I read Microsoft Word files on my iPad almost every day, for the most part with much success. However, when I do so, I know that I am rarely seeing the document formatted the same way that it will look when printed out. This is usually not a problem because my focus is on the words, not the format. But sometimes there is a need to see a document with all of the formatting preserved.
Maren Reuter (pictured at right) is a German attorney who works in the third party liability department of a large insurance company that is based in Frankfurt, Germany. She works with Word documents every day and wasn't satisfied with the way that current apps display redline track changes, footnotes, etc., so she and her husband (who is a software developer) set out to create a better app. She started a company called Naverage, and her first app is Reader HD. She sent me a free review copy of the $2.99 app a few weeks ago, and I'm impressed. Right now the app only handles .docx files, not files in the traditional .doc format, but for those files the app does a better job with the formatting than any other iPad app. Reuter tells me: "The heart of Naverage Reader is the layout engine my husband Florian developed. The NativeOpenXML layout engine is built from ground up according to the ISO/IEC 29500 standard — the standard behind Microsoft's new .docx, .xslx and .pptx formats. That's why it enables the high layout fidelity with Microsoft .docx documents."
For example, consider the simple formatting in a Table of Authorities. In this example, my first line is at the left margin but subsequent margins within an entry are indented, the right margin is indented except for page numbers, and there is a right-formatted tab with leading dots. Here is what the top of the page looks like on a computer:
In the iPad's built-in Word viewer (what you see if you just tap an attachment to an email) the formatting is not preserved: the page break is missing, the page numbers are too far left, there are no leading dots for page numbers, etc.
When viewed in Quickoffice Pro, the formatting is also incorrect, but in different ways:
When viewed in Office2, different aspects of the proper formatting are preserved while other aspects are wrong:
Documents to Go probably does the best job of this bunch, although it is also not perfect:
Here is what the page looks like in Reader HD. All of the formatting is preserved, and the result looks almost exactly the same as it looks on a computer or when printed out:
Because Reader HD handles virtually all Microsoft Word formatting, this means that it can also show redline edits. It shows them the way that Word does by default, with deleted text noted in a column on the side. I personally prefer to see all redline edits inline in the text, which is how Documents to Go handles it, but I understand that people have different preferences. I won't start by showing the built-in Word viewer because it doesn't show any redline edits at all. You just see how the final document would look with all redline edits accepted.
Quickoffice Pro just added the ability to see redline track changes last month. Quickoffice still doesn't support footnotes, which is why I don't use it for any of my litigation files., but if that is not a problem for you and if you prefer to see your edits in the margin on the right, Quickoffice Pro does a very nice job:
Office2 also puts the edits in the right margin, but does so in type that I consider too small to read. Note, however, that you can tap on the balloon on the right to see a window with the edit in larger text:
Here is what Documents to Go does with redline edits, with all of the edits shown inline:
Finally, here is how Reader HD handles redline edits. Note that if you don't want to see the right margin with information on the redline edits, you can tap the "Sidebar" button to make it go away.
I haven't shown Apple's Pages app in any of the above examples, but just for the record: (1) it also does not correctly preserve formatting in the Table of Authorities and (2) Pages doesn't show any redline edits at all.
Reader HD handles footnotes just fine. The footnote reference is in the text, and the footnote text is at the bottom of the page, the same way it looks when you print out a document.
If you have a document with even more complicated formatting, Reader HD will often handle it quite well. I looked at a few files with multiple columns (such as newsletters). Reader sometimes displayed those files perfectly. Other times, the formatting was not perfect (with some background colors missing and some lines around boxes appearing that were supposed to be invisible). But every time, Reader HD did a better job displaying a file with complicated columns, margins and other sophisticated formatting than any of the other apps on my iPad (Documents to Go, Quickoffice Pro, Office2 and Pages).
I noted above that Reader HD only works with .docx files. I don't know about your law practice, but in my practice it seems like 90% of the files that other attorneys send me are in .doc format, so that is generally the format that I use as well, although I admit that over time the number of .docx files that I see continues to increase. Reuter tells me that she decided to focus on .docx files because her thought was that with Windows 8 coming out, .docx would become accepted more quickly. I suspect, however, that it will be MANY years before most law firms move to Windows 8 — at this point, it seems like a huge number of attorneys are still using Windows XP — so I think that the transition to .docx will also take a long time. However, Reuter also tells me that .doc support is being worked on right now and will be added to Reader HD in a future update.
Reader HD does not let you edit files, but if you want to view .docx files on your iPad, Reader HD is a great option because it does such a good job with most formatting. For most of my document viewing, I think I'll stick with Documents to Go because I prefer the way that it lets me focus on the text. But as I have been testing Reader HD over the last few weeks, I've found myself using it many times when I wanted to see how a .docx file will look when printed. (And I've also had several occasions when I wanted to use the app, but the only version of the file on my iPad was in .doc format. I'll be very happy to see .doc support added to Reader HD!) If you work with Microsoft Word files in your law practice, I think it is worth purchasing this app so that you always have the ability to view a document as it was intended to be viewed.