I recently wrote about how to implement a data less iPad, but that's too draconian if you're seeking a method for your BYOD tablet users to create and edit business documents. The iPad and Android tablets have seen some incremental improvements in mobile office apps that make them easy for BYOD users to access, edit, and even author some documents from their tablet.
Mobile office apps should be a consideration in a BYOD initiative, particularly in document-heavy organizations. While your end users may already be running mobile office apps on their own tablets, keep in mind the following:
- Support the document formats already in place for the majority of your corporate documents
- Device security features within the app can add another layer of security over your corporate documents
- "Open In" feature support allows you to open a document from a SharePoint client app such as Colligo Briefcase, Coaxion, or SharePlus
Cloud storage support for Dropbox, Box, and other storage options are a typical feature. However, many enterprises block these services at the firewall. I suggest opening up document access via a SharePoint client app or look to centralizing file transfer through only one corporate-approved cloud service.
Here's a breakdown of some popular mobile office apps that are available for tablets. We'll also take a quick look at their BYOD considerations.
CloudOnCloudOn (iOS/Android) is a free app that allows you to launch full versions of Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft PowerPoint running on a Virtual Machine (VM). Figure A shows Microsoft Word open in CloudOn: Figure A
Microsoft Word open in CloudOn.
I'm used to working with more complex documents as a technical writer, so I'm partial to CloudOn, especially because it keeps document parity with documents that are created using styles and templates beyond Normal.dot. However, my partiality can't dispute the facts that CloudOn always requires an Internet connection and has additional security requirements that might be out of scope for a fledgling BYOD initiative. There's not much tuning to do with this app for BYOD, because it runs on a VM, after all.
Quickoffice Pro HD
One of the real turn-arounds in mobile office apps is Quickoffice Pro HD (iPad/Android). This app costs $19.99 (USD), but my early experience was not very positive. However, since Google's acquisition, it's become a real user-friendly app that offers strong support for Microsoft Office formats.
I rank Quickoffice Pro HD high when it comes to security settings. From the Settings menu, the following options are available:
- Turn File Transfers and Authentication on and off
- Adjust File Cache (100 MB default)
- Enable/Disable Sleep
- Passcode Lock for the app
Settings menu for Quickoffice Pro HD.
Because of the app improvements that I've seen over time, standard user experience between Android and iPad apps, Microsoft Office format support, and additional security options, this is a mobile office app that I would definitely recommend for BYOD tablets.
Quickoffice - Google Apps for Business
Organizations standardized on Google Apps for Business have a free version of Quickoffice (iPad only). This app is actually a full version of Quickoffice Pro HD that requires a Google Apps for Business login (a regular Google login will not work). It also restricts access to only the file storage in the users' Google Apps for Business account.These file restrictions may feel like a walled garden, and it's hard to dispute the irony of an app now owned by Google that has branched off into a free app that only supports the iPad. However, users have full access to documents that their coworkers, partners, and clients share with them through their Google Apps for Business corporate account. Figure C shows a screenshot of Quickoffice - Google Apps for Business: Figure C
Quickoffice - Google Apps for Business.
You don't need to use a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution to distribute this app to BYOD iPads in your enterprise, because users just need a directive to download it from the App Store. When they enter their Google Apps for Business login information, they'll get full access to the documents in their Google Apps corporate account.
Documents To GoDocuments To Go -- the Premium version for iOS costs $16.00 (USD) and the Full Version Key for Android costs $14.99 (USD) -- is one of the preeminent mobile office apps. I've been using it since the first generation iPad, and I often recommend it to other users, because it offers improved editing tools and support for cloud storage. However, Documents To Go doesn't have the security settings that you get with Quickoffice Pro HD. Figure D shows Google Docs in Documents To Go Premium: Figure D
Accessing Google Docs using Documents To Go Premium.
iWorkSome Apple users might already be using iWork (Pages, KeyNote, and Numbers cost $9.99 apiece) on their personal Macs and iPads, so it has a fair chance of showing up in a BYOD initiative. Apple has made some business improvements to iWork, which I find to be quite heartening. Figure E shows the Pages app: Figure E
iWork Pages application.
Mobile office apps for BYOD
Mobile office apps are beginning to offer security and features that can help users edit and review documents on their BYOD tablets. Which mobile office apps do you use and/or recommend? Please share your experience in the discussion thread below.
Also readTechRepublic and ZDNet delve deeper into this topic in a special report page: BYOD and the Consumerization of IT.
Will Kelly is a technical and marketing communications writer based in the Washington, DC area. He has written about SMB technology, data center management, project management applications, mobile computing, Microsoft Office, and productivity applications for online and print technology publications. You can reach Will at firstname.lastname@example.org.