But where Office Mobile really falls short is in working with Office documents. It can open pretty much any Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file, but it often can't edit them. Even simple documents like my office's single-worksheet Excel expense report often cause a Can't Edit alert box to appear when you try to make changes in them. iWork, Quickoffice, and Drive almost always can edit an Office file, by contrast.
In other words, you can't rely on Microsoft Office to be able to work with Office files -- there's not even an option to save a stripped-down version of files that have some (never explained) compatibility issue. That's what makes Office Mobile pathetically bad.
Mobile Office for iPhone often can't edit existing Microsoft Office documents.
I have to be fair to Microsoft: Its version of Mobile Office for Window Phone has all the same issues and limitations, as did the years-old version of the long-dead Windows Mobile platform. Microsoft is not treating iOS users worse than users of its own Windows Phone, as Microsoft does to Mac users of Office. But the fact that the Windows Phone version is just as useless underscores how lousy Mobile Office is -- it's clearly not meant to be a serious office productivity tool, but instead a check-off "yes, we support Office documents" for naive buyers. Given this self-crippling, I can only imagine how bad an eventual iPad version of Office will be -- after all, a good one would kill any chance of broad adoption of Windows tablets.
Luckily, you don't need Microsoft Office to work with Office documents in a serious way on your iPhone. Get iWork or Quickoffice, and you'll have the Office you need.
This article, "Microsoft Office for iPhone is pathetically bad," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.