If you're stuck in a long line, in a waiting room or on the train with time to kill, you can do something more productive on your smartphone besides going through your social-networking sites or catapulting cartoon birds. Why not catch up on office work?
There are a variety of office suites available for Android devices that give you access to documents, spreadsheets and presentations. In this roundup, I look at five of them: Documents To Go, OfficeSuite Pro, Quickoffice Pro, Smart Office and ThinkFree Office Mobile. These are all paid apps. While Google offers an Android app version of its Google Docs service for free, its capabilities are limited, so it is not included in this article.
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All of these office suites include a word processor, spreadsheet application and presentation maker. Each purports to support document file compatibility with Microsoft Word (.DOC, .DOCX), Excel (.XLS, .XLSX) and PowerPoint (.PPT, .PPTX). And they can all integrate with your Google Docs user account -- for example, you can load a text document you originally created on Google Docs into the word processor of any of these suites to view and edit it. All also come with their own PDF viewer.
I considered each app with three main criteria in mind: How easily can you edit your existing documents? How well does its user interface work within the confines of an Android smartphone, especially when you use the standard on-screen virtual keyboard? And does it experience any trouble importing standard Microsoft Office document formats?
I tested these office suites on the Android-based Motorola Triumph; this smartphone's 4.1-in. screen helped me use these apps at their best when it came to viewing and editing documents -- if your phone has a smaller screen, then the user interface for each of these apps will be that much more important.
Including Android, there are versions of Dataviz's Documents To Go for six mobile OS platforms, including iOS, BlackBerry and the now-defunct Palm OS. Dataviz also provides a free Windows application for your PC so you can sync Documents To Go files with your Android smartphone via a USB cable. Unfortunately, as of this writing, this suite hasn't seen an update in well over a year -- and it shows.
Documents To Go's word processor is unremarkable, though straightforward to use -- just go to Android's on-screen keyboard to enter text. Tap your Android phone's Menu button to call up a toolbar along the bottom of the screen, and this lets you insert bulleted lists, numbered lists and tables into your text documents.
In tests, Documents To Go would not load images embedded in.DOCX Word documents. It did load images embedded in .DOC files.