I’m not hogging the tech info around here, really. My expertise is iPhone, so if you are iPaddish, be sure to check Tessas’s discussion on iPad keyboards here.
My dear colleague Elle also works on iPad, and she got so much mileage out of her CloudOn app she came by to give it a shout-out. Made her life a lot easier while she worked on her 2013 debut novel, Dead Blue….
Four months ago, I purchased an iPad in preparation for a four month sojourn out of the country. I needed to be light and mobile. But I needed to work on the road. I was on deadline and knew I’d need to work off my editor’s MS Word document, as well as track all my changes. Imagine my panic the night before my flight when all my friends told me iPad does not support the MS Office Suite with a program that also offered Track Changes.
Yikes! Forever hopeful (and desperate) I did a Google search, and found an app! Yes, there’s an app for that!
CloudOn, a mobile app by CloudOn Inc., brings Microsoft Office to your mobile iPad and links to your Dropbox and Google Drive accounts. I worked exclusively on my iPad for three months this summer using CloudOn’s MS Word, and here are my thoughts on the product, and what it offers to writers on the go.
- Mobility: CloudOn eliminated my need for my laptop. No added weight, no extra hardware in my carry on! I was able to write and revise anywhere I could access WiFi.
- MS Office with Track Changes: I had been told by many people that there was NO WAY to use Track Changes on Word with an iPad. So glad they were wrong. I was working on deadline all summer, and my editor sent me my editorial notes on a Word document using track changes and comments. CloudOn made it possible to view her comments, and use track changes with all the same functionality offered in the traditional version of MS Word. I could accept or reject changes and comments, and new changes were shown in different colors. Overall, I found it a great adaptation.
- Auto Save: Since CloudOn updates constantly to your document-in-a-cloud (I used DropBox), your work is always safe, even if you lose connection, the program crashes, or your device fails. I was working in an area prone to power loss, and frequently lost connectivity while working. In three months, revising two full novels, writing for over five hours per day, I NEVER lost work. CloudOn updated to the minute I lost connection, and my work was safely waiting in the cloud for me when power and connection was restored. I did encounter infrequent crashes, but they were few and far between, and I never lost work as a result of a failure.
- Email your work: CloudOn allows you to email your documents directly from your workspace.
- Cost: I purchased this app FREE from the App Store.
- Signal required: CloudOn operates through internet connection. No internet means no ability to work. Solution? Be prepared with a back-up copy of your document that you can work off of temporarily using Pages or iWriter, and then copy over the small amounts of work you completed while you were without connection.
- Speed: Slow connection speeds hinder productivity. If you are working in an area that does not offer high speed connectivity to the internet, CloudOn may try your patience. Since the program works directly from an internet-stored version of your document, the speed at which it turns pages or registers your changes is directly impacted by the speed of your connection. Slow connection speeds will make writing and revising a cumbersome, but workable, process.
- Screen size: No way around it… fitting the entire MS Word screen onto a tablet is challenging. Given the amount of screen space CloudOn has to work with, I think they did a nice job of including all the menu selections in a way that will be instantly recognizable to MS users. Users with large hands will have a more difficult time navigating the small buttons. I HIGHLY recommend using a bluetooth keyboard with CloudOn, since the onscreen pull-down keyboard will take up most of your workspace. The bluetooth keyboard was essential for me while using this program.
Overall, I agree with the folks who’ve reviewed and rated this program at the App Store. As of this post, 90 users have reviewed CloudOn and given it an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. Based on my experience, I’d be comfortable recommending it to writer friends on the go.