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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Switching worksheets is an awkward process, involving the opening of a page through which you then slide across available worksheets. Quickoffice's approach is easier.

Like Quickoffice, DocsToGo uses Excel-like function menus to insert formulas. But DocsToGo provides a bigger window for the formula, making it simpler to edit.

The verdict: Again, a tie between Numbers and DocsToGo. Numbers is in many ways superior, save for that annoying portrait-only display limitation. But Quickoffice holds its own where it counts most, especially if you're Excel-savvy.

The best presentation software for the iPhone
The choice here is an easy one, as you shall see.

Keynote. Working on a presentation on a small screen is not very easy, but Keynote does a good job of letting you edit and even create complex slideshows, complete with animations. You can zoom in for editing and fine sizing and placement of graphics. The animation features are desktop-class and not terribly difficult to apply even on the small screen. I can't imagine creating a complex presentation from scratch on an iPhone, even though Keynote is capable of it, but with Keynote I could certainly make major revisions.

On the iPhone as well as the iPad, Keynote works only in landscape orientation. It also suffers from the inability to cancel all changes to a presentation, and it offers more limited cloud connectivity options than its competitors. But it's the only one to offer find-and-replace capabilities.

Quickoffice. You can do some real work on a PowerPoint presentation in Quickoffice, such as changing objects' stacking order, formatting and aligning text, and adding and reshaping objects. It's a fine tool for updating a presentation. But there are no animation capabilities, and the zoom levels are restricted, so it's often hard to read the text you are editing.

DocsToGo. The DocsToGo suite lets you open PowerPoint files and add notes to them, such as to make comments or provide feedback to your spreadsheet jockey.

It also has basic editing capabilities. In slide preview mode, you can insert a new slide and duplicate or delete existing ones. To edit the text in your slides, you must switch to outline mode -- and you can do no formatting. Note that if you're in outline mode, you have to go back to preview mode to create, copy, or delete a slide. The result is that DocsToGo is acceptable  for touch-up work on existing presentations; you can also create a basic text-only presentation that you might use as the starting point for a slideshow to which you add images and formatting on the desktop. But that's all.

The verdict: There's no question that Keynote is the winner in this category. Quickoffice is a solid second choice, especially if you prefer it for text and spreadsheet editing.

The best PDF markup program for the iPhone
There are dozens of apps to open PDF documents on the iPhone, but since the built-in Preview app does that for mail attachments, and most Wi-Fi file-sharing apps also preview PDF documents, what you really want is one that can mark up PDF files, adding sticky notes and the like.

That app is GoodReader ($5). You can do most of the markup as you would in Adobe Reader, such as notes, highlights, and even free-form shapes -- for example, to circle an item. Once you get the hang of using your finger like a mouse for such actions, the app is easy to use.

GoodReader is not just a PDF markup app. It can also view Office files, text files, and pictures, as well as play audio files and unzip compressed files. Plus, it comes with a Wi-Fi file-sharing capability to transfer documents to your computer.

Note that GoodReader is not a universal app, so you'll need to buy a separate version for the iPad.

Additional utilities most everyone should have
The iPhone can't open Zip files -- an amazing omission in the iPad as well. There are several apps that can unzip files, but the best for the iPhone is ZipBox Pro ($2). It's straightforward to use and also works on the iPad. But if you have GoodReader, you don't need a separate unzip app, as GoodReader will unzip (and zip) files for you.

If you view native Photoshop files, such as for page layout, Web, or presentation projects, get the Air Files app ($1), which also offers Wi-Fi file-sharing and basic drawing capabilities. (As you can see, Wi-Fi file sharing is built into lots of apps.) Note that Air Files does not run on the Pad; you'll need the separate AirFilesHD app ($1) for the Apple tablet.

Putting it altogether: The ideal office suite
The arrival of the iWork suite for the iPhone has changed my calculations for best office suite. It's a close contest between iWork and Quickoffice, with Keynote, Numbers, and Pages winning due to their richer tool set, and GoodReader being the essential add-on. But Pages is the weak link in that group, especially due to its style sheet and portrait-only limitations. Thus, for many users, Documents to Go Premium plus Keynote and GoodReader are a better choice. Add to the mix Air Files if you need to view Photoshop files. It really is a close race for the best iPhone office app suite.

This article, "The right office apps for the iPhone at work, round 2," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in mobile technology at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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