iPad smackdown: Microsoft Office vs. Apple iWork vs. Google G Suite

Your iPad can largely function like a laptop with two of the three main office productivity suites

The iPad makes a great laptop, and nowhere is that more obvious than in its productivity tools. Apple showed the way years ago with its iWork suite (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote), and Microsoft has validated the notion with its Office suite (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint). Of course there's also Google G Suite (Docs, Sheets, and Slides), which includes mobile versions of the apps for iOS.

[UPDATED MARCH 27, 2017] Which of these office suites should you use on your iPad? Part of the answer depends on the functionality of the individual apps, but part depends on your greater ecosystem—namely, how your iPad productivity work fits into your overall productivity work on computers and other devices. That of course is for you to decide. Naturally, I'll focus here on how these three suites stack up in terms of functionality and ease of use. 

In a nutshell, one of these iPad productivity suites is powerful, but doesn't fit well in a cross-platform, Windows-dominated environment. Another works across all major platforms, but is quite limited on the iPad. Only one of them is both highly functional on the iPad and a good fit in a cross-platform environment. This review shows you which suites work best on the iPad; in our companion review, you can see which productivity suites work best across Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.

iPad productivity smackdown: Core capabilities compared

Apple, Microsoft, and Google all consider their productivity suites to be more than a collection of apps. Instead, the three companies see them as services that work across computers, mobile devices, and the web, so users can go with whichever client is at hand to access their centrally stored documents, as well as share those documents with other people for collaboration.

Office for iPad is included with an Office 365 subscription, though the apps tend to go overboard in asking you to sign in—it's much too often. Nonsubscribers can use a subset of Office's editing capabilities for free. iWork for iPad is free for iPad owners. G Suite is free if you have a Google account, though there is a paid version for enterprise and government use that adds Exchange-like administration capabilities.

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