Wondering if you can get Word, Excel and PowerPoint on your iPad (or even iPhone)? The answer is yes! In this article we will discuss how to install the Microsoft Office apps on an iPad, including how you can get them for free (and whether you should), and how to use Word, PowerPoint and Excel on your iPad.
When Microsoft first unveiled its Office apps for Mac and iOS devices, the apps were quite limited. The iPad version offered some basic editing features (but only to Office 365 subscribers), while the iPhone equivalent was read-only. But these days most iPad and iPhone users can access and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents on their phones and tablets without be required to sign up for Office 365.
Read on for more information about how to get Office apps on your iPhone and iPad, and how to make the most of their features. For related advice, see our Office for Mac buying guide, as well as Which is the best iPad spreadsheet app?
How to get Microsoft Office for iPad and iPhone
The Microsoft Office apps are free to download from the App Store (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook) to any iPhone or iPad user running iOS 12 or later. If you run a search in the App Store rather than using the links above, make sure you get versions with Microsoft Corporation listed as the developer, just so you don't accidentally download an Office clone.
You can create, edit, view and print documents, presentations and spreadsheets in the Office apps for free, but to do so you will need to sign in. Luckily it is possible to sign up for free, you just need to create a Microsoft ID by logging on with your email address and password. You don't need to have an Office 365 subscription, but you will need to register for this free account if you want to be able to create and edit documents.
How to get Microsoft Office for iPad Pro
The problem arises if you have an iPad Pro or the new iPad 10.2in (2019), because Microsoft only offers Word, Excel and PowerPoint (and Outlook) for free on devices that are less than 10.1in. Which basically rules out any iPad Pro (unless you have one of the older models with a 9.7in display). We have an article that discusses how to get Office on iPad Pro for free here.
Because of this you need to have a subscription to Office 365 if you want to use the Office apps on an iPad Pro. Microsoft seems to believe that the iPad Pro is only a professional device, and the inexpensive iPad 10.2in (2019) model suffers from that larger display.
Of course if you are using your copies of Word, Excel and Powerpoint for professional, or commercial, reasons then you should legally have an Office 365 subscription regardless of the device you are using.
If you are only using Word on your iPad Pro to write letters to your great aunt then you may be disappointed, but in that case we'd suggest that Pages might be a better solution for you.
Should I buy a subscription to Office 365?
Like we said above, you can get Office on your iPad or iPhone for free without needing to sign up for Office 365. However, if you have an iPad Pro, or you are going to be using the apps for commercial purposes (e.g. work), then you should get an Office 365 subscription.
With Office 365 you get premium versions of Office applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook - including advanced change tracking, the removal of limits on the ways you can use paragraph styles, and advanced chart, table, and picture formatting tools. Plus you get 1TB of online storage per person with OneDrive (without a subscription to Office 365 you only get 5GB). Users can also open existing documents stored on their OneDrive or any other SharePoint location.
A yearly Office 365 subscription starts at £59.99 in the UK (or £5.99 per month) for Personal, and at $69.99 in the US (or $6.99 per month). Depending on the subscription you could get the Office apps for your Mac too. You also get 60 minutes of free Skype calls each month and OneDrive cloud storage capacity for up to five users.
You'll find full details of the extra features unlocked with a 365 subscription, plus the various tiers on offer, at the Microsoft Office website.
Microsoft has confirmed that a new version of Office is coming later in 2021. Read about Office 2021 here: Office 2021 for Mac release date.
Do I need Word, Excel and PowerPoint on the iPad?
You may find you don't need to use the Office apps on your iPad. Apple offers its own alternative that will open and save documents, spreadsheets and presentations that are compatible with the Microsoft Office apps.
Apple's office suite, sometimes referred to as iWork, includes Pages (word processing), Numbers (spreadsheets), and Keynote (presentations). iWork is comes for free with the purchase of an Apple iPad or iPhone. You can download the latest versions here: Pages, Keynote, Numbers.
Read more about Apple's mobile iWork apps:
Syncing options for Microsoft Office
Office for iOS integrates with OneDrive, Microsoft's cloud storage service. So, users can create a document in the relevant Office app, then revise it on their iPad while commuting. The document will maintain its formatting even if the mobile version doesn't support that particular feature.
However, you'll need to ensure that documents must be downloaded to your iPad before you can work on them. You can also create and save documents on your iPad without saving them to OneDrive - handy if you're offline - but you won't be able to use templates unless you set up the document while still connected to the internet.
When online, you can collaborate on documents, editing them at the same time as colleagues - you need to tap a share button in the upper left of the toolbar to invite others to access the document. Note that it doesn't update in real time, though, so you may refresh and find a paragraph you were working on has moved.
Word for iPad and iPhone
With Word for iOS you get substantial document creation and editing tools - as with the other iOS Office apps, you can now edit documents in the app regardless of whether you have a paid Office 365 account. Previously, without an Office 365 subscription, you had read-only access to docs.
Creating documents? Presuming that you only want standard text formatting, including selecting and changing a document's paragraph formatting or adding and making basic changes to tables, the free version will work perfectly for you.
Using Word for iOS on the iPhone suffers from the limitations of the screen size, but Microsoft has made some tweaks to the interface to make it easier to use on the iPhone, for example, streamlining the 'Ribbon' (the toolbar you're used to using in every Office application) to maximise screen space while editing text.
There's also a 'Mobile View' button that resizes the text, wipes away unnecessary document elements, and places the tools in with the keyboard, allowing you to focus on the text you're editing.
If you work in a business environment you may find that there are some limitations. The features that require an Office 365 subscription include some of the more in-depth layout and formatting tools, page orientation changes, additions or reductions to columns and page sections, Word Art, custom text colours, adding reflections or other image editing options, advanced table and chart editing, and change tracking.
Note that if change tracking is already turned on for a document, any changes you make will be tracked, even if you don't have all the features of a subscription account - you just can't accept or reject changes.
If you're likely to be accessing files stored in OneDrive or Dropbox for Business accounts, or on your own private Microsoft SharePoint, you'll have to have a paid account. If you sign up for a free OneDrive account you can use the app for storing and accessing documents.
Microsoft includes Dropbox integration, which means you're able to add your Dropbox account to Word and open any Word documents you have stored there.
For a more in-depth look at the app, read our Word for iOS guide.
Excel for iPad and iPhone
Excel for iOS can be used to create spreadsheets, as long as you register for a Microsoft ID. Once you have logged into your account you will have almost all the features that Office 365 subscribers have. Creating, modifying, saving and printing: all worked well in the free version.
There is also Dropbox support, so you don't need to use Microsoft OneDrive. Once you've logged in to your Dropbox account, you will see a list of Places you can save and open things. You can then open, modify, and save any spreadsheets in DropBox. We'd like to see iCloud Drive here too.
The features only open to Office 365 users include: customising pivot table styles and layouts (you can't create pivot tables in Excel for iOS anyway); add custom colours to shapes; insert and edit WordArt; add shadows and reflection styles to pictures; and add or modify chart elements.
There is no difference between the iPad and iPhone app - but we have to admit that using Excel on the iPad is a much better experience due to the bigger screen. The iPhone screen really is too small for all but the most basic of editing. We'd use it in an emergency, but if we were crafting a document or making significant edits we'd be reaching for the iPad.
To find out more about the features and capabilities of the app, read our Excel for iOS guide.
PowerPoint for iPad and iPhone
Just like Word and Excel for iOS, PowerPoint no longer requires a subscription to edit presentations.
On the free tier you can add and edit animations, crop images, and you add video from your iOS device.
If you have an Office 365 subscription you get access to premium features including Presenter View; adding custom colours to shapes; adding and editing WordArt; applying reflections and shadows to graphics; adding and editing chart elements; and adjusting the shading of table cells, rows, and columns.
It's no match for the desktop version of PowerPoint, but as a mobile version that's useful for simple presentations its a solid tool. As with the other apps, Dropbox file storage is an alternative to Microsoft's own OneDrive.