If you have a Windows Mobile or Windows Phone 7 device, you get the real deal when it comes to office apps -- that is, mobile versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. But most smartphone users are using an Android device or an iPhone, so what do those users do when they need to be able to open, read, and possibly edit or compose documents, spreadsheets and/or slideshow presentations that are compatible with their desktop or laptop computer, which probably runs Windows? Let's look at some of the best apps that let you do all of these tasks the most painlessly and cost-effectively.
QuickofficeIf you need to do more than just take notes on your phone, there are a number of Office productivity apps available for the iPhone and Android, but most are not free. You can view documents in the document viewers that come preinstalled on most phones, but you can't edit the files, and they may not always display rich documents correctly. There are also many free or paid viewer apps, but if you want to do more than look, you need a full fledged office suite. Quickoffice is one that's available for Apple iOS, HP webOS, BlackBerry, and Symbian (Figure A). There are different versions at different prices. I use Quickoffice Pro for Android, which costs $7.99. Figure A
Quickoffice is a reasonably priced office suite that's available for most smartphone platforms.Quickoffice includes three apps: Quickword, Quicksheet, and Quickpoint, along with a PDF reader. With these apps, you can view, create, edit, and share Microsoft Office files (including the newer .xml-based formats) (Figure B). The apps also integrate with cloud services such as Dropbox, Box.net, and Google Docs, and you can search on your device and in your cloud storage account. Figure B
Quickoffice provides basic editing functionality for Word documents and displays the original document formatting.
You can cut and paste across the apps, and there is even text-to-speech and voice dictation support, along with most of the same features as Mobile Office. It also includes email integration with Exchange.
Documents to GoAnother good choice that's available for a wide variety of phones (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Palm, Symbian S60, and even Nokia's Maemo) is Documents to Go from DataViz. Like Quickoffice, it gives you apps for working with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF files. Unlike Quickoffice, it has a free version available in the Android Market (Figure C), and if you decide to buy it, you don't have to uninstall -- just purchase the "full version key" that unlocks the premium features. The free version allows you to view Office files; you need the paid version (which costs $14.99) to edit Office files.
The apps are appropriately named Word to Go, Sheet to Go, Slideshow to Go, and PDF to Go. A very cool feature of Documents to Go is the ability to view Word documents with tracked changes so you can see the edits that have been made. It also supports password-protected Word and Excel files. You can download, view, and edit your files from your Google Docs account and sync with your desktop PC through a USB cable.Figure C
The free version of Documents to Go is advertising supported and only allows viewing.
You can insert not only images, but page breaks, bookmarks, hyperlinks, tables, and comments. Advanced formatting options, which includes paragraph alignment, text color (40 different colors), small caps, superscript and subscript, are also available. You can zoom in and out from 25% to 200%, and you can view footnotes and endnotes. You can get the word count for your document, and you can use the "find and replace" function to make global changes.
Sheet to Go supports much of the same spreadsheet functionality that you get with Excel. You can add formulae, insert rows, and make cell comments. You can copy and paste or use find and replace to avoid having to key in a lot of data. With Slideshow to Go, you can do basic editing of slides, such as changing the text or changing the order of the slides in the presentation. You can send any of the documents via email from within the Documents to Go menus.
Documents to Go is the most expensive app featured in this post, but it does have an amazing amount of functionality.
The Office apps and their tight integration with email, calendar, SharePoint 2010, SkyDrive, and other Microsoft products is one of the features in Windows Phone 7 that has impressed many tech reviewers, including the folks over at Gizmodo and Engadget. The Office hub integrates Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files and syncs them with a SharePoint site. You can also browse SharePoint document libraries. Taking notes is quick and easy, and you can create new Word docs or Excel spreadsheets and edit PowerPoint presentations. You can pin the Office hub to the Windows Phone 7 Start screen for quicker access.
The app bar at the bottom of the screen is adaptive, providing the appropriate tools for the task you're currently performing. You can add comments to documents and quickly navigate to existing comments. You can open and edit a variety of file types, including .doc, .docx, .dot, .dotx, .dotm, .txt, and .rtf in Word Mobile. Formatting such as bullets and numbered lists, tables with borders and shading, and graphics will all display in your documents, and text will automatically reflow for better viewing on the small screen. You can use common formatting features such as bold, italic, underline, strikethrough, etc., and different font colors, sizes, and styles are supported.
You also get multiple undo and redo. PowerPoint slideshows look great, with graphics, charts, and even SmartArt, and the ability to review and edit speaker notes and move or hide slides. In Excel Mobile, you can view the charts and formatting in spreadsheets, recalculate workbooks, add or edit formulae, and use common cell formatting options (fill color, font styles, merge/unmerge, etc.).OneNote Mobile (Figure D) lets you add photos or voice clips to your notes, and you can highlight text and make multi-level lists. It's also easy to share your notes via email from inside OneNote. You can pin important notes to the Start screen and search your notes from the Office hub. Figure D
Office Mobile with OneNote is the office suite that's most tightly integrated with Microsoft Office and SharePoint.
Although the full Office suite is only available for Windows phones, Microsoft does offer a OneNote app for the iPhone on iTunes.
The apps discussed provide a more traditional Office experience, but today many smartphone users have transitioned in full or in part to using web-based applications for creating, editing, and managing documents, spreadsheets and presentations. You can access those services via the phone's web browser, but that doesn't provide the optimum user experience. Windows Phone 7's integration with SharePoint and Skydrive give you more of a cloud experience, and Google has recently released an app for Android that you can use to connect to its Google Docs platform using a simple, more mobile-friendly interface. ZDNet has more details about the Google Docs Android app.
If you need to work with Microsoft Office files on your smartphone, there are a number of mobile applications that will allow you to do so; the one you choose will depend on what you need to do and which smartphone platform you use. Windows Phone 7 users don't have to worry about it -- Mobile Office is built in and gives you good functionality and excellent integration with SharePoint, Exchange, and your desktop version of Office. If you use another platform and if all you need to do is view documents, you might be able to get by with one of the free apps that is available. For basic editing, Quickoffice will do the job, but if you want advanced features that let you manipulate documents almost as extensively as on a computer, I encourage you to spring for the more expensive Documents to Go. You won't be sorry.
Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 additional books on subjects such as the Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 MCSE exams, CompTIA Security+ exam, and TruSecure's ICSA certification.