Microsoft PowerPoint (for iPad)
The built-in limitations of a tablet are far less limiting in graphic-centric apps like presentation software than they are in text-and-number apps like word processors or spreadsheets. I do a lot less typing when making a presentation than when editing a document in Word or a spreadsheet in Excel, and so the awkward on-screen or attached keyboard on a tablet doesn’t cause as many problems. And the vast processing power and vivid graphics on the iPad Pro makes a graphic-centric app like PowerPoint look better than I’ve seen it on any other mobile device. It’s a strong candidate for the title of best office app available for the iPad, period.
I find that I don’t miss the advanced features that Microsoft left out of mobile PowerPoint the way I sometimes miss the advanced features left out of the iPad versions of Word and Excel. If I use a transition effect or animation at all—and I tend to think they distract from the content of a presentation rather than enhancing it—I don’t much care about fine-tuning the effect. The default settings for speed and duration are perfectly adequate, and the default settings are all you get in the mobile version of the app. If I want to waste time on fine-tuning, I can open the presentation in Windows or OS X, but it’s probably better for me and my audience if I don’t.
PowerPoint’s iOS version lets you select themes but not modify existing ones or create new ones. It also lets you insert tables, videos, shapes, text boxes, and pictures—including a toolbar button that lets you snap a picture with the tablet’s camera. The latest upgrade adds a Draw toolbar that lets you draw lines by touching the screen with a finger or the Apple Pencil, with an option to convert your rough drawings into shapes like triangles or rectangles. The Convert to Shapes option isn’t able to convert a roughly drawn five-pointed star into a neat geometric shape the way it can with triangles and circles, but you can easily add a five-pointed star from the Shapes button on the Insert menu if you want.
The mobile version also has a minimal but well-designed Presenter View that lets you use your finger or the Apple Pencil as a pointer and also gives you space to add notes. Surprisingly, it doesn’t display a timer, but otherwise it has all the features I need. Your mileage may vary.
I am puzzled by one other limitation in the app: when I have the same presentation open on my desktop and my iPad Pro, the desktop version shows the names of both people who were working on the presentation, but the iPad version shows only that two people were collaborating without identifying them.
All in all, PowerPoint on the iPad is a pleasant surprise—easy to use, with a lucid interface that I prefer to PowerPoint’s only serious rival on the mobile platform, Apple’s Keynote. For anyone who uses Microsoft Office, on a desktop or laptop, the consistent interface and shared features in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are a major plus.
Word and Excel for iOS are also the best mobile apps of their kind, but when I use them on the iPad I wish they included desktop features like the ability to open two documents at the same time. With PowerPoint, the iPad version gives me almost exactly the feature set I need. By comparison, Apple’s office suite of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote is visually dazzling but underpowered in its feature set.
Oddly enough, Apple’s mobile office suite feels less at home on the iPad than Microsoft’s does. In Apple’s desktop operating system, OS X, Keynote makes all its power and flexibility easily accessible from a sidebar, but in iOS, Keynote has a minimal interface that makes you hunt for features. The whole Keynote iOS app seems designed more for small screens than today’s often generous ones. For example, Keynote hides the current slide when you write presenter’s notes about it. PowerPoint lets you add notes on the same screen on which you view the slide in Presenter View.
PowerPoint on the iPad isn’t perfect, but it’s a major success and a clear Editors’ Choice iPad office app. If you give presentations often, you may not need to carry your laptop with you any longer. An iPad Pro and the PowerPoint app may be all you need. It’s a strong argument for tablets in the workplace, and especially for the iPad Pro, with its big screen and Pencil stylus.