SkyDrive workaround enables Office Web Apps for iPad

Microsoft’s Office Web Apps-SkyDrive combo are great tools for working online, as long as you’re using a traditional mouse-and-keyboard PC. But if you’re using a tablet such as an iPad or one of the many Android slates, you must use app-based options such as Apple’s Pages for iPad to edit your SkyDrive docs . . . or do you? 

Even though Microsoft does not yet officially support the iPad on its Office Web Apps, you can still access the online productivity suite thanks to Google’s recently released Chrome browser for iOS. It’s not a perfect solution, but if you need to get some editing done in a pinch it’ll work. 

The soft keyboard will appear to type in your documents.

Office 2013

Microsoft is expected to offer broader Android and iOS support for the company’s Microsoft Office productivity suite when Office 2013 debuts, expected early next year. Microsoft is calling Office 2013 its most ambitious version of Office so far, with deep integration for online services such as Facebook, Flickr, SkyDrive, and YouTube. And the new version of Office will, for the first time, offer home users Office 365, a subscription-based service for the Office suite. 

Microsoft says Android and iOS devices will be able to access Office 365 Web features when the company rolls out its new productivity software. There is also some speculation that the Office 2013 rollout will include a suite of Office apps for the iPad.  

But if you don’t want to wait for Microsoft’s official support, here’s how to get started using Office Web Apps on the iPad right now.

Show Me The Desktop

This workaround requires using the Chrome browser for iOS. Launch Chrome and sign in to At first, Microsoft will show you the dumbed-down mobile version of SkyDrive, which only lets you view documents you’ve already created; you can’t edit files or create new ones. 

But if you tap the Chrome menu icon in the upper right corner, you’ll see an option” in the dropdown menu called “Request Desktop Site.” Tap that option and you’ll be redirected to the full version of the SkyDrive site. To create a new document, just tap the Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote icons as you normally would.

So How Does It Work?

In my tests on a first-generation iPad the results were not great, but it is usable if no other options are available. Typing on a Word document using the onscreen keyboard was slow and the cursor was really jerky. After switching to an Apple Bluetooth keyboard, the Web app felt more responsive.  I had similar results using Excel, while OneNote had the slowest performance of the three; however, since Microsoft offers a free native OneNote app for iPad, OneNote’s performance issues were not such a huge concern. I did not try the PowerPoint Web app. 

SkyDrive is accessible via Chrome for iPad.

If you try Microsoft Office Web apps using Chrome for iOS your results may vary, especially if you have a newer iPad with a better processor such as the recently released iPad with an A5X chip. Also contributing to the poor performance of Office Web apps may be Apple’s policy of restricting its Nitro JavaScript engine to Safari only. Competing iOS browsers such as Chrome and Opera have to rely on a slower rendering engine in iOS. Since Microsoft’s Office Web apps are written mostly in JavaScript, having the best rendering engine possible is a must.

Nevertheless, if you really need to get some editing done on your iPad with Office Web Apps, using Chrome on iOS will help you get the job done.

I did not get to test Office Web Apps on Android, but I imagine Chrome for Android (available for devices running 4.0 and above) would yield similar results. 

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) on Twitter and Google+, and with Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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