This post is going to discuss the Microsoft (MS) Office suite of programmes which are freely available on iOS; I will also briefly mention MS Office for Windows. I should point out, this post will only provide a broad overview of the MS Office offerings on iOS, and it will not provide an in-depth review of each programme. This is for two primary reasons:
1. Currently, I am only using MS Office in a casual sense, so I wouldn’t be familiar with long-term use experiences.
2. A much longer post would be required to cover MS Office in its entirety, and due to the previous statement I’m unable to write such a post.
Nevertheless, this post should provide you with a significant introduction to each programme, and you can investigate areas of particular interest to you further.
I should mention, MS Office is available on Mac, but I can’t vouch for its accessibility with VoiceOver (VO).
Even though I love iOS and Mac OS, I am primarily a Windows user when it comes to productivity. While I couldn’t take advantage of the iOS versions of Ms Office when I was in college/university, I honestly believe that using MS Office on iOS, Windows and OneDrive together is a winning combination for students and/or general users.
Microsoft Office for iOS:
I vaguely remember when MS Office was first available on iOS, but at the time I seem to remember you had to have an Office365 subscription to use the available apps in a functional fashion. However, when I recently downloaded the Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps, I was able to login using my Hotmail email address and all worked as expected. I do think there are some features which do require a subscription, but I have not encountered such features yet.
In terms of accessibility, the MS Office apps are good, but there are features which are not accessible to VO users yet. The help information within the app states that Microsoft is working to make all features accessible in future updates. Until this time, I would recommend that you use a desktop version of MS Office to conduct your final edits and/or more significant productivity tasks.
Microsoft Word for iOS:
For those unfamiliar with MS Office, Word is the word processing element of the Office suite of applications. After logging in to Word you will be presented with the available templates you can choose from, and you can access your saved, recent and OneDrive documents.
Assuming you have chosen to create a blank document from the available templates, you will be presented with two edit areas, a ribbon and your virtual keyboard.
The first edit area is the header section of your document, and the second is the document’s main body.
For those who are familiar with MS Office on a desktop, The ribbon in Office for iOS behaves in a similar manner to that on Windows. The ribbon is essentially a row of tabs, and these tabs represent different categories of tools you can use in your document. For example, the Insert tab can be selected, and you will have access to tools to insert pictures, tables and charts into your document.
Your virtual keyboard is just that, your virtual keyboard. If you are using an external keyboard, you can choose to have the virtual keyboard hidden or visible. In most cases, the virtual keyboard will be automatically hidden when an external keyboard is connected. This can be beneficial in certain apps as you are able to access areas of the screen which would normally be occupied by the virtual keyboard.
The way in which the ribbon is presented will differ depending on the iOS device being used. For example, on the iPad the ribbon is across the top of the screen, and in the case of the iPhone, the ribbon is accessed through a button at the top of the screen and takes the place of your virtual keyboard.
You’ve read the good news, and now it’s time for the bad news. As mentioned earlier, there are some aspects of MS Office for iOS which are not accessible, and Word is no exception to this statement. The following features are listed in the Word for iOS app as not offering VoiceOver support.
- Tables (iPhone Only)
- Resizing shapes
You can access accessibility information specific to MS Word for iPad at this link, and for information specific to Word for iPhone click here.
You can download MS Word for iOS on the App Store by visiting this link.
Microsoft Excel for iOS:
MS Excel is the spreadsheet aspect of MS Office, and it is commonly used to create budgets, databases and to perform a range of calculations. After you login to Excel, you will notice that the layout is very similar to Word. However, things change a little when you create a blank spreadsheet.
As with Word, I will assume that you have created a blank spreadsheet, and you will be presented with the ribbon, a formula bar, your virtual keyboard and rows and columns which make up the spreadsheet.
While the ribbon behaves in the same way as in the case of Word, you may notice you do not have an edit field. However, your formula bar is actually your edit field. To place information in a particular area in your spreadsheet, you must first select the cell or location, and either:
1. Navigate to the formula bar, and double tap in the edit field.
2. Double tap on the desired cell or location again, and you will be automatically placed in the edit field.
I haven’t used MS Excel for iOS a lot, but I would recommend using this app to make quick edits or alterations and/or to setup a draft of your spreadsheet for later editing on your desktop version of Excel.
Specifically on the iPad, it may also be useful to use Excel for iOS to orientate yourself or get a picture of a new spreadsheet which has been sent to you. I know I find it a little disorientating when I receive a spreadsheet which I haven’t actually created. With Excel for iOS you can physically tap the spreadsheet and find where the relevant information is, and the number of sheets in a workbook are clearly marked at the bottom of the screen.
