CloudOn Brings Native Microsoft Office Files to the iPad (yes, with tracked changes)

Starting today, new cloud service CloudOn brings Microsoft Office files to the iPad in their native formats with all the features and formatting you expect. The files and editing tools look and work the way you expect them too. Yes, you can even view and created tracked changes.

CloudOn appears to host a cloud-based version of Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint. After creating a (currently) free CloudOn account and linking your Dropbox, you can access, edit and create Microsoft Office files. In my brief tests, all the formatting tools worked as expected.

The screen shot below reflects my edits to a Word document created on my desktop. Using CloudOn I accessed the file in my Dropbox, created the tracked changes you see in the screen shot, and saved the file. The file when viewed on my desktop reflects all the changes, including the tracked changes, that I created on my iPad.

Hey look, tracked changes on my iPad.

CloudOn’s website doesn’t explain how the app works. I can’t tell if CloudOn is hosting its own version of these apps or a version licensed from Microsoft. The menus are similarly configured to the products offered in Microsoft’s Office 365 suite, but not identical. In either case, based on my short test, the features work the same as your desktop version.

CloudOn is similarly silent about development plans. From poking around the support website, I see that a PDF viewer is planned for inclusion in 2012. A couple features described as “under review” include the ability to access files from your PC and to have the app open at the last document you were using. Google Docs support is described as “Planned”.

Finally, things are also cloudy about CloudOn’s pricing structure. At this point, all the features are available and free. I suspect that CloudOn will soon limit free access and require a paid subscription based on the amount of access time desired. Each time I start the app, a timer in the settings menu begins to count down from 2 hours.

Probably the number one question / comment I get somehow involves lawyers wanting to use Microsoft Word documents on the iPad and many of those are questions / comments about tracked changes. For those users, this could be a great tool. Looking forward to more from CloudOn about how the service works and pricing.

CloudOn is a free download in the App Store (iTunes link).

HT (Justin Kahn, iPad Notebook)

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