The right office apps for the iPhone at work, round 2

If your company allows employees to use an iPhone, here are the productivity apps that you should install on the mobile devices

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The best word processor for the iPhone
If you're using an iPhone to create or edit documents, expect to be limited to simple tasks, such as basic editing, touchup work, commenting, and creating summaries or basic notes. None of the office apps supports revision tracking; if that's essential to your workflow, you're out of luck.

Pages. Pages on the iPad is a great app. On the iPhone, it's not so good. One key reason is that the text is hard to read on the iPhone, even with the fit-to-screen capability of Pages when you tap text to edit. Plus, it doesn't work in landscape orientation, where the text would be larger and easier to edit. One saving grace is that you can use the expand gesture to zoom into the text, which helps a lot.

Pages does have sophisticated editing capabilities, such as search and replace, chart and table insertion, multiple-column layout, and list formatting. No competitor comes close in the editing and formatting possible in Pages, though Pages has one potentially show-stopping quirk: It strips out style sheets from Word files, which can render them unusable in some workflows.

Like all the iWork apps, Pages automatically saves all changes to your documents, so you can't cancel your changes; work on a copy to be safe. Also like all the iWork apps, it doesn't operate with cloud storage services such as Google Docs, Dropbox, and Box.net (though you'll be able to sync them among your own devices via iCloud). If you want to share files with others, your options are limited to email or syncing to your computer via iTunes and sharing from there. Dropbox users have a work-around: The $5-per-month DropDAV.com service adds the CalDAV protocol to Dropbox so that Pages and the other iWork apps can exchange files with it. Box.net users have a similar (and free) work-around: Log in from iWork apps via CalDAV using your Box.net sign-in credentials.

Quickoffice. Quickoffice's word processor is simple, with straightforward controls for basic formatting, such as font, text size, paragraph alignment, and lists. Its text is easier to read, and the autozoom feature when you're editing is nice. But Quickoffice has no search-and-replace capability, though it can search. (It also has a word counter.)

I found it awkward to have to tap a Done button to close some of the pop-up dialog boxes that Quickoffice uses for formatting. I kept trying to tap elsewhere on the screen, as is the typical approach in iOS to close a control.

There are no layout controls, so you can use Quickoffice only to work on text. Happily, Quickoffice retains the style sheets in your imported documents, so they're intact when you later export a document, even though it doesn't let you create, edit, or apply styles.

Quickoffice can connect to Box.net, Dropbox, Google Docs, Huddle, and SugarSync cloud storage, as well as to a computer directly over Wi-Fi. Of course, it can also email documents, and it provides a Save As option, as well as an internal folder structure so that you can organize your documents.

DocsToGo. DataViz's app is similar to Quickoffice in terms of its capabilities: It's a simple text editor with basic formatting options and nearly the same cloud storage connection options (all but Huddle). However, DocsToGo offers more capabilities, such as search and replace (with case and whole-word criteria) and word counting.

I couldn't recommend the iPad version of DocsToGo due to a really dumb UI design: All controls are at the bottom of the screen, where they become hidden by the onscreen keyboard. The iPhone version has the same design, but it doesn't cause a problem as it does on the iPad. The reason: You typically type with one finger on an iPhone, so tapping the floating Hide Keyboard button right above the onscreen keyboard is a trivial task that doesn't get in the way. On an iPad, where you tend to type with multiple fingers, the action to hide the onscreen keyboard is somehow much more of an interruption, and putting the controls at the bottom of the screen is fairly standard in iPhone apps -- Quickoffice does it too.

DocsToGo is slightly easier to use than Quickoffice, as its basic formatting options can be selected from menus, with no closing dialog boxes. If you open a "more" dialog box, though, you have to tap Done to close it, as in Quickoffice.

The verdict: A tie between Pages and DocsToGo. Pages is hands-down the most capable text editor for the iPhone, but its text is hard to read and its lack of landscape orientation compounds that usability issue. With DocsToGo, you get more editing capabilities than in Quickoffice and a slightly more straightforward user interface. If you use Pages on an iPad, you'll probably also opt for it on the iPhone. But if you're iPhone-only, DocsToGo is a better choice.

The best spreadsheet editor for the iPhone
The capabilities of the candidate spreadsheet editors are much closer than for the word processors.

Numbers. Numbers on the iPhone is remarkably easy to operate. Apple's use of modal keyboards for numeric and date entry really speeds up formula entry, and the controls over formatting and cell layout are quite capable. Adding worksheets is also easy. My only complaints are that Numbers does not work in landscape orientation, and that you can't cancel the changes you make to a spreadsheet (although you can undo individual changes).

Quickoffice. Excel users will take to Quickoffice quickly, as it works very similarly. Quickoffice has a large set of functions, and it's easy to work with cells, rows, and columns, even on the small screen. Functions are also simple to insert, thanks to the Excel-like function menus that add a sample formula for you.

Switching worksheets requires opening a menu of sheet names -- there are no tabs to tap -- so those who use Excel (and Quickoffice on the iPad) will have a bit of an adjustment to make in terms of navigation. Quickoffice has no charting tools, nor the ability to sort columns or rows, freeze panes, or hide columns or rows.

DocsToGo. The spreadsheet capabilities in DocsToGo are superior to those in Quickoffice, offering several features not found in Quickoffice, including the abilities to search text (with case, entire-cell, and workbook-versus-sheet criteria), hide rows and columns, sort rows and columns, and freeze panes. It also offers a go-to-cell function and can display the spreadsheet in full screen.

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