CloudOn 2.5 Getting Closer to the Full Office on the iPad

Back in January, Microsoft Office users rejoiced with the introduction of CloudOn, an iPad app that ran a virtualized Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel & PowerPoint) on the iconic tablet. Not content to sit on their laurels, CloudOn’s developers have added new features to the app that makes it more appealing and useful. CloudOn 2.5 adds the ability to annotate and track to its iOS app. But don’t worry,  Android support is coming. In addition to the previously available tools for managing, creating and editing files, you will be able to add shapes and lines in Word with your fingers, type a note and preserve those markups in the files themselves. You can save to Dropbox, Box, or  Google Drive accounts. The new CloudOn FileSpace feature reveals a real-time stream of data on changes to your documents so that you can effectively track changes across platforms. The ribbon toolbar is optimized for touch gestures for editing and spell checking. While it is running a version that is akin to 2010, rather than 2013, it is more than sufficient to give that virtualized Office experience. While it’s a bummer that it isn’t yet retina supported, it is a great tool for those longing for Office on their iPad or Android-powered device. It also bears noting that, through partnerships with both Microsoft and Adobe, CloudOn lets you open and view a variety of file types with the built-in Adobe Reader and File Viewer, including PDF, JPG, PNG, GIF, etc. And its all for free.


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Grammarly: Your Robotic Writing Assistant

There are those out there claiming that good grammar is outdated. And then there are those out there looking to turn a buck helping you fix your grammar and proofread your opus (opuses? opera?). Should you choose to pay attention to your grammar, you can turn to the online service Grammarly to afford you that second set of eyes. Grammarly doesn’t beat around the bush: the site proudly proclaims it to be “The World’s Most Accurate Grammar Checker.” Grammarly offers both online checking and integration with your local software – Microsoft Office Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc.  Grammarly checks for spelling, punctuation, and simple grammar checking, as well as highlights potential plagiaristic moments in your missive.  Grammatical errors are indicated in red and clicking on the error will reveal a pop up card explaining the wrong and the “write” of it. You can choose to “see less” of the explanation in the cards, and there are up and down buttons to give feedback on the feedback that is given to you in the card.

Word from reviewers is that Grammarly is near the top of the class when it comes to online grammar support, but that it falls a bit short as a local add-on, with much better options out there in WhiteSmoke or Writer’s Workbench. The other downside for me was a monthly subscription cost. For on-line, I would prefer a one-off option for the occasional support, rather than be required to pump in $20 or so bucks a month for a slightly better editor and checker than my word processor provides.

That said, those who make their living writing, or students whose grades depend upon quality written product, might find the money well spent. It’s always nice to have another tool to fit in you writer’s tool belt.

Microsoft Office Web Apps – Now Live & Free

Have you been waiting for Microsoft to finally put its Office applications into the cloud? Have you been waiting for Microsoft to put a “free” tag on those apps? Well, your time has come. Office Web Apps, MS’ free online version of its Office suite, is now live on SkyDrive and available for U.S., U.K., Ireland and Canada-based users.

With the simple creation of a Windows Live account, you can start playing with the new tools. You will find browser-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and even OneNote that mimic much of the look and function of their desktop sibilings. Silverlight improves some of the experience (such as uploading multiple docs at the same time), but is unnecessary. All modern browsers will work with the tools. It’s not the desktop experience, for sure. But it meets Google Docs head on. You can upload (drag and drop!), collaborate with others, create within the web environment, print right from the browser and read docs on your smart phone. And, if you have Office 2010 installed locally (releasing next week), the web counterparts really sparkle with a seamless desktop / web experience. With 25GB of free storage on SkyDrive, this combination of features is nothing to sneeze at.

The Windows team is also promising lots of Office features will be integrated into Hotmail, so stay tuned to that.

Check out The Window Blog (link here) for more information and screenshots. All Hail the Cloud!