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Hands on with Office for Android Preview: The productivity magic's still there

Mark Hachman | Nov. 14, 2014
Microsoft's Office for iPad exploded into the mobile space in March, impressing even Apple fans with its clean aesthetic. No fool, Microsoft has created Office for Android to look virtually identical to its iPad cousin, but with iterative improvements here and there.

Essentially, PowerPoint boils down to three things: text formatting, selecting the right image, and laying out the two to best effect. (Transitions between slides seem to be falling out of favor.) Microsoft offers twenty-four attractive templates to get you started. 

Within each slide, text entry is similar to that in Word. PowerPoint prompts you to double-tap a text box to get started, and sliding text boxes and resizing graphics are relatively straightforward. 

When navigating through the slides, you have the option of keeping a visual index column to the left, with your slides in miniature. The main slide body is in the middle, and you can add notes to the right. Of course, you can also flip into presentation mode and run through the slides, complete with a "laser pointer" mode that I couldn't quite get working, and digital inking to underscore a particular point. (Those will be paid features, as well as the ability to present on a separate computer, according to Microsoft.) 

Home field advantage

With the exception of OpenOffice and a few others, few challenge Microsoft on its own productivity turf. On Android, rivals include Polaris Office, Office Suite 8, and Google's own apps. Each of those strive for the same ideals that Microsoft has: simplicity, but with increasing complexity the further one delves.

I personally think Hancom Office has a chance as well. The Chinese developer does a lousy job of marketing its wares on Google Play — $24, really? — but the version included on the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro is very nice, with more flexibility in certain functions — image formatting, for example — than Microsoft's apps.

Nevertheless, the tight integration Microsoft is building in with its other services gives it an advantage. And let's face it: No one quite expected Microsoft to demonstrate such a nuanced eye for design, but it did. 

Perhaps Microsoft itself said it best: When downloading the Word Preview for Android app, the company bills it as "the real Microsoft Word app for Android tablets." It's right. Everything that's come before hasn't been up to snuff. 


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