If your child is tired of endless Zoom calls and typing on screens, Microsoft’s Office app for iOS and Android offers a respite: kids can work on paper, and you can submit their work electronically. 

Microsoft launched its Office app for iOS and Android in February, a few weeks before the pandemic drove us all indoors.  Who knew, as my family hunkered down to work and study from home, that the Office app would quickly turn into an indispensable tool for managing day-to-day document tasks for my kids as well as myself. 

Below, you’ll find a few quick tutorials on how to get things done with the Office app. But it’s amazing how much it can actually do!  You can take a picture of a page of a book and use the Office app to extract the text automatically using optical character recognition. You can turn a photo into a PDF. You can sign a PDF that you’ve already created. You can take a photo of a spreadsheet and turn that into an Excel table, or turn a document into a PDF, or vice versa. Don’t underestimate those last features, either, as PDF-to-Word conversion tools can be hard to come by. And, of course, unlike most of the PDF editors we’re reviewed, all these Office app functions are free. 

Microsoft office app for androidf Mark Hachman / IDG

Microsoft’s Office app for Android stores a list of your frequently-accessed Office documents, but its list of powerful tools are hidden within the “Actions” menu.

Use the Office app to scan in your kids’ homework

Your child’s teacher has probably already told you one way of entering hand-drawn work: using the camera on the PC or Chromebook. At our school, the students are asked to open their Google Doc, navigate to the “Insert Image” icon on the toolbar, and snap a photo from the user-facing camera. It’s easy, effective, but not always that clear.

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If you’d like, you can use the mobile Office app to do the same thing, and it will look nicer. Open the Office app on Android, and navigate to the Actions icon at the bottom of the screen.

office app 3 actions microsoft Mark Hachman / IDG

The Office app’s Actions menu.

You’ll see a whole list of interesting menu items. Click Scan to PDF, a somewhat confusing name. 

This will bring you to a pretty conventional photo screen with some interesting options at the bottom. By default, “Document” is highlighted. If you place your child’s worksheet on a table or bed, you’ll see a small ghostly rectangle surrounding it. This is the Office app’s AI magic at work: It will sense the document’s borders and align them so that your PDF will look nice and neat. In other words, don’t spend a lot of time aligning the document’s borders within the frame, as the app will do it for you.

Microsoft office app for Android document Mark Hachman / IDG

The Office app may be hypersensitive to boxes drawn on the page—it will sometimes think that a box, such as the middle one, is the entirety of the page. Note the “stacked photos” icon to the lower left: You can use that to make a multi-page PDF using multiple images.

Choosing the “whiteboard” option allows you to take a photo of a piece of artwork that’s hanging on the wall—and again, Office will make it nice and neat. Office will save the file as a PDF, and it will be accessible from the main screen.



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