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Access, view and edit your Microsoft Office documents on your iOS device

Microsoft Office Mobile allows you to open, view and edit Microsoft Office documents on your iPhone.

Open and view Office documents on your iPhone

Microsoft Office Mobile is designed to let you access your Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents on the go, using your iPhone. Unlike the Windows Phone version of Microsoft Office, the iPhone app doesn't support OneNote documents, although a standalone OneNote app is available.

If you have an iPad, you're better off installing the touch-friendly Office for iPad, which takes the form of separate downloads for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. An Office 365 subscription is needed to access the full features of these apps (this isn't the case with Office Mobile for iPhone where all features are now free to use for home users).

Office Mobile for iPhone lets you access all of your Office documents that are stored in the Cloud and any changes you make will be saved and synchronized. Office Mobile supports sharing via OneDrive and SharePoint.\n

Opening and viewing your documents in Office Mobile is a real delight. The Places tab neatly lists all your various storage spaces with Microsoft (OneDrive or SharePoint) and you can add individual folders to the Places menu to give you quick access to your frequently-used content. The Recent tab offers a handy way to load up documents you've just been working on, and these are neatly organized by date.

Viewing documents in Office Mobile is surprisingly clear and easy. Documents are optimized for iPhone viewing and resize accordingly. Of course, reading Office docs, particularly Excel sheets isn't great on a small screen but Office Mobile for iPhone makes it as comfortable as possible. The pinch to zoom is smooth and effective for getting closer into big documents.

You are assisted too by the Viewing options icon which includes an Outline view, where you can quickly skip to a particular bullet point, chapter, or part of a Word document. There's also a Find option for if you quickly want to pinpoint a particular word or phrase.

Viewing options in Excel include the Outline view and Find, but are extended to include the ability to sort or filter data. The PowerPoint viewer doesn't include text search or filtering, but you can open a thumbnail panel where you can see a small preview of each slide and jump to the one you want.

One of the best things about viewing files with Office Mobile on your iPhone is that it automatically lets you resume reading from where you left off the last time you opened the document, whether it was on your device, on the Web app or through Microsoft Office on your desktop.

Create and edit Word, Excel and Powerpoint files

While viewing and reading documents is a breeze with Office Mobile, when it comes to making edits to your documents, the application falls short.

The app allows you to create and make edits to Word, Excel and PowerPoint docs and the formatting will be kept intact. There are safeguards built into the app that ensure you can't make changes to a document if it's already open in Office 365 on the web or the desktop, locking it for editing on one platform.

The scope of the editing you can do with Office Mobile is very limited. In the case of Word documents, there are only very basic formatting options. You can apply bold, italic, underline and strikethrough text, choose from just three text colors, applying highlights, and change the text size. In the case of changing size, there are only plus and minus buttons for changing, and you can't see the point size.

Other than these basic formatting options, there's very little you can change in a Word document using Office Mobile. There are no page layout options to speak of, and neither can you insert items into your documents.

In terms of Excel, again you have some basic formatting options, plus Undo/Redo functions, AutoSum and the ability to create basic charts from your data sheets.

To assist document creation, there are some Word and Excel templates included in Office Mobile, though again these are basic and limited to just three templates for each program.

A hit-and-miss user experience

The limitations of editing documents on a small screen device are obvious and perhaps Microsoft wasn't keen to pump Office Mobile full of editing features because it knows that most people won't be using their iPhone as their main Office tool for creating and editing documents. This said, editing in Office Mobile could be made a lot easier that it is, and there are some niggly things that make it a poor experience at times.

Copying and pasting in Office Mobile, for example, is a real drag. It's impossible to know if it's the fault of the app or flaws with the iOS copy/paste system, but the seemingly simple task of selecting a piece of text, copying it and then pasting it somewhere else in the document can be so frustrating. Often the text appears not to be selectable, or the 'copy' option doesn't appear, or the app won't bring up the 'Paste' option once you finally have managed to copy text. It doesn't happen always but enough for it to be very annoying.

Another thing that niggles with the Office Mobile user interface is the way that sometimes you can't close the pop-up contextual menu (the Outline view or formatting tools for example). Hopefully these issues will be addressed in future releases.

The verdict

As a document viewer, Office Mobile for Office 365 subscribers works very well and rivals Google Drive in this respect. However, the formatting and editing experience needs to be worked on in order to improve the usefulness of the app.


  • Viewing documents is clear and simple
  • Supports sharing via SkyDrive or SharePoint
  • Resume reading from where you last opened
  • Offers quick, easy access to your online docs
  • Lets you view and edit documents attached to email messages
  • Add comments to documents


  • Editing features are limited
  • Temperamental copy and paste
  • Few templates

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