The ironic thing about this app is that it's so capable, it virtually invites and demands a Bluetooth keyboard to get the most out of it. Prior to the launch of this app, many expert iPad observers saw the Microsoft Surface tablet as, essentially, an oddball notebook computer, dependent on a keyboard for the Office environment. iPad owners had come to depend, in different ways, with lesser apps, on the virtual keyboard. In other words, the quintessential tablet—the iPad—should seldom need a physical keyboard.
The ribbon is excellent.
I think that, now, a lot of business-oriented iPad owners will be thinking about one of those Brydge or Logitech Bluetooth clamshell keyboards. That wouldn't happen if the implementation of Word on the iPad were ugly, buggy, or dysfunctional. But Microsoft did it right, and that means a keyboard is just a convenient iPad tool, devoid of any larger implications. Pulling this off gracefully, in my mind, is a case for high praise to Microsoft.
I especially liked the crisp and predictable handling of imported images. I never really cared for image manipulation in Word on the Mac. I surmise iOS APIs force things to be done The Right Way.
The conventional ribbon layout is familiar, but clean and balanced. The most common commands are in the Home tab and all commands are context sensitive. For example, with an imported photo, the "Picture" tab only appears when you tap-select the photo.
Microsoft notes that one can dictate using the built-in iOS speech recognition, but I have found the accuracy still too unreliable to be able to dictate a major portion of one of my articles.
The Find and Find and Replace operations are easy to use, intuitive and can be reversed with the undo icon—which has multiple levels of undo. (I asked Microsoft how deep it goes, and I'll update when I get the answer.[UPDATE: approximately 100 undo levels.]) Unfortunately, there is no way to create a new document template, although 15 nice ones are built in. I don't view this as a major problem in the iPad environment. Also, Word macros are not supported.
Most assuredly, the iPad size constraints and the empowering frameworks have forced the developers to think rightly about how to implement Word in iOS. At this point, going deeper would be basically a feature by feature repetition, and that's not the theme of this review. However, I can affirm that all the features tested worked well.
In this version version, 1.0 (140227), there is no built-in facility to print, using whatever mechanism the user may prefer: AirPrint or, perhaps, Printopia. I asked Microsoft how soon a direct facility to print is coming, but the company doesn't have anything to share at this time. For now, one approach is to email the document that's been created or edited to a PC or Mac that can print the document. Another is to use the EuroSmartz Print n Share app that can print directly from OneDrive.
Given the modern thinking that today's tablet's display is, so to speak, already the "printed" page, I don't see this as a major problem. If Microsoft's philosophy was to focus on the essentials, deferring the nice-to-haves until after version 1.0 was released, then Microsoft chose well.
Next: Part 5