As in the case of Word, there are features of Excel for iOS which are not yet accessible with VO, Such features are listed as follows:
- Text format announcements in VO
- Data validation
- Paste values
- Auto-filling a series of data
If you would like to read further accessibility related help specific to MS Excel, you can find iPad help at this link, and iPhone help at this link.
To download MS Excel for iOS from the App Store click here.
During my use of MS Excel for iOS, I noticed that when data is present in a cell, the title of the cell is no longer announced by VO. For example, if I select cell B1, VO will announce B1 selected when it is empty. However, if I have inserted data into B1, the contents of the cell are announced when it is selected and not the cell title. This may just be a quirk on my end, but I just wanted to make you aware.
Microsoft PowerPoint for iOS:
I do not have vast experience with MS PowerPoint on the desktop or iOS. I am fully aware of what the presentation creation package can do, and I have used it from time to time in college. However, I have been in many teams that have used MS PowerPoint for presentations, but it has just so happened that another member of the team have taken responsibility for creating the presentation.
A scenario such as the one described should not be relied on, and you should be confident using MS PowerPoint on some level. I suppose I am just saying I can use it, but I choose not to when I have the opportunity. Do keep in mind that MS PowerPoint, or something like it, is almost expected in presentations at college/university in my experience.
Similar to Word and Excel, PowerPoint on iOS has a ribbon, virtual keyboard and edit fields. The edit fields are represented by your presentation slide. For instance, when you create a blank presentation, you will be presented with a slide and you can edit different areas such as the title of the slide and the main body. This may not make much sense if you are not familiar with MS PowerPoint in general, but all will become clear once you use the programme.
Unfortunately, I have been unable to find information which specifically refers to MS PowerPoint and VO.
Even though I was unable to find accessibility specific help information, there is general help documentation available. For MS PowerPoint help for iPad visit this link, and for help relating to the iPhone click this link.
If you would like to download MS PowerPoint for iOS from the app store click here.
Microsoft OneDrive for iOS:
OneDrive is the cloud computing aspect of the MS Office suite. Essentially, you can save a document in OneDrive on iOS, and you can access the same file on your Windows desktop providing you have OneDrive enabled. In my opinion, it is OneDrive which makes MS Office for iOS and Windows a winning combination. You can start a document, spreadsheet and/or presentation on iOS and finish it at a later stage on your Windows desktop.
I believe this has many practical applications such as taking notes in class, capturing creative presentation ideas and/or creating a draft of a financial spreadsheet. .
OneDrive is accessed on iOS via an individual app, and on Windows, One Drive is present in the sidebar of the File Explorer.
I realise I wrote an earlier post on cloud storage, and I was not too enthusiastic about OneDrive, but I naively didn’t realise its potential for those using MS Office.
You can read the AppleVis App Directory entry for MS OneDrive here, and you can download OneDrive for iOS on the App Store at this link.
Also, I have been able to find some Frequently Asked Questions specific to MS OneDrive, and if you would like to learn more click here.
Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneDrive for Windows:
The MS Office suite is 100% accessible on the desktop in my opinion. However, this may differ depending on the screen reading software you are using. The layout of each application on the desktop is similar to the iOS versions, i.e. all applications have a ribbon. There’s not a great deal to say about MS Office on the desktop, it has been around for as long as I can remember, and it’s not going away. If you are not an MS Office user, I would recommend investigating the 365Office Subscription structure. I am currently using the 2010 version of MS Office, so I do not need a subscription, but if you are running a new operating system or you would like to keep up to date with the current version of MS Office, it may make more sense for you to investigate a subscription plan.
I think it is possible to buy a copy of MS Office 2013/2016 outright, but I am honestly not sure.
The Bottom Line:
A lot of work has gone into making MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneDrive accessible to the extent that they are. I think any of the discussed iOS apps are ideal for casual users and/or for complimenting the use of the full desktop versions.
It is for that reason that if you are required to produce documents, spreadsheets and/or presentations for education or employment purposes, I strongly recommend that you purchase a copy of MS Office for your Windows desktop. As in my opinion, the iOS versions of MS Office are not robust enough at this point to conduct serious productivity tasks on their own.
As always, I hope the above information is of some benefit to someone. It almost goes without saying, please contact me if you have any further queries.
I had originally planned to share the theme song to The Office TV Show to accompany this post, but I was unable to embed the relevant video as embedding had been disabled. However, the below video is a song called Work by The Saturdays. This girl group is from the United Kingdom, but one of the members is from Ireland.