll need to tap at the cursor position and then tap Insert on the menu. You’ll then see a pop-up menu offering the ability to insert a New Line (and also a Tab, for what it’s worth!).

When editing an Excel cell, you’ll need to switch to the numeric keyboard (tap the Abc/123 button at the top right of the keyboard), then press and hold the Return key until a pop-out return symbol appears. Tapping this will insert a line break. 

 

Use a laser pointer

Using AirPlay and an Apple TV lets you give presentations on larger screens direct from your iPad or even your iPhone (apps like Air Display let you use a Mac’s screen instead).

A useful tip is that tapping and holding the screen while in presentation mode of PowerPoint will cause a faux laser pointer to appear, which you can use to highlight things.

By clicking the pen icon at the top right you can also annotate on each slide. 

Read:

How to get Word, Excel and PowerPoint on your iPad and iPhone

Microsoft Office for Mac release date

Word for Mac 2016 tips

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