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Working Smart: How to Avoid Version Control Hell with Office for iPad


Syncing across ALL of your devices? The first thing that comes to my mind is version control. There’s nothing worse than re-doing something you’ve already done!!!

So if you’re extending your office experience onto your iPad like I am…here are a few tips I wish I had known right off the bat!

Tip #1: Make sure you have an internet connection

OneDrive files DO NOT automatically download on to your iPad for offline use when you first sign in. You MUST have an internet connection the first time you open a OneDrive file on your iPad.

Your dream-come-true of portability and convenience is immediately SHATTERED when you realize you can’t access the files you want to work on. So make sure you have the files you need on your iPad BEFORE you step out of your Wi-Fi or Cellular Hotspot.

To do so, make sure you have either:

  • Opened the most recent versions of your files on your iPad (see Tip #2), or
  • Saved a copy of your files directly onto your iPad (see Tip #3)

Tip #2: Make sure you pull the latest version of your file

Your iPad PULLS updates from your OneDrive, updates are not PUSHED to your iPad. Here’s where poor Steve got Stuck…don’t let this happen to you!

On the train, Steve opens and updates a PowerPoint presentation on his iPad. He has an internet connection, so when he's finished, it automatically syncs back to his OneDrive...good!

Later, at an internet café, Steve opens his laptop to update his presentation. He has an internet connection, so the “train version” of his file opens (the cool part of syncing), he makes updates he can’t make on his iPad, closes the file, and it automatically syncs back to his OneDrive…excellent.

Later yet, Steve is sitting on an airplane cruising at 10,000 feet. He doesn’t have an internet connection, but he wants to review the “café version” of his deck. He fires up his iPad, opens the document and realizes, that none of his latest updates are there…he quickly realizes he only has the “train version” of his deck!

While he was at the café, he forgot to PULL the latest version from the OneDrive folder on his laptop, onto his iPad.

What can we learn from Steve?

Unlike with iCloud or OneDrive on the Surface, your iPad will not have updates from OneDrive pushed to it. So before you leave your internet hotspot, make sure you PULL the latest version of your document from OneDrive onto your iPad (all you need to do is re-open the document).

Tip #3: Be careful saving files locally on your iPad

Files stored locally on your iPad are not automatically accessible or synced to your OneDrive.

Okay, this seems obvious, but it still caught me off guard!

I thought I was SUPER clever and began saving files from my OneDrive directly onto my iPad so that they would open faster. What I quickly realized is that files stored locally on my iPad were literally stuck on my iPad…they did not sync back to my OneDrive (dang!). So if you store things locally on your iPad, keep in mind that:

  • If you forget, lose or break your iPad, you won’t have access to the files stored there
  • If you want to use your desktop version of Office to update or edit documents stored locally on your iPad, you will need to MANUALLY PULL THEM from your iPad in one of two ways:

Option #1:

Email the documents to yourself one-by-one (ugh!)…you currently are not allowed to attach multiple office documents to an email at the same time. Keep in mind that once you have it back on your desktop, you’ll have to save it back to OneDrive and then PULL it from your OneDrive back onto iPad to make sure you have the latest version…otherwise, you’ll find yourself in one of the rings of Version Control Inferno!

Option #2:

Push the documents to your OneDrive one-by-one (ahh!)…there is currently not a “push all locally stored files to my OneDrive” button.

Note: To reverse the damage, I tried hooking my iPad up to my computer to see if I could quickly click and drag all the files back to the OneDrive folder on my computer, but this is also a no go!

So if you go the route of storing files directly on your iPad, do so sparingly or just be aware there’s no easy way back.


All in all, I still love the overall Office for iPad experience, but there are definitely still a few kinks in terms of helping users deal with version control. Hopefully some of these tips allow you to avoid the mistakes I’ve made and help you make it to Happy Hour!

Learn more about using the PowerPoint app on your iPad with our free comprehensive how-to manual – “PowerPoint for iPad: A Visual Guide”.

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Updated on December 10, 2017

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