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Office2 HD Review: Limited, Flawed

Office2 HD for iPad has been widely noted as the first cloud-friendly productivity option for the iPad. As such, its often the first to come up in conversations about productivity apps or office solutions. Its reputation is bigger than it is, however. As far as productivity apps go, Office2 is only a mediocre app that suffers from some big problems.

Office2 has no title screen; it opens directly onto a blank screen, not even calling up a file list by default. This is slightly annoying, especially as competing apps either logically open to a file menu or, if the app closed with a document open, conveniently reopened the app for you (especially while iPad awaits the arrival of multitasking). This is the first small but annoying thing you will experience with Office2, but it will not be the last.

The word processor is purely a text input interface, with no page layout options. It has the expected set of basic formatting options: Bold, Italic, Underline, size, color, paragraph indentation and alignment, bullets and numbers, and a limited number of fonts, plus basic table and image insertion. It’s all presented in a very Spartan black and white interface reminiscent of an iPhone-level interface, even though Office2 HD is not a Universal app. Things function okay in-app; you’ll be able to do what drafting you need to do, though you won’t be able to perform any real document formatting (margins, spacing, etc). You also won’t be able to change your file name, as there’s no “Save As” function.

Its value as a word processor is very limited, however, by one significant issue: it cannot edit the newer, open standard DOCX format used by Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010. You can only view DOCX and can only create and edit the older DOC format. This is a strange limitation. For one thing, DOCX is the new standard in most offices and classrooms. For another, there are other competing Office apps that have no problem editing DOCX files. Because of this, Office2 may be useful for editing on iPad, but becomes severely handicapped when sharing files with others or moving and editing then on cloud services.

The same lack of 2007 and 2010 support affects the spreadsheet side of things. And like nearly every spreadsheet app available for iPad, its spreadsheeting options are more like carryovers from the word processing side, with a few extra features for dealing with functions, formulas, and cells. Its functions are not terribly convenient to use, however. There’s a dedicated button for SUM, but the rest are crammed into a single menu structure and have no autofilling or function assistance.  One thing Office2 gets right here is supporting frozen rows and columns, something other apps lack.

Office2 offers viewing functionality for a good selection of documents, DOC and DOCX, XLS and XLSX, PDF,PPT, and a variety of graphics formats. I was able to open all the file types. However, whenever I was loading a larger file off the cloud, Office2 took a long time to download and open compared to similar apps on the same wifi connection. And, Office2 even froze up on me when I tried to open some significantly large files (like PDFs of more than 50 pages).

That freezing is indicative of a number of little bugs in the Office2 system. For example, if I hold down the backspace key, it will delete about 30 characters, and then freeze out. The key stops working until I tap in the input field, after which it will work again … for about 30 characters. As someone who does a lot of writing on the iPad, I find this terribly inconvenient, as deleting a sentence or two is absolutely commonplace and my sentences tend to be mkre than 30 characters long.

The app has also crashed on me a couple of times, twice as I was navigating and loading from my cloud services. I think it might have to do with larger files; both times I was trying to view long or graphics heavy documents.

And speaking of graphics, Office2 allows you do do basic graphic insertion into DOC files, but whenever I tried to do it, the app froze on me. When I reopened the document, the pic would always be there, but that’s small consolation for such a significant bug.

Office2 got a lot of attention when the iPad first launched because it was the first out of the gate to offer iPad users a cloud-friendly alternative to iWork.  But the app simply feels rushed, more of an upscales iPhone app than a standalone “HD” app for the iPad … and that’s after a flurry of post-release version updates. And, lets face it, the lack of DOCX and XLSX editing is a major, major problem. One can only hope that the developers make some significant improvements to the app in future versions. For now, Office2 stands as the cheapest of the cloud-friendly productivity apps, but be wanted: you get what you pay for.

Our Score: 2/5

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