The Right Office Apps for the iPad at Work, Round 2

Users and business managers alike are loving the iPad as a potential laptop replacement, for at least part of the time. And more and more workplaces are providing employees iPads or letting employees use their own. So, just as companies typically install a suite of desktop productivity apps (nearly always Microsoft Office), what should the iPad equivalent be?

The answer can't be Office because Microsoft has no iPad-compatible suite. Microsoft's Office Web Apps cloud-based suite doesn't work on an iPad either. Google Docs is also not easily usable on an iPad, despite some improvements in winter 2011.

[Discover the best office apps for the iPhone. | Learn how to manage iPhones, Androids, BlackBerrys, and other smartphones in InfoWorld's 20-page Mobile Management Deep Dive PDF special report. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights with the Mobile Edge blog and Mobilize newsletter.] first investigated the available programs in December 2010 and put together a recommended business apps suite that should be the standard install on corporate iPads. All have been revised, and new products have become available, so six months later, I've re-reviewed the options to see what makes the most sense today.

I remain surprised to find that none of the iPad productivity suites is ideal, though one continues to come close. (I've added U.S. iTunes links for each app covered.)

Of course, beyond the productivity apps that nearly everyone uses, iPadders have further needs. I've put together a collection of additional business apps that you might make available to employees or point them to for more specialized work.

ipad office
The office suite candidates are Apple's iWork suite -- Pages ($10), Numbers ($10), and Keynote ($10) -- plus Quickoffice's Quickoffice Pro HD (formerly named Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite; $15, but its price changes frequently) and DavaViz's Documents to Go Premium ($17). Quickoffice has a word processor, spreadsheet editor, and a slideshow editor; the last item is a recent addition. DocsToGo -- as it's labeled on the iPad -- has a word processor, a spreadsheet editor, and a tool to edit text and add notes to a presentation. All the programs read and write the Microsoft Office file formats.

Also in the mix is Soonr Workplace, which runs $10 per month for three users and 25GB of storage or $30 per month for five users and 100GB; other plans are available based on storage requirements and number of users. In its 3.3 version, Soonr Workplace is a cloud storage service that lets you edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents; you can preview but not edit iWork files. However, you cannot create documents in Soonr. You can work on files downloaded from your Soonr cloud storage or copied into Soonr via iOS's Open In facility.

I'll first pick out the best individual productivity apps, then pull together a recommended suite that includes utilities that should be in your standard installation as well. Note that my iPad choices aren't the same as my recommendations for the best iPhone office apps, due to app differences across the two devices. Here are the winners:

Next page: Best word processors...

At a Glance
  • The iPad 2 remains a solid choice, thanks to its lower price and strong app choices.


    • Slimmer design with curved edges is easier to hold
    • Comparatively light at 1.3 pounds


    • Tediously slow to charge
    • Relies on PC link to iTunes for updates, backups
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