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The Problem with Office for iPad: No Mouse Support

As soon as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the long-expected release of Office for the iPad last week, I downloaded it on mine. Upon opening Word on the iPad, it displayed all of my documents stored in OneDrive and even sorted them in the order that I last accessed them in. Frankly, Office documents in OneDrive are easier to find and navigate on the iPad than the Microsoft Surface or Dell Venue 8 Pro using the modern Windows 8.1 interface because of how they're organized. Still, because it doesn't have native support for an external mouse, I won't be using Office on the iPad that often.

Even so, if you have an Office 365 subscription and an iPad you should download it and determine how it may best suit your needs. Microsoft optimized Office for the iPad and those that compared it to Apple's own iWork suite believe Microsoft delivered a worthy alternative. But should iPad users who don't have Office 365 subscriptions (the new personal plan costs $69 per year) sign up for it? That depends. Keep in mind if all you want to do is view documents, it's free. Only if you intend to create or edit them do you need an Office 365 subscription. If you don't mind the lack of mouse support, you're set.

But having used a mouse and keyboard with Office for two decades, even though I'm quite open to change and doing things differently, I've become quite accustomed to working with both a keyboard and mouse. Editors and writers tend to frequently cut and paste phrases, sentences and entire paragraphs. Using a mouse and keyboard has become second nature to me. While I'm not averse to typing with an on-screen keyboard, using touch for cut and paste doesn't work for me. But I never bought an iPad with the intent of writing or editing with it. I may pull up a document or PDF to proof, but that's about it.

I bought the iPad to use other apps, notably to read various publications, access e-mail and connect to the Internet when I'm away from my desk. But if I need to take notes, write or edit away from my office, I use a Windows tablet with its type-style keyboard and the track pad and/or an external Bluetooth mouse.

My understanding is while iPads support external Bluetooth keyboards, Apple has made a decision not to support the use of an external mouse on its tablets. Both Android and Windows tablets support them. It's ironic that Apple doesn't do this considering it brought the mouse to life with the Macintosh. Clearly Steve Jobs envisioned weaning users off the mouse to the new touch-based world. It remains to be seen whether CEO Tim Cook has a different view.

I think touch is a great evolution of the user experience but not when it comes to writing and editing anything more than a text, e-mail or social media post. Yes there are ways to jailbreak iOS to enable a mouse to work with the iPad. But until iOS natively gains support for a mouse, I have no intention of using my iPad, which I otherwise enjoy, for content creation. Does this make me stodgy and stuck in my ways or am I in good company?

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/31/2014 at 12:26 PM


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