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Document Editing Shootout Part 2: Documents to Go vs. Free Google QuickOffice!

I have used Microsoft Office desktop programs along side many alternatives over the years. I have benefited hugely from the various mobile editors out there, and am always on the lookout for new or updated options. The oldest example of this is the mobile editing suite called Documents to Go from Data Viz ($9.99). I use MS Office more than anything else, but often do minor edits on the go, and since I was evaluating a new DTG version, I figured it couldn't hurt to do another shootout. This time Documents to Go will go head to head with newly acquired and rebranded Google QuickOffice (Free). Both are good editing options, but read on to see who will emerge the victor! I'll also roundup some other editing apps you may not have been aware of....

Call this Doc Editor Shootout 2 (see my previous here), where I compare and contrast more doc editing apps and re-examine some previously mentioned ones. But mainly I'll focus on two primary mobile office programs I have used over the years. I also wrote this with iPad in mind, since I often use it for second screen or mobile editing, and figure that is the more common case. I know it is also occasionally important to work on docs on the iPhone, so I will swing back in the future and round-up that experience as well. 

 

Cloud-Enabled Editing

Documents to Go is a cloud-enabled document editing workspace that runs on a large array of mobile platforms. The suite is great for quickly creating and editing Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and Powerpoint presentations. You can also use it to view PDF documents. I can vouch for the product over many years of casual use (on Blackberry, Palm, Windows Mobile, etc.), and I wanted to check out the latest iOS version. I found it to still be a great office substitute application overall, just recently updated for iOS 7 and the iPad specifically. The user interface (UI) is uncluttered—almost every function is a single tap from the top or bottom bar, and very intuitive.
Overall, Documents to Go is very responsive and easy to navigate, and includes the ability to synchronize docs with a desktop computer, which seems a little old fashioned in the cloud era, but some users may need this for security reasons (i.e. not wanting to share data to the cloud). Documents to Go supports the most basic Word doc text editing and formatting tasks (changing fonts and, color, and adding bullets, etc.), and has good support for excel formulae in spreadsheets. It also did well preserving basic cell formats. It misbehaved a little with my Bluetooth keyboard (both main apps did in this review). I also set it up to sync to iCloud, but could not find my documents when using Pages, so I'm not sure where it's actually putting them.
The program supported all calculations in one of my old software judging sheets, but not the conditional formatting (if value = thus, then apply color x). The Documents to Go editors all do not support spell check, and you can't insert images, tables, or shapes in any editing program. Documents to Go (at least in the version I tested) could not search for strings inside of files, only filenames. The program does include good support for syncing to multiple cloud services (Dropbox, iCloud, SugarSync, box, Google Drive). Both syncing and cloud connections worked well. The basic app I tested is a bit pricey, and a premium version more so, but I admit that it is a reliable way to access and update your document library. If, however, you have been on the hunt for something more robust (and are a Google Drive user), you need to check out QuickOffice.
QuickOffice fills many gaps that Documents to Go standard leaves open, in my opinion. I like both editors for different reasons, and can get utility from both, but clearly QuickOffice is more robust. For one, it supports markup and review functions like track changes to documents, in addition to the basics like spell check, find/replace, formatting, etc. Also supported: document printing, auto-save while you work, and the ability to present slides and even view movies.

You can create a slide package from a range of shapes and insert images from your camera roll as well. This excellent package is also completely free, and though there is some grumbling since Google snatched up QuickOffice (particularly from previous paid users of other now non-supported cloud services), it is one of the best I have used thus far. There were a few minor issues like wonky keyboard behavior (which could have been my keyboard as indicated above), and much of the spreadsheet cell formatting from the desktop Excel file versions was lost in QuickOffice.

 

Online Editing Apps

In my previous document access shootout I covered a free mobile suite called CloudOn (free), which I am happy to report is still going strong. CloudOn remains a full featured option, but it relies on a back-end virtual server connection to present real MS Office apps. Without the connection, or over a slow connection, it is not a viable solution. Still, if a reliable connection is not an issue, CloudOn is a handy option to preserve and edit your Office docs. If however, you or your organization uses open document formats, you may want to consider Documents Unlimited (free)
 
Documents Unlimited is also a virtual online editor, but instead of presenting the latest MS Office applications, it presents a not exactly attractive rendition of LibreOffice, which Linux users (or cheap Windows users like myself) will recognize. LibreOffice is not MS Office, but it is a close second, in my opinion. If you know MS Office fairly well, you should be able to puzzle it out quickly. LibreOffice also includes support for newer and older MS formats (though no guarantees that all formatting will be preserved), which still makes Docs Unlimited an attractive and free alternative that might work in a pinch. 

The free version of Documents Unlimited that I tested was not as responsive as CloudOn, and included ads that pop-up full screen at times and also appear during slide present mode. The laggy performance and tiny buttons and menu items make it hard to justify the $4.99 for the full version that cancels out the ads. The full version also unlocks access to cloud accounts, but you can save documents to your iPad in the free one and sync with your computer over WiFi or USB. It is possible the experience is greatly improved in the newer full version, as it appears that it was expressly addressed in the developer update notes.

 

SkyDrive Web Viewer/Editor

The final online option, which I have discussed in my previous reviews still stands as an excellent document editing experience for mobile (again as long as you have faith in your internet connection). It doesn't require anything fancier than mobile Safari, which might be why MS hasn't really fielded a robust iOS app for editing docs. The free Sky Drive app provides web access to your docs, but if you want to edit them on iPad, you can do so surprisingly well by simply connecting to Sky Drive through mobile Safari, and opening them for edit in the online editor. From an editing standpoint, it's as robust as any other option mentioned in this review.
 

The Verdict

I like Docs to Go for quick reviewing of docs, or taking notes that I may need to sync back to both my computer and a cloud service like Dropbox. It is fine for basic review and update of files on the go (like the name suggests). I highly recommend QuickOffice, and in fact wrote this review using the Doc editor (though I wrote different parts with each tool), and even glommed in screenshots to an accompanyingslide set. Cloud On remains the best online option for a full featured Office experience, one which also supports other storage services, but a quick pop-in to Sky Drive, is equally effective alternative.

 

Top Choices:

QuickOffice. Great features for free (with 15GB of free space), and non-Google users can always get a free account if they want to sync up to the cloud.

CloudOn. Free online editing that is fast and reliable, not to mention flexible. Internