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Microsoft just made Office apps far more powerful for the iPad Pro

Microsoft just made Office apps far more powerful for the iPad Pro

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Microsoft promised many of its newest and most powerful stylus-based features in Windows 10 Office apps like PowerPoint and OneNote would make their way to other platforms, and the company is now following through. Starting today, Office apps for the iPad and iPad Pro can take advantage of new inking tools for more precise finger and stylus drawings and notations. The company is also bringing its PowerPoint Designer and Morph tools, which let you spruce up and animate PowerPoint slides, from Windows 10 over to iOS, starting first with Morph and then Designer later on.

The features are all the same perks Windows desktop and mobile users of Office have enjoyed since late last year. There's now a "Draw" tab in every iOS Office apps' menu bar, so you can access inking, drawing, and writing tools more easily. Office apps for iPad will also sense the approach of an incoming stylus — so long as it's an active stylus like Apple's Pencil — so you can quickly switch between, say, typing in a Word document to penciling in hand-written notes in the margins with a stylus without selecting anything in the app. You can also now use Microsoft's ink-to-shape tool, which recognizes hand-drawn sketches for objects like Venn diagrams and arrows and transforms them into perfect-looking graphics.

Microsoft's PowerPoint Designer feature won't make its way to the iPad and iPad Pro for some time, Microsoft says. But the feature lets you quickly create good-looking PowerPoint slides from more than 12,000 blueprints developed by graphic designers. The company's machine learning algorithms do all the hard work of processing the image and picking out an appropriate slide layout to match. Morph, which is out today on Apple tablets, lets you easily animate text, drawings, and 3D objects in PowerPoint slides with help from software suggestions. Both tools are cloud-based and automated, giving us a glimpse into how Microsoft plans to use its cloud prowess to improve individual workflows.

Microsoft wants Office to be the best productivity software for any tablet or 2-in-1

All of these tools represent a major step up in Office's capabilities for new design and work-oriented tablets like the iPad Pro, all of which are tailored first for Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 before they're brought to other platforms. And with the introduction of these features on iOS, Microsoft has positioned its productivity software as a far more viable and attractive option over Google's Docs, Sheets, and other cloud apps. Although Google's offerings may be free, Microsoft has made a convincing argument for purchasing an Office 365 subscription if you'd like to do serious work with a keyboard and a stylus.

Correction: A previous version of this article said both PowerPoint Designer and Morph were available for iOS. PowerPoint Designer is not yet available on Apple devices. We regret the error.