- Editing Office 365 files on the iPad recommended only in emergencies.
One of the most surprising challenges with Office 365’s SharePoint Online is to get it working effectively on an iPad. The solutions are by no means easy or straightforward.
The workaround below uses third-party applications on the iPad as middlemen to download files stored in SharePoint Online to the iPad for editing and then save them back up to SharePoint.
The most important app you’ll need to get documents to and from SharePoint is DropBox. A free account lets you synchronise up to 2GB of files between the cloud and your desktop. Once in the cloud you can access those files from your iPad.
Next you’ll need an iPad app that can read Office documents in DropBox and edit them. There are a few; I chose Office2 Plus. There is both an iPad and an iPhone app starting from around $6. The free versions let you view Office documents but not edit them, which is the same situation if you log in through your browser and use the native Office Web Apps in SharePoint Online. So to edit documents you’ll need to shell out for the full version.
Finally, you are going to need an app that can access your SharePoint Online site. Again, there are a few of these but the one chosen here is called SharePlus. The Pro version is $14.99 which lets you make changes rather than just read files.
Now we have all the apps in place on our iPad (DropBox, Office2 Plus and SharePlus).
If you open documents in DropBox first and then select Office2 Plus to edit them, you will receive an error message saying the file is read-only and cannot be saved. You can make it work if it’s set up properly.
Follow the steps below:
1. Log into Office2 Plus and add your DropBox account. DropBox should now appear as a storage option under Cloud Folders in Office2 Plus.
2. Log into SharePlus and add the details for your SharePoint Online site. You should now be able to browse your SharePoint site.
3. While browsing the SharePoint site with SharePlus, select a file you want to edit and choose to open it with DropBox. If you edit it with SharePlus you won’t be able to save it back to the SharePoint site.
4. Once the file has uploaded to DropBox, close DropBox and open Office2Plus.
5. Open the file in Office2 Plus in the DropBox folder, edit it and save it back to DropBox.
6. Open DropBox, find the file and save it back to SharePlus on the iPad.
7. Open SharePlus, select Add Document, find the file in the Local Files folder, and load it back to the SharePoint site.
In summary what we have done is configured DropBox as a temporary storage and sharing area between iPad apps. It really shouldn’t be this difficult to edit a file from Office 365 SharePoint Online.
The major issue probably lies at the feet of the iPad which doesn’t allow apps to share their local storage. If they did chances are we could everything via SharePlus. It would also help if Office Web Apps in edit mode worked as it does on a PC allowing full document updating from a web browser. If you really want to point the finger at anyone for these restrictions you really have to point it at Apple.
So even though editing documents from Office 365 SharePoint online is possible it is not something that you would be doing on a regular basis, it is really only in “case of emergency” stuff. As it stands the iPad is more a SharePoint Online viewing device than a document editing device.
Applications like SharePlus certainly make viewing SharePoint on an iPad much easier and editing other SharePoint information like lists, calendars and tasks is straightforward. It is only when we start trying to edit documents that we begin to have complications.
Hopefully the future will bring a more integrated editing solution for Office 365 and SharePoint Online. With two competing software businesses needing to resolve these issues, it may mean a long wait until users realise the promise of full Office 365 SharePoint Online functionality via an iPad.
Image credit: SharePlus