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Microsoft offers Office for iPad

Microsoft’s long-rumored, much-anticipated software suite Office for iPad is finally here — but is it right for you? Individual iPad users and companies that have deployed Apple’s tablet must now weigh whether to invest in the productivity programs. The iPad ecosystem, famed for its rich app selection, offers no shortage of productivity-app alternatives.

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But for some, only Microsoft Office will do. Many companies have versions of Office installed on Windows PCs and Macintosh computers. Office for iPad is an extremely good fit in such places.

Office for iPad is part of Office 365, which charges monthly or yearly fees for access to Microsoft’s Office software on up to five computers or mobile devices. If you don’t pay up, the software won’t work for the most part.

Office for iPad is free to download in the form of individual Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps for word processing, number crunching and presentation making. But without a subscription, users can only use the apps to open and read Office files.

Office 365 subscriptions, starting at $6.99 a month, are available in a range of individual, home and business flavors. Companies that already have Office 365 “seats” will welcome the arrival of Office for iPad to use with their other Office 365-connected devices.

Apple offers iWork apps with Pages, Numbers and Keynote for creating documents, spreadsheets and presentation decks. Similarly, Google has QuickOffice, an app that can edit files in Microsoft formats, as well as a Drive app for use with Google’s own Web-based Docs, Sheets and Slides productivity apps.

For those who do not require Microsoft productivity software, the Apple and Google alternatives can be superb stand-ins at no cost.

Microsoft Office’s lengthy absence on the iPad has created opportunity for Office-flavored apps that can manipulate Microsoft-formatted documents, spreadsheets and slide shows. Google QuickOffice is one of these.

Others include Citrix ShareFile QuickEdit, Documents To Go and Polaris Office. Online services such as CloudOn, OnLive Desktop and AstralPad provide Web-based Office or Office-like apps.

Pricing for these Office-like offerings ranges widely, from free, or free in certain forms, to the charging of fees that are paid a single time or in recurring form.

Not everyone requires Microsoft Word or apps that have its look and feel. As a result, the iPad ecosystem has seen a profusion of writing apps that lack Microsoft’s characteristic complexity, and instead have a minimalist flavor.

Such apps often eschew Word-style text formatting for a simplified Markdown formatting system suitable for posting text to the Web. They are especially good for Apple stalwarts, too, since they often sync with Mac-based sibling apps.

Examples of the minimalist iPad apps include iA Writer, WriteRoom, Byword, Daedalus Touch, Phraseology, Writing Kit, WriteUp, Textilus and Editorial.

Not everyone needs to pay for Microsoft Office. For some people, the company’s Office Online service includes Web-based versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint that work much like the desktop and mobile versions but costs nothing.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.