UPDATE: Using Dropbox for Word Editing on iPad (or, living without Quickoffice and using Pages)

UPDATE 2: Now (November 2014) Microsoft has not only made Office apps available for the iPad, but they have now made them free to use once you register for a free MS account. ((When the iOS apps first appeared, you had to have an Office 365 account in order to edit. That is no longer the case.)) Just add your Dropbox (or OneDrive) account to the account and away you go! So it has taken several years, but here you go.


UPDATE: Nearly a year later and iOS 8 is out. Lots of changes including some Pages integration with Dropbox. I think it is just a handoff at saving (the finish product, presumably) rather than live saving, but I will have to explore more.

As I noted last week Google’s loving update of QuickofficeHD has removed the connectivity with Dropbox. (They did make the app free, but you are stuck with Google Drive as your only cloud option.) The problem is that I was too optimistic about Office2HD as a replacement. It is incredibly buggy and useless. So, what am I to do?

I have Pages and, to be honest, it is a very nice word processor. I know! Who would have thunk? But what about the fact that I use Dropbox to connect all my machines, work, and collaboration together? Well, it is kind of kludgy, but you can actually make the round trip from Dropbox to Pages and back, albeit leaving bread crumbs behind.

  1. In the Dropbox app simply open the file in Pages.

    Dropbox to Pages
    Dropbox to Pages
  2. Do your edits in Pages (with pages automatically saving to the iPad and to your iCloud account, that was the “breadcrumbs” I mentioned). Then us “Open in Another App” to “open” the file in Dropbox. The first step is to select your exported format:Then select Dropbox as your app.
    Selecting Dropbox as your app.
    Selecting Dropbox as your app.

    First step in exporting within Pages.
    First step in exporting within Pages.
  3. Because you already have a version of the document on Dropbox you will be asked by the Dropbox app if you want to replace the version on the server. Say “Yes” if you do and “No,” obviously, if you don’t want to.

NB: It appears that Pages exports only as .docx so if your original version on Dropbox is a .doc you will end up with two copies, one .doc and the revised one as a .docx. Not a big hardship and some may never even notice since so many folks are now using .docx as a default.

This is not an elegant or easy solution, but on the other hand Pages is the most elegant word processor on the iPad and its exported version seems to be highly compatible with Office. Now I do not do a lot of formatting, I am mostly taking notes when I do this, so going back and forth doesn’t cost me anything in formatting.

Finally, I should note that with the iCloud versions of iWork apps now available simply staying in Pages format is becoming a real possibility, even when I am collaborating with the rest of my office which use Windows machines. Even the joint editing features seem to be working relatively well. We had a few folks in the office editing a document at the same time and it did a fair job of keeping up with revisions.

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