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

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The best Android presentation software
Only three of the Android office suite contenders offer support for presentations (OfficeSuite Pro does not), and the winner is a no-brainer.

Documents to Go: Documents to Go lets you create, view, and edit PowerPoint presentations. The formatting options are relatively limited; you can create slide titles, subtitles, and text, which can include bulleted lists, if you so desire. You edit in an outline mode; switching to slide-view mode lets you preview the presentation.

Quickoffice: Quickoffice lets you only view PowerPoint files stored on your Android smartphone or in your Google Docs account. You can't do any kind of editing or create new presentations.

ThinkFree: ThinkFree provides a PowerPoint viewing utility, as well as a basic presentation creation tool. Like the rest of its suite, however, the ThinkFree presentation editor is difficult to use. Adding text, for example, requires you to long-press on a field -- which most users wouldn't think to do -- to open a text-editing tool. Within that tool, you then have to search for a keyboard icon, once again, just to get your smartphone's virtual keyboard to appear. All in all, the process is quite cumbersome.  

The verdict: No contest -- Documents to Go is the winner.

The best Android PDF markup program
Although all of the office suite contenders allow for PDF viewing, none of them provides an option for highlighting or marking up the files.

For that, the app you want is Cerience's $5 RepliGo Reader. It lets you fully annotate Adobe PDF files from your Android smartphone, including options for highlighting text, striking out text, underlining text, and adding freehand drawings. You can also attach sticky notes to your documents and have them stored as standard annotations.

RepliGo is easy to use: Once you open a PDF file, you just long-press anywhere in the document to insert markups. A dialog box gives you options to add any kind of notification you need. After saving the file, you can even send it to someone else directly from the app via Bluetooth or via such services as Gmail, Dropbox, and Evernote.

Other Android office utilities you may need
If you don't already have a file manager on your smartphone, download Metago's $4 Astro (there's also a free version that displays ads). In addition to allowing you to browse through your smartphone like a hard drive -- deleting, copying, and moving files as you wish -- Astro opens Zip files on the fly. It can also create Zip archives and share the files via Gmail, Dropbox, or another cloud-based service with a couple of taps.

Need to view native Photoshop documents for your work? Turn to Google Docs; its Web interface recently added the ability to open Photoshop PSD files.

Putting it all together: The ideal Android office suite
For word processing, spreadsheet editing, and presentation management, Documents to Go is the best overall office suite you'll find for Android. If you need to mark up PDF files, add RepliGo Reader into the mix. Snag Astro to handle any Zip files that come your way, and keep Google Docs bookmarked in your Web browser if Photoshop files are part of your profession.

For Android tablet users, there aren't enough Android 3.0 Honeycomb-specific applications as of yet to do a separate and meaningful comparison, as there are in the iOS market. Documents to Go, however, scales well to the tablet form, despite its lack of large-screen optimization, so it's my recommendation for Motorola Mobility Xoom and other Android tablet users -- at the moment.

Of course, the basic office suite is just the start; plenty of other specialty programs can add value and power to a business user's smartphone. For a look at my top selections, check out the companion feature "Specialty Android apps for business users."

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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