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.

OfficeSuite Pro 5

OfficeSuite Pro 5 features a busier user interface, but I like it. It's more similar to a desktop Office Suite layout. When you open it, there's a bar on the top that features New, Find, Edit, Sort, Filter, Recover, Settings, Updates, and Help. The left side of the screen is divided into a window that displays Recent Files, My Documents, Local Files, Remote Files, and Advanced English & Thesaurus (see Figure 13).

Shortly after I'd purchased Documents To Go for $14.99 (USD), OfficeSuite Pro 5 was released for free on the Amazon Appstore. Currently, OfficeSuite Pro 5 is on sale there for $4.99 (USD). Let me cut to the chase — at $5, I recommend snapping this application up as soon as possible, as that promotional price could end at any time. Every Android tablet owner who is interested in Office Suite productivity should have this app on their device at this price.

Unlike Documents To Go, OfficeSuite Pro 5 displays your Google remote docs in a flat format (see Figure 13) and doesn't display or allow you to browse by folders. You can, however, sort by name, size, type, or date modified. Figure 13

Like Documents To Go, OfficeSuite Pro 5 lost the special formatting in my Excel expense form (see Figure 14). Despite this, I think that the general layout of the Excel app is probably the best in OfficeSuite Pro 5. Again, it looks the most like, well... Microsoft Excel. Figure 14

Updating cells worked as expected, with sums recalculated automatically without confusing extra steps (see Figure 15). Like Documents To Go, OfficeSuite Pro 5 does what you would expect with a mobile spreadsheet app. There may be advanced features that are lacking, but I'm not a real advanced spreadsheet user. I can't imagine ever running into a situation where this didn't support something I needed to do while on the road. Figure 15

The PowerPoint document loaded fine in OfficeSuite Pro 5. The taskbar at the top takes up a noticeable amount of screen real estate to offer Save, Undo, Redo, and a pull-down context menu (see Figure 16). Figure 16

The pull-down menu features File, Edit, View, Slide show, Outline view, Find, Help, and About (see Figure 17). Figure 17

The default view shows the Notes area on the bottom of the screen. Again, this layout is the most similar to what a Microsoft PowerPoint user would expect to see. It's also worth noting that while you can use multi-touch to zoom or shrink a slide, you cannot flick or swipe to go to the previous or next slide. Instead, on-screen arrows allow you to navigate forward or back in your presentation. Honestly, I'm not sure that the presentation app holds up as well to the competition as the rest of OfficeSuite Pro 5, but it seems to have the basics covered.

The word processor also gives up a little more real estate than the other publishers for the same taskbar across the top, plus an additional taskbar along the bottom with familiar formatting and editing buttons. These include Bold, Italic, Underline, justification buttons, bullets, highlighting, and font and color buttons (see Figure 18). Figure 18

From the top taskbar, in the contextual menu, the options are File, Edit, View, Insert, Find, Word count, Settings, Help, and About. Like all of the other vendors, this app does not feature an integrated spell checker.

I did notice that formatting when saving a document from OfficeSuite Pro 5 to Google Docs was a little sketchy. Documents To Go makes it a selling point that the implement technology preserves your document format, even when sending docs to Google. In my experience, OfficeSuite Pro 5 is a little less reliable in this regard. For example, one document showed up in Google Docs italicized and in a different font than it was created in. It wasn't a lot of work to fix, but for a heavily formatted document laid out for desktop publishing, losing your format and layout could be very frustrating.

Another reason I prefer OfficeSuite Pro 5 is that I haven't had it crash on me while I was composing a document. I've also had the built-in Recover function work as intended to bring back data that would have been lost otherwise. This is a pretty advanced feature for a mobile Office suite, and it seems well implemented.

The Advanced English & Thesaurus button in OfficeSuite Pro 5 takes you to a link to download a free dictionary/thesaurus. I was hopeful that this would add a spell checker. Even after downloading the linked app, the button remains — there's no actual integration between this app and OfficeSuite Pro 5.

Finally, navigating around OfficeSuite Pro 5 is a little difficult. It's one of those Android apps where you're never sure what the soft-back button is going to do. In fact, I frequently end up outside of the app, wondering how I got there. Conversely, sometimes it loads up a document, and I'm not sure why.

However, for the sale price of $5, it offers all of the significant features of Documents To Go — and although it has its own strange set of bugs and glitches, it hasn't lost any data on me, and that's the most important feature of an Office suite, when you get right down to it. Honestly, if I knew what I know now, with both Office suites at $14.99, I would pick OfficeSuite Pro 5 over Documents To Go if I had it to do over again. They're so close in features, design, and polish that the real deciding factor is price. I think you can safely go with whichever one you can get at the best price.

Read about Google Docs native app.

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...