10/2015 Information update posted here
Can I edit Word docs on my iPad? The answer, which used to be “No”, is now “it’s getting easier.” However, a tablet is not a desktop computer so, even if you have a keyboard added to your ipad, and the official Microsoft Word iPad app, the user interface will not be the same as the desktop app.
There are 3 challenges to editing word docs on an iPad:
Getting the document into the iPad
Editing the document
Getting the edited document out of the iPad
Below are three apps that allow Word editing, arranged in order of least like the desktop Word to most like it. Since you can not duplicate the functionality and user interface of Microsoft Word on an iPad, it is important to know which functions are most important to you. How you will be working: where are your documents coming from? Will you be creating them? Editing them for a second time? Do you need a little editing or comprehensive, track-changes-type editing? Do you need to share them after you edit them? Depending on your answers one of these will fill the bill better than the others.
QuickOffice is Google’s solution for those who want to edit Word docs. It allows you to either create a word document or open one that has been mailed to you. A small editing set allows bold, italic, underline and fonts. Commenting is possible and there is a track changes option but no highlighting. The main issue is how to get the document out of your iPad. The only option is to save it in Google docs. This might make distribution to students easy but will make re-editing the document difficult. Cost: Free
CloudOn is an app that allows you open a mailed document or create one on your iPad. You save your documents to the cloud. CloudOn had the wisdom not to create yet another cloud. They allow you to use existing cloud storage like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive, This means that there is little problem getting documents in or off the iPad. The editing functions available are much more robust than with QuickOffice. The ribbon menu has options for formatting, page layout, and references The Review.menu contains track changes. Cost: Free
For those who must have Word functionality most like the desktop application, MicroSoft recently made available a Word app for iPad. The app by itself only allows you view word documents on your iPad. It must be used with a subscription to Office365 in order to create or edit documents. You save your documents both to the iPad and to the Office 365 cloud. They are therefore available online from any computer with an internet connection. While the word app probably has the functionality most like the desktop version of Word it’s not exactly the same. For one thing, the document does not exist on your desktop computer unless you download it. The developers have tried to make good use of tactile editing when it makes sense so the user interface is a combination of desktop and app. Strangely, there is no print function. App: free. Office365 subscription $69.99 a year (personal subscription)