Helpdesk Challenge – how to edit Word documents for free on your iPad or iPhone

by , Deputy Computing Editor Apple 02/03/2013
ipad mini cloudon

SkyDrive lets you store Word and Excel documents online in the cloud. You can edit them directly using a web browser on your PC, but editing them on an iPad is a challenge. We show you how to do this for free.

For many iPad owners, the ability to edit Microsoft Word and Excel documents on their shiny Apple tablet is an elusive hope. Or at least, it is if they fancy doing it for free.

SkyDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage service. It lets you store documents, including photos, music files, and Word and Excel docs safely online, where you can access them from any computer.

Who offers the cheapest cloud storage? We compare cloud service charges

Microsoft’s SkyDrive iPad app

SkyDrive iPad app

SkyDrive for iPad

The SkyDrive iPad and iPhone app is a frustrating fellow. It’s neatly designed and works well enough for what it does, but has some serious limitations.

It lets you view all of the files you have stored on SkyDrive, which is handy for sure. But it doesn’t let you edit Word or Excel files at all.

This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, I suppose. Why would Microsoft willingly give Apple iPad users the keys to Word and Excel free of charge?

Editing SkyDrive with Google Chrome for iOS

Chrome iPad

Chrome for iPad

Since you can’t edit Word or Excel files saved on SkyDrive through the iPad Safari web browser, a change of browser can help.

Install Google Chrome to your iPad or iPhone (free from the Apple App Store), then log into your Microsoft account through Chrome. Select SkyDrive from the top menu once you’re logged in, then select to view the full web page, rather than the mobile version.

In practice, however, this gives you a fairly unsatisfying editing experience. The browser runs slowly even editing a simple Word document, and you’re left with precious little screen space, particularly if you attempt this on an iPhone.

Success! – editing SkyDrive documents on an iPad with CloudOn

CloudOn iPad

CloudOn for iPad

Salvation comes in the shape of a completely free app called CloudOn. Personally, I could hug the developers for pulling this app off without charging a penny.

CloudOn lets you log in to your SkyDrive account (or Dropbox or Google Drive, for that matter), and edit documents directly through the app.

Editing Word documents on an iPad is a breath of fresh air. Any changes you make will be saved and synced via your SkyDrive account .

You can insert comments, track changes, format fonts and paragraphs, and above all, edit away to your heart’s content.

Editing Word documents on your iPad with CloudOn

Editing Word documents on your iPad with CloudOn

It’s a much smoother experience on an iPad than on an iPhone, and the smaller iPhone screen doesn’t lend itself so well to editing documents like this. But it puts a smile on my face to even have the option!

Do you have any tips and tricks for editing Microsoft Documents on an iPad? Have you abandoned Microsoft for Google Docs and never looked back? Let us know in the comment box below.

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Gren Nation

Thanks, The CloudOn app works perfectly in Dropbox on my iPad, I haven’t tried SkyDrive yet.


Gren Nation

Just discovered that Skydrive does not support subfolders so of very limited use if you’re trying to upload multiple files of varying formats in many folders. Back to Dropbox.

Hi Gren – I’ve been able to create subfolders within my own SkyDrive account, though the only problem I’ve encountered is that you can’t drag and drop folders with subfolders into the SkyDrive web app to upload files. Has anyone else encountered similar issues?



The drawback with Cloudon for me is that it does not show shared files.


Alison Beadle

I down loaded the Cloud On app and i’ve not managed to edit anything on it yet. The download time is slow and if you have a 50 page document with an index it’s hit or miss whether it actually downloads at all. It’s also very hard to scroll up and down through the document as it takes so long to refresh the image. I’ve done via my own wifi and the mobile phone network my ipad is on and it makes no difference. Anyone experience this? Any one used anything else to edit word docs from Skydrive? Thanks Alison



For Word or Excel on my iPad I using my app Beesy. This allows me to import or export such a file to have them on iPad and work directly on making annotations in the margins of these files. Dropbox backup is also very useful in such cases.


meester Chris

Looked at it; its NOT free
loads of subscriptions required to actually do anything.
Typical yearly cost is £20

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