At Macworld | iWorld 2012, the byte2 team (all the way from London) was there to show off their Office2 HD app (that is Office-squared, not Office-two). Billed as “more than just a text editor”, Office2 HD allows for the creation and editing of text, presentation, and spreadsheet documents with full support for the standard Microsoft office formats doc/docx, ppt/pptx, and xls/xlsx. With a strong focus on use in education environments (especially useful given Apple’s iPad push into education with iBooks), Office2 HD is actually a viable office replacement that further elevates the iPad to a full laptop replacement.
For only $7.99, Office2 HD offers a stunning array of features. byte2 also offers separate apps called Doc2, Sheet2, and Slide2, with Office2 HD being a full bundle of all three apps, and all apps are designed to be mobile equivalents of their Microsoft Office desktop app counterparts (Word, Excel, and Powerpoint). Although the text editor is the most developed in terms of available features, support for spreadsheets and presentations is sufficient to view, manipulate, and create basic documents of those types. Complex formatting and transitions/animations, for example, are not supported, though the app offers an impressive list of available Excel Functions.
Text editing features include:
- Ability to create rich formatted Office-compatible Word docs (.doc/.docx) or text-only .txt files
- Support for a variety of formatting options, including footnotes, endnotes, page/column/section breaks, tab stops, bold/italic/underline, and bulleted/numeric lists
- Images can be inserted from your media library or by using standard shapes (boxes, stars, etc.), with full tap-and-drag layout with text wrapping and layer support (put text in front of a shape for example)
- Fulll MLA-style bibliography formatting support
Spreadsheet and presentation features include:
- Support for a wide variety of spreadsheet functions grouped into General, Mathematical, Date & Time, Statistical, Trigonometric, Logical, and String categories
- Ability to format cell contents, including the number type (Currency, percentage, etc.), sort, filter, and search, as well as aligning/merging text and adding borders
- Presentation slide layout options include a choice of four templates (title, title+1 column, title+2 columns, or blank)
- Slides can contain text, shapes, or images from your media library, though no text wrapping is available
- Playing a slideshow is a cinch with simple swipe-to-navigate control (though complex animations or builds will have to be added later via Powerpoint)
The Good, the Bad, the…Confusing?
Overall, Office2 HD displays a remarkable level of polish and genuine utility; it truly rises to the level of an MS Office replacement for simple users creating and editing documents on an iPad (a Bluetooth keyboard is practically a necessity for larger documents). The app features great filesharing options to get documents into/out of the app, including built-in emailing and an FTP server to easily share documents between your desktop computer and iPad. File management is outstanding, allowing you to easily access any WebDAV folder or services such as iDisk, DropBox, Google Docs, Box, and open-source collaboration platform Alfresco. The file management even allows you to create folders and move documents as desired between them on your chosen storage…which leads to one of the app’s major drawbacks.
One thing that every user will notice right off the bat is a slightly odd icon in an iPad app: a floppy disk icon in the menu bar. Yes, this app has a save button (most iPad apps autosave the work you are doing), but that old habit of Command-S just is not a part of the iPad experience (nor is mucking around with a hierarchical file system). Although the app will prompt saves when you switch documents, there is no such warning when you push the Home button to exit the app/switch to another. If you fire up another app that requires additional memory, you will lose work; during testing, the app crashed a number of times, which also resulted in lost data and work—the app’s reviews mention crash issues, and release notes indicate the byte2 team is actively working to resolve these. Although this feature is designed to make Office2 HD a more natural experience for MS Office veterans, it is fundamentally at odds with the iPad user experience, and forces an uncomfortable shift back to the PC era (remember, iPad is all about Post-PC).
There are a few minor issues with this app, though no show stoppers; really, more rough edges that require some additional polishing. First, there are a number of non-sticky settings, such as on-the-fly spellcheck in text files, so you must re-enable them every time you open a document. The app also creates backup files of everything you edit, which can make it difficult to find the right file if you access your documents via the inbuilt FTP server (you end up mucking around in metadata to find your desired file).
The really shameful thing about ByteSquared’s incredible Office2 HD is that such a fully featured MS Office replacement app could be created by such a small team. Microsoft has thousands of very talented software engineers on their payroll, yet three years after the iPad came out we still have no official Office for iPad app (though rumors suggest there might be one soon). With a Bluetooth keyboard, ByteSquared’s Office2 HD can easily make the iPad a fully featured laptop replacement for mobile office workers. If the crushing weight of a MacBook Air is simply too much, grab your iPad instead and hit the road!
Buy Office2 HD