Microsoft releases free Office products for Android and iOS

Microsoft releases free Office products for Android and iOS

Competition helps to bring us better products and services. Google has been actively courting Android users to its Google Docs apps for typical office purposes. Microsoft had previously made available some limited-functionality free Office product apps for smart devices, but only recently did Microsoft make available fully functional free Office apps for iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, and Windows phones and tablets. For smart-device users who need full compatibility and interoperability with the almost universally used Microsoft Office products, these new free apps from Microsoft may be the way to go.

Possibly the most widely used Microsoft Office product in businesses and homes is Microsoft Word. While word processors produced by other software publishers, including WordPerfect, Open Office, Libre Office and others can all efficiently read and write Microsoft Word’s docx and doc files, there is something special about using genuine Microsoft Word to read and write Word files. There is also the familiarity of using a somewhat similar menu, and knowing it will be consistently formatted across platforms running Microsoft Word. 

Microsoft describes the mobile version of Word for smart devices as, “The real Microsoft Word app for Android phones and tablets,” as well as for iOS and Windows smart devices. “Microsoft Word … is made for work on-the-go. Word has the familiar look, feel and quality of Office with an intuitive touch experience designed for ... (smart) phones and tablets. Whether you want to create a beautiful document or just need to read and make quick edits on-the-go, Word gives you the best productivity experience you want. Work with confidence knowing that your documents look best with Office and you won’t lose any formatting or data as you move across devices. You’ll have easy access to your documents in the cloud whenever you need them. The free Microsoft Word app provides a core experience for viewing, creating and editing docs on devices with a screen size of 10.1 inches or smaller.” 

The free version of Word for smart devices is available for download from the Google Play Store, iTunes, or the Windows app store. And all of the Microsoft apps for portable devices support saving and retrieving files from cloud storage, including Microsoft’s OneDrive, One Drive for Business, SharePoint, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box.

Many individuals use Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet program for database, financial and other purposes. Excel is likely the most widely used spreadsheet utility. Now, Microsoft has released a free portable version of Excel for smart devices. As with the popular desktop version of Excel, these portable apps can (according to Microsoft), “Sort and analyze your data with Excel and draw insights. Excel has the familiar look, feel and quality of Office with an intuitive touch experience designed for (smart) phones and tablets. Whether you want to create a powerful spreadsheet or just need to view and make quick edits on-the-go, Excel gives you the best productivity experience you want. Work with confidence knowing that your spreadsheets look best with Office and you won’t lose any formatting or data as you move across devices. You’ll have easy access to your spreadsheets in the cloud whenever you need them.”

I do a lot of PowerPoint presentations in my college classes, in-service classes, and for a variety of professional and community groups. For redundancy purposes, I always have a backup copy of my “pptx” file on a USB flash drive, as well as on my laptop. Now, I also upload a copy to one of my cloud accounts, as well as save a copy (via USB connection) to the external storage card on my Android phone, which supports video output via its USB port, that can feed most video projectors. Using my smart phone (or Android tablet) to run a complete PowerPoint presentation was somewhat possible using third party (non-Microsoft Office) PowerPoint viewers, but it seems to be much smoother using the new Microsoft PowerPoint app for smart devices. Again, as with other Microsoft Office apps, I can view, edit or create PowerPoint slides and entire presentations on my smart devices, without having to use my desktop or laptop computer, while conserving complete compatibility.

A popular component of Microsoft Office, also available as a separate program, is Microsoft’s Outlook e-mail program. The latest version of Outlook for smart devices is an interesting free app for Android, iOS and Windows powered smart devices, in that it can efficiently display content from a variety of e-mail sources as well as integrate with contacts, calendars, and attachments. One of my most heavily used personal e-mail accounts is on a Yahoo e-mail server, and the new Outlook app is far more efficient and functional in downloading and displaying those e-mails than the native Yahoo e-mail app. Being a full featured e-mail app fully compatible with most e-mail services makes this free Office app one that most smart phone and tablet users should strongly consider as a primary e-mail app.

While popular and very useful, but not among the most widely used Office products, is Microsoft OneNote, which, in Microsoft’s words, is “a digital notebook for your to-do lists, lecture and meeting notes, vacation plans, or anything you want to organize or remember. Type or jot down notes, record audio or snap a picture and OneNote saves it. Your notes sync across your devices so you can access them wherever you go. And you can easily share your notes with others.” 

The Microsoft OneNote app is available for smart devices as a free download direct from the appropriate device app stores.

There is another not very well known Microsoft Office related app that’s not technically a part of Office but is still very useful. Microsoft Office Lens is a most interesting free app, in that it, “trims, enhances and makes pictures of whiteboards and docs readable. You can use Office Lens to convert images to PDF, Word and PowerPoint files, and you can even save images to OneNote or OneDrive. Office Lens is like having a scanner in your pocket. Like magic, it will digitalize notes on whiteboards or blackboards. Always find important documents or business cards. Sketch your ideas and snap a picture for later.” Being something of a skeptic, I used Office Lens on my smart phone to photograph a variety of documents, envelopes, business cards and whiteboard images; I was impressed with its capabilities. Office Lens automatically and efficiently cropped the images, and recognized printed text using OCR (Optical Character Recognition), making the text on the photographed images fully searchable. Office Lens automatically improves the digital images, including correcting any “keystone effect” due to the perspective distortion from the image taken not being perfectly perpendicular to the original document, properly aligns the image, and minimizes any glare and reflections in the image. These digitally improved images can be saved to the device, inserted directly into OneNote, PowerPoint, or Word, or can be converted directly into a PDF file, and saved as desired. Images can also be saved to cloud storage, such as Microsoft’s OneDrive.

With these free Office apps being freely available for Android, iOS, and Windows phones and tablets, and being compatible with the Office software that we commonly use on our desktops and laptops, the functionality and usability of our smart devices has taken a quantum leap.

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