Now let's answer that crucial question:
What about Office?
If you have lived on this planet anytime since 1998 chances are you've been wound up in the world of Microsoft office. Unfortunately our world seems to run on this bloated suite of software, and if all you have is an iPad your going to run into trouble right off the bat. For some odd reason Microsoft has never decided to bless the most popular tablet in the world with its good graces. Although a couple months back they did decide to make a stupid Office version for iPhone, available only to 365 subscribers. There's some typical Redmond innovation for you.
The good news is that if the iPad has taught the us anything it is that we don't need Microsoft, or Office, anymore. There have been a number of Office competitors released for the iPad since its creation, personally I prefer Apple's own suite:
iWork Suite -- it turns out that for years Apple has been making a suite that is as good if not better than the three basic Microsoft Office offerings. They can be had for a much lower cost as well. The best part is that they allow exporting in all of the MS Office file formats, making it easy for you to share files with you unenlightened classmates and teachers.
iCloud -- there is even more good news for students going iPad only at college. Apple has recently rolled out the iWork suite to iCloud. This means that if you choose to save your documents, spreadsheets, and presentations to iCloud you can access and edit them from any computer with a web browser. Since most students have access to school computer labs this is the perfect solution for those times when you need more screen space or a large keyboard.
- Pages -- is a breath of fresh air after years of the tortuous experience of MS word for years. The iPad version is clean and easy to use.
- Numbers -- is an excellent, easy to use, spreadsheet program. But, as I said earlier, it is the area of iWork that is the most lacking to advanced users. However, that type of advanced work is really best done on a computer still, the iPad just isn't ready for it yet.
- Keynote -- has been Apple's strongest iWork offering on the Mac offering a much more intuitive experience than MS PowerPoint. On the iPad it has seen a little bit of trouble with issues entering text, but it is still the most robust presentation software out there for a mobile device.
There you have it, the easy way to leave Microsoft Office behind and just use your iPad. If you have found any other apps that make good substitutes I would like to hear about them. Tweet at me or leave a comment. I would especially like to hear if you've got good substitutes for the less known portions of Office.
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Update on 9/10/13: Apple has just said that all new iOS devices get iWork for free! So now there is really no reason to care one bit about office.