July 25, 2011, 9:52 AM — Since the day the iPad launched, zealous mobilophiles have wondered whether it might signal a new dawn in mobile computing--namely, one in which we all use a tablet in lieu of a desktop or laptop PC. With the abundance of native iPad productivity apps in the App Store, the iPad has held a clear lead in the race to tablet-centricity. But the real measure of the platform's productivity power is not the number of apps in the App Store but the quality of its best productivity apps. So I downloaded six of the most noteworthy iPad office apps and spent a week using them for all my daily work.
Because you can't ignore Apple's iWork apps as a force to be reckoned with on the iPad, I made Pages, Numbers, and Keynote my first priority in testing. These three apps bear the distinction of selling separately, which represents a departure from the selection criteria I've been using for roundups. The other three products I tried--Office2 HD, Documents To Go, and Quickoffice--are all-in-one suites that include word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation tools (among other features) within a single app. Since it would have been a glaring omission had I not included Apple's offerings, I've modified the qualifications here in the interest of diligence.
As I did in my roundup of Android productivity apps, I tested each of these leading suites for three important qualities: interface and usability, compatibility with Microsoft Office, and support for cloud services. I also took into account additional features, such as PDF viewing and support for other formats, and I considered price in the final evaluation. For each app, I created documents from scratch, imported rich documents with images and complex formatting from Microsoft Word, and exported edited documents back to Word to check for fidelity. The winner of this roundup is the app (or set of apps) with the best overall performance across all of those considerations.