Office for iPad vs. iWork: The battle for tablet productivity

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PowerPoint vs. Keynote

Once again, Keynote leads its Office rival when it comes to the variety of template options for creating a new presentation. In this case the number of templates is about the same between the two, but the Keynote offerings are richer and more visually impressive than those in PowerPoint for iPad. As you may have guessed, though, I started with a plain, white presentation template.

keynote templates

Keynotes has a more impressive selection of presentation templates than PowerPoint.

Double-tapping on the slide brings up the QWERTY virtual keyboard for entering text. If you want to change the font, size, or color of the text, you have to use the paintbrush icon at the upper right. As with Pages and Numbers, the + icon at the upper right lets you insert images, sound or video clips, tables, charts or graphs, and other elements, and the wrench icon lets you search or configure the app settings. It’s also where you’ll find the options for slide transitions and presentation tools.

To add a slide in Keynote, you tap the + button at the bottom of the left pane and can choose slides preformatted for text, images, or both. I added some cool transitions to individual text boxes and images in the presentation, then saved it and reopened it in PowerPoint for iPad. The slide transitions worked, but the rich transitions for the individual elements did not.

PowerPoint for iPad has the same look and feel as its desktop counterpart, and, like the Word and Excel apps, it uses the same ribbon bar menu as the traditional Office 2013 tools.

powerpoint notes

The PowerPoint app lets you view the notes on your slides.

Where PowerPoint for iPad really shines, though, is when you’re presenting. Microsoft built in features like a virtual laser pointer that shows a red dot wherever you touch a finger. You can also draw and annotate in the presentation to make a point. The annotations are not saved once the presentation is over, however.

For the sake of consistency, I once again opened the Microsoft demo file in Keynote to see how it handles a more feature-rich PowerPoint presentation. I received a pop-up alert with a laundry list of formatting issues—various fonts didn’t exist or were replaced with some Keynote equivalent—and a concerning message that the “build order was changed on one or more slides.”

keynote warning

Keynote had problems with the formatting of a feature-rich PowerPoint presentation.

Despite the alert, the presentation looked fine. The lack of fonts, however, broke the file fidelity. Any changes I made to the text were rendered in the available Keynote fonts. If I saved the file and opened it again in PowerPoint for iPad—or PowerPoint on some other platform—all those fonts would be replaced with the designated Keynote equivalents.

Verdict: Keynote is a wonderful app for creating presentations. However, PowerPoint is the gold standard, and Microsoft has developed a superior app that brings all of the power of the desktop program to the iPad. If you want to create, edit, or present an actual PowerPoint file, accept no substitute.

Office for iPad has the edge

I like the iWork apps. They’re great if you work strictly within the Apple ecosystem and rely on the native Apple formats. But I always feel like I’m swimming upstream when trying to create or edit Microsoft Office documents in iWork.

The bottom line is that if you need to work with and collaborate on content in Microsoft Office formats—and most of us do—Office for iPad is a must. Add in the value you get with an accompanying Office 365 subscription—including the ability to use Office Mobile on an iPhone or Android smartphone, as well as additional OneDrive storage, and Skype calling minutes—and Microsoft’s foothold in the workplace just got a little stronger.

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