Can I Load Microsoft Word on the Apple iPad?

By Anne Hirsh

IPads run a different operating system from either Windows or Mac computers. This system, called iOS, is not compatible with any desktop software, including Microsoft Word. However, the iPad does offer several options for working with MS Word documents, including apps to read, edit and create Word-compatible files.

Platforms

Microsoft Word is a word processing program with features that require storage space, processing power and certain amounts of memory to function. Microsoft developers created Word to run on the Windows operating system of desktop and laptop computers, and also created versions for Mac desktops and laptops. All of this programming means the software uses too many resources to run on a mobile operating system like the iPad's iOS. Mobile devices use much lighter programming than computers. This allows designers to minimize weight and size by including only the essential components. A full version of Word, even if the software was compatible with the iOS system, would overtax these components and drain the iPad's battery quickly.

Options

The iPad's native software can read Word documents without any additional apps. This means that if you receive a Word document in your email or download one from a website, you can view it in the iPad's Preview mode, which allows you to scroll through and zoom in and out to read the full document. Preview mode does not save and store the document, nor can you make any changes. You can send the document from Preview mode to a different app to work with it further.

iPad Word Processing

The iPad's top word processing apps include Pages, Quickoffice HD (formerly Quickoffice Pro) and Documents to Go, which come in various levels and prices. Each app requires a separate purchase, but all are inexpensive compared to computer software. Pages offers many advanced formatting features for creating documents with images, shapes, tables and special layouts. It stores your documents in its own format but can convert them to either PDF or Word documents, and it can read Word documents as well. It is easy to use and has a clean layout. Quickoffice HD is also easy to use and supports many of the formatting features of Pages. It is a full Office suite that lets you view and edit Excel files as well as Word. It also views PowerPoint files and has an easy to use document management system that integrates with cloud storage services like Dropbox. Documents to Go has a less user-friendly interface and does not support images, but the Premium version offers advanced editing features for Word, Excel and PowerPoint and handles newer Word .docx formats better than the other two. Any of these apps, along with others available in the Apple App Store, will let you create Microsoft Word documents without loading Word on your iPad.

Considerations

If you need specific features of Word, check the app descriptions before purchasing any Word-compatible app. One significant feature missing from all Word apps as of June 2011 is the "Track Changes" feature that lets you see the edits made to a document. Other advanced features such as styles and templates are also lacking, although Pages offers a small selection of templates and styles. All apps integrate with the iPad's Mail app, so sending your iPad Word documents to others is simple.