Microsoft quickly updates Office for iPad, now prints

That didn't take long. It was only a month ago that we reported that Microsoft had released Office for iPad, a long-awaited tablet version of the world's most common productivity suite. One of the few criticisms was the lack of a print feature. Now that's rectified.

Microsoft has rolled out an update to Office for iPad that includes the ability to print to any AirPrint printer. According to Microsoft's Office blog, printing was, in fact, the number one requested feature.

The print feature offers a fair bit of flexibility. In Word, for example, you can print with or without markup and choose which pages to print. Likewise, Excel lets you print a selected range, a sheet, or the entire workbook. PowerPoint doesn't have any special print capabilities (such as the ability to print multiple slides on a page or include notes, like you can on the desktop), so you can only choose to print the entire presentation.

In order to take advantage of the new print feature in Office for iPad, you need access to a printer with AirPrint. AirPrint is a standard developed by Apple that allows compatible printers to print wirelessly via Wi-Fi, and many contemporary printers have integrated AirPrint support.

The update contains a couple of other improvements besides printing. PowerPoint, for instance, now contains SmartGuides, which lets you line up objects on screen. As you drag items around a slide, guide lines show how it is positioned in relation to other objects -- very similar to the way the feature works on the desktop version of Office.

Likewise, you'll find AutoFit in Excel. Using AutoFit, you can adjust the height or width of multiple cells at once -- just select them and then tap the edge of the column or row you want to resize.

This rapid update to Office for iPad is yet another indication that Microsoft is striving for more agility and responsiveness -- not unlike the recent fast updates to Windows 8, which has restored many of the mouse, keyboard, and desktop-centric capabilities that customers have been clamoring for. And Microsoft has already announced that more Windows 8 changes are coming, like a restored Start menu, which should be one of the final key criticisms that have kept mainstream customers from moving to the new operating system -- and even rolling back new Windows 8 PCs to the Windows 7 operating system.

That said, Office for iPad is still bound to the Office 365 pricing model. You can't get Office for iPad except as part of the annual subscription plan (Office Premium for $99/year or Office Personal for $70/year). The free version of Office for iPad limits the app to just opening and reading documents; you can't edit or save them without paying a subscription fee.

Photo courtesy Microsoft