Truth be told, I bought an Apple iPad simply because I was asked to write about it. I thought the device would prove handy for checking e-mail, reading ebooks and browsing the Internet. After testing the tablet, it quickly replaced my laptop in the field. Every day I use the iPad to perform security audits, record notes, inventory networks, coordinate schedules, update clients on projects, and much more.
I had been using audit reports, preformatted checklists, and other templates within Numbers and Pages. I'd simply email the files, formatted as Excel spreadsheets or Word documents, to myself for storage on our corporate network and/or emailing to the client. Occasionally I'd encounter formatting issues — nothing critical, but occasionally troublesome pagination (the reports and templates I use are fairly intricate) or layout issues would arise.
Documents To Go Premium eliminates those issues. Instead of reformatting iWork files, now I use Documents To Go. The $16.99 DataViz application makes it easy to view, edit, and create Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint files right on the iPad. The software works with a variety of Office versions, too, including 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011.
While not every conceivable Word, Excel, and PowerPoint feature is available, there's more than enough functionality to fuel most seasoned road warriors. The Microsoft Word features include embedded graphics, comments, footnotes, endnotes, password-protected files, predictive text auto-corrective spelling, view and edit in both portrait and landscape mode, full-screen views, bullets and numbering lists, word counts, and tables of contents.
Microsoft Excel functionality includes freezing rows and columns, some 111 functions, password-protected files, multiple cell and number formatting options, full-screen views, resizing of rows, renaming and addition/removal of sheets, multiple worksheet support, Find functionality, and more. PowerPoint features include viewing and editing Outline and Speaker Notes formats, sorting slides, removing slides, adding slides, adjusting bullets, multiple view options (portrait, landscape, full-screen) and more.
What's that mean in the real world?
When using the iPad, it's easier to create accurate, informative spreadsheets that don't require reformatting. It's easier to sit with a client in a coffee shop, review a project's plans and requirements in Word, then send them a copy of the document they can review on their laptop or phone. With Documents To Go Premium, it's also easier to review ubiquitous PowerPoint presentations without experiencing formatting, display or compatibility issues. In short, you can get on with common day-to-day operations leveraging the world's most-used office productivity apps with less hassle.
Just having the ability to create and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files natively on the iPad is a significant advantage. Users can quickly email themselves the files when needing to share with others or transfer files between systems. But Documents To Go goes an additional step, as do many new office productivity applications. The app also enables synchronizing files with Google Docs, Box.net, Dropbox, iDisk and SugarSync, meaning users may not even need to email themselves the documents, spreadsheets or presentations. Desktop synchronization is yet another option.
But kind of like the old Ginsu knife ads of old, there's more. Documents To Go also supports opening and editing attachments using common email providers, including Exchange, MobileMe, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail and others. Plus, the app enables iPad users to view other file types, including PDFs and iWork files, such as those created using Numbers, Pages, and Keynote.
For less than seventeen bucks, iPad users are going to be hard-pressed to find another application that provides more functionality than Documents To Go Premium. Just be sure to purchase the Premium version, as the less expensive ($9.99) Documents To Go alternative doesn't support PowerPoint editing or cloud synchronization.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.