Office suite alternatives for Android tablets

Donovan Colbert takes a close look at several Office suites for Android tablets, including Polaris Office, Documents To Go, OfficeSuite Pro 5, and Google Docs as a native app or via a web browser.

Documents To Go

Documents To Go by DataViz is probably the most well known Office Suite for mobile devices. Available for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Maemo, it has the widest cross-platform support if you happen to have multiple mobile devices and want a consistent interface. At between $14.99 and $19.99 (USD), it isn't priced unreasonably. It's also probably the most polished interface of any Android Office Suite. Google Docs integration works well, displaying folders and all file formats on your Google Docs account (see Figure 7). Figure 7

On my test expense spreadsheet, the calculation did auto-sum when I updated a cell, but the workbooks lost some of their formatting and layout in the conversion from .XLS through Google Docs into the Documents To Go spreadsheet app (see Figure 8). Figure 8

The updated results transferred from one page of the workbook to the other. This worked much better than I expected. Despite the fact that the display did not render 100%, I'd much rather have a spreadsheet that calculates right than one that looks pretty (see Figure 9). Figure 9

The PowerPoint presentation loaded and rendered perfectly in Documents To Go — with an interface that was less cluttered and more minimal than that of Polaris Office. I'm not sure how I felt about this. To enter different modes, you use the Android menu from the taskbar, which displays a bar with File, Edit, View, Format, Insert, and More options (see Figure 10). There is no Slide Show mode (or it may be that Slide Show mode is the default view). You flick left or right to go to the next slide. With the integrated touch pad, you can also use two finger swiping left or right to scroll to the next or previous slide. Figure 10

The word processor is also very minimal and uncluttered. There are no word processing toolbars — just a basic white screen with a gray title bar at the top and the Android task bar at the bottom. You can access advanced features by hitting the Android menu soft button, which brings up the same File, Edit, View, Format, Insert, and More bar (see Figure 11).

In the More menu, you'll find Preferences, File Properties, Help, and most importantly, Word Count. What you won't find in any sub-menu, no matter how hard you look, is a spell checker. Documents To Go just doesn't have one, and that's a major weakness in a product that's the flagship Office suite for Android devices.

Figure 11

Perhaps most troubling thing to me is that I've had Documents To Go crash on me numerous times. It actually just crashed as I was writing this line (see Figure 12). It also crashed when I was showing a co-worker the PowerPoint app. One of the most painful crashes happened when I was about 4,500 words into a chapter on a book that I'm writing, and it didn't auto-recover my unsaved work, which accounted for roughly half of that chapter. That kind of loss is extremely frustrating. I'm not sure if it's Documents To Go, Honeycomb, or the ASUS Transformer, but I'm not experiencing these kind of crashes with other alternatives. Word count or not, crashing and losing my work is a big deal breaker. Figure 12

Read about OfficeSuite Pro 5.

By Donovan Colbert

Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his profession...