Let’s face it, Apple’s recent attempt to “harmonize” the iWork user experience
across all devices is nothing short of a digital disaster. Just read the Apple Support Communities message boards and you’ll learn very quickly that dumbing down Pages (Apple’s answer to Word) and Numbers (supposed to be like Excel) and Keynote (Powerpoint) not only enraged power users of iWork but has reminded us why Microsoft has been and will continue to be the industry standard for office software.
While iWork’s recent growing pains have given Microsoft shareholders much to cheer about, Skydrive’s monthly payment plan to use Microsoft office in the cloud has not taken off as expected. It just feels like a money grab (which might explain why Apple released iWorks for free). With Steve Ballmer stepping down rumours are flying about that Microsoft Office may yet be made available for the iPad. Until that day happens (if ever) there is a free cloud-base alternative to managing your Microsoft Office PC/Mac documents on your iPad. If you’re interested, read on.
HopTo (http://hopto.com/) is only available for the iPad and is easy to set up. Once you download the app, you immediately create an account, confirm your email, set-up any number of your preferred cloud services (choose from: Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Windows PC) and you’re good to go. It’s pretty easy to figure out what’s a pdf file versus a folder, a Word or Excel document. I was able to open up a Word document and start typing right away. I noticed that I could only work in landscape mode which sort of makes sense since the more real screen estate the better. I also noticed a bit of time lag between typing and character produced but that may have be less of an issue with users of the latest A7 chip (I tested this product on a 4th generation iPad). The simplicity of the interface is…er… simple, though you have to slide, slide, slide alphabetically to get to Times New Roman from Cambria, for example. No big problem, I don’t really change fonts mid-stream throughout a document.
Caveat: a disconcerting message kept reappearing as I flipped through my files in Dropbox such as “Older file format detected: changes may cause incompatibilities with the Older MS Excel versions: OK or Cancel”. Since this will require some experimenting I have yet to find out how “OK”ing this and making changes actually affects my files. Truth be told, I don’t really share Excel files all that much, so I don’t see that as much of a problem. Also, I realized that I couldn’t create PDF files which IS my preferred format to share files (though not with Excel, of course).
All in all, HopTo looks like a promising alternative to lightly touching up Word documents while on the road. I have yet to touch up Excel documents and see how it handles formulas etcetera and hope to report on that as a follow to this post. Given where iWorks is now and how Microsoft is only available for surface, the question is “Are you ready to give HopTo a try? Let us know what you think of it if you do.