The right office apps for the Android at work

If your company allows employees to use Android smartphones, here are the productivity apps you should install

In the mobile world, it used to be that "BlackBerry" was synonymous with "business." These days, though, more workers are trading in their RIM smartphones for more modern alternatives -- and given the shifting state of the smartphone market, that means devices based on Google's Android OS are increasingly suiting up for the job.

Android phones saw the largest jump in enterprise adoption among all smartphone platforms last year, according to a recent study released by Forrester Research. The report, which revolves around a survey of business executives in the United States and Europe, finds business use of Android growing by 550 percent from 2009 to 2010. Although Android's total is still relatively small, at 13 percent of the overall pie, its climbing figure shows the platform is no longer just for pleasure.

[ Also on Android innovators -- see the devices that are leading the new generation. | Discover the best specialty Android business apps, and see how the iPhone's business apps and iPad's business apps compare. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights with InfoWorld's Mobilize newsletter. ]

Of course, an Android smartphone straight out of the box doesn't have everything you need to stay productive on the road, and finding the right suite of Office-like applications can take some time-consuming trial and error. That's why I delved into the various options: to help find the best productivity suite for your Android smartphone.

I tested four Android office suites: DataViz's Documents to Go, which costs $15 for the full premium version (needed for most features), MobiSystems' $15 OfficeSuite Professional, Quickoffice's $10 QuickOffice Connect Mobile Suite, and ThinkFree Mobile's $15 ThinkFree Office Mobile. Note that prices are subject to change, and often do.

I also compared these suites to the Google Docs mobile Web app (Google has thus far not made Docs available as a native Android application). Microsoft's Office Web Apps suite doesn't support mobile-based editing of documents, so I didn't include it in this comparison.

For each tool, I broke down how each contender handled word processing, spreadsheet editing, and presentation management. I then considered what you'd need to accomplish other basic office tasks, such as dealing with PDF documents and Photoshop files. Finally, I put it all together to recommend the best overall package for your Android smartphone.

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