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Connecting Office for iPad to SharePoint

Connecting Office for iPad to SharePoint

This is a step-by-step guide on how to connect Word, Excel or PowerPoint for iPad to SharePoint in Office 365 Enterprise. It will work for document libraries in other SharePoint sites too, such as company SharePoint intranets behind a firewall, so long as you also have an Office 365 account. We’ll be talking about ‘Office for iPad’ but note that there isn’t actually an app with this name in the iTunes App Store, you have to download each one individually. There is an app called ‘Office for iPhone‘, and the same process will work for that too. If you’ve experienced a problem signing-in or connecting to SharePoint, this guide can help. It appears Microsoft do not include Office for iPad within their ‘Office 365 Small Business’ offering – you need at least the ‘Office 365 Small Business Premium’ package – see all the prices and choices. You can store documents in four locations when using Office for iPad:

  • your personal OneDrive (previously called ‘SkyDrive’);
  • OneDrive for Business;
  • your iPad;
  • one or more SharePoint sites, including office 365 where they are simply called ‘Sites’.

N.B. To connect to an on-premise SharePoint intranet, your iPad will need to be on your company network (directly or via VPN).

If you or your organisation are using Word for iPad for work, consider the extra cost and confusion it may cause within the enterprise.


How to set up Office for iPad to connect to SharePoint Sites

As simple as the set up process is, I found a couple of points regarding the SharePoint URL initially tripped me up. Pay particular attention to the red points, below. Screenshots show Microsoft Word for iPad, but each app is similar. If this is the first time you’ve used the App, you’ll only be able to read documents and not edit them until you sign in to Office 365 (a paid-for subscription). You can connect to your SharePoint Site without an Office 365 license, but you get read-only document views (see the last two screenshots). If this is the first time you’ve used the app, you’ll be asked for an email address to sign in (see screenshot). Use your Office 365 email address if you can. If you’ve already logged in with a different address such as a Hotmail, Outlook.com or One Drive account, then you will be asked for your extra login details in Step 7 for the SharePoint site you want to add. Sign in to Office for iPad (Office 365)

Step 1

Open the Word App. Within the ‘Open’ menu item, touch ‘Add a Place’. Open and Add a Place in Office for iPad

Step 2

Select ‘SharePoint Site URL’. SharePoiont SIte URL in Office for iPad

Step 3

Now the dialogue box asks for the actual URL (web address) of the place you want to access within SharePoint / O365. I suggest you visit the exact folder within your browser (Safari, usually), by surfing to it just as you normally do when browsing your SharePoint. N.B. If attempting to access an on-premises SharePoint intranet, remember your iPad will need to be on the network either directly by wifi on-site, or via VPN elsewhere. Do not copy the URL from your browser just yet; read on for crucial details. Office 365 Safari SharePoint / O365 URL in Safari

Step 4

Notice how the URL is pretty long and ugly (above). Delete the bits after the folder that you’re actually interest in (below). Edit the URL in Safari

Step 5

Now copy this nicer, shorter URL. Copy the URL from Safari

Step 6

Return to the Office app (Word, in this case) and paste the web address into the URL field. Edit the URL from Safari

Step 6a

See those %20 bits, in-between the real words? You might have underscores or something else (which is fine), but if your SharePoint locations / folders use spaces, then you’ll see ‘%20’ which may be a problem. It might be necessary to carefully delete the %20 bits, as shown below. Maybe you won’t have to do this but it may help if your attempt to connect fails, so I’m passing on this tip to anyone who’s been stumped. If necessary, edit out the %20

Step 7

Now enter your SharePoint log-in details (for your intranet or your 0ffice 365 Site). SharePoint / 0365 user email and password Tip:  if you don’t see the log-in dialogue box, or you get an error message saying ‘You do not have permission to access this resource’ then try touching your profile (the photo / name, top left), and then on your name (shown below) and log out of everything. Then open a different Office app (or your OneDrive app) to synchronize your log-ins. Finally, go back to Step 1 and enter the URL for your SharePoint site before any OneDrive access. This should then prompt you to log in. The app will remember if you’ve already activated the license. Profile name Sign out

Step 8

Assuming the above tip isn’t necessary, you’re now all done –  enjoy! SharePoint folders in Word for iPad

Accessing SharePoint Sites in read-only mode

If you haven’t activated your Apps via O365, you’ll see a ‘Read-only’ message like the screenshot below. Read only access to documents in Office for iPad

It is possible to connect to SharePoint / O365 Sites without signing in to Office 365 on your iPad – for read-only access to documents.

Learn more about Excel, PowerPoint, and Word for iPad in ‘How to get started with Office for iPad‘ by Anthony Myers.

If you’re an Office 365 administrator, check out our post on the headache that enterprises face as people individually opt to pay for a personal Office 365 account to get into Office for iPad.

Wedge Black

I support ClearBox in everything we do online, and I assist clients that are considering redeveloping or replacing their intranet platform. I worked in global and regional organisations as the intranet manager as part of the comms team, before becoming an intranet consultant. I'm the founder of the Intranet Now annual conference. I’ve tweeted about intranets and comms for fifteen years now.

  • Posted at 1:52 pm, 22 April, 2014

    Great article – but can you tell me, if you work on documents on SharePoint using your iPad Word app, can you completely avoid OneDrive? Or does the app back up your document to OneDrive without your permission or active consent?


    – Thom

    • Posted at 11:28 am, 23 April, 2014

      Hi Thom

      Glad you like the article. If the document is already on SharePoint, then it will stay on SharePoint. However, any new documents created within the app seem to default to OneDrive when you try to save them. It does at least show clearly that it’s about to do this. Hope that helps.


  • DS
    Posted at 8:47 pm, 13 August, 2014

    Great article. We’ve got the Office 365 Business Premium and a company intranet, but when I open documents from the company intranet libraries, they open in a browser and are not editable. Should this work? Much appreciate any direction and thank you.

    • Posted at 9:29 pm, 13 August, 2014

      Hi there. I suspect the issue is that Safari on your iPad isn’t smart enough to know that you’re opening a document within Office 365. Try going to the library on your intranet and then copying the URL into any of the iPad Office apps using the step 3 onwards illustrated above. You should then be able to open the file starting from within the iPad app rather than the browser.
      Let us know how you get on!

  • Ratko
    Posted at 10:41 am, 23 September, 2014

    Good article, but ADFS part is missing.
    If you integrate Your Sharepoint with ADFS and publish it with Web Application Proxy (Windows 2012 R2 component), you can only login with username and password, because client certificate authentication fails, because Word for iPad does not show you certificate selection dialog like in Safari.
    Any idea if Microsoft will fix this in the future?

  • sai
    Posted at 4:56 pm, 14 October, 2014

    Thanks for this article 🙂

    I am getting stuck on connecting to my on premise sharepoint site

    Keep getting the error ‘word cant find file or folder; can browse to the site via web no problems…anybody got any tips?

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