PowerPoint’s Upgrade for the iPad: Pros and Cons

By Laura Foley

Last month Microsoft announced that it was offering free upgraded versions of its Office software for iPhones and iPads. This is big news, because until recently people were only able to view, not edit, Office docs on their iDevices.

Microsoft saw the writing on the wall and decided to go with a “freemium” model. Users can still do a lot of stuff with the free versions, but for all the premium features you need to pay for an Office 365 subscription.

So what can you do with the free version of PowerPoint on an iPad? Quite a lot, as it turns out.

A Different Experience

I didn’t test the iPhone version of the PowerPoint app because I knew that the tiny size of its screen compared to that of the iPad would quickly drive me crazy. I opted for the eyeball-friendly iPad version.

I found the experience of designing a presentation on a tablet kind of like using an Etch-a-Sketch. Once I got used to it, though, things went pretty smoothly.

It’s clear that Microsoft set out to transform PowerPoint into a native iPad app. There are certain tablet-specific commands, such as pinching the screen to zoom in and spreading your fingers out on the screen to zoom out, that are helpful. The interface is clean and intuitive, making it seem right at home on an iPad.

Some of the Highlights:

  • You can link your Dropbox account to the app so that you can access your presentation from any device.
  • Your files are set to autosave, so you don’t have to keep remembering to save your work (unless you’re a masochist, in which case you can disable the autosave function).
  • When you open existing presentations on the iPad, all of the transitions and animations are preserved.
  • In Slide Show mode there is a “laser pointer” that you can access by holding your finger down on the screen.
  • It’s easy to add video, shapes, tables, and pictures to your presentations.

Some of the Lowlights:

While they weren’t enough to make me want to skim my iPad out the window, I did notice a few bothersome details worth mentioning.

  • Once you insert a slide, its layout seems to be set. I couldn’t find any way to change slide layouts other than to start over with a new slide with the layout you want.
  • Audio is not supported in the PowerPoint app. Get ready for silent movies!
  • You need to have an Office 365 subscription to be able to see your slides in the Presenter View, with the notes.
  • You can only use photos and clipart that are already on your Camera Roll or Photo Stream. Unlike with the desktop version, there’s no access to the Office.com image library.

The Bottom Line

This is a free app with some amazing functionality. Even if you don’t opt for the paid Office 365 subscription, you can still create, edit, and present professional-looking slides from your iDevice.

About the Author:

Laura Foley helps people to be more awesome at PowerPoint through workshops, consulting, and presentation design services. She has developed presentations and provided training for clients such as Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, Fidelis Cybersecurity Solutions/General Dynamics, Juniper Networks and the Harvard Business School. Her Cheating Death by PowerPoint training has been featured at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Simmons College and the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. Laura also has been a featured speaker at HOW Design Live, the largest conference for creative professionals in the world. For more information, visit her website at www.lauramfoley.com

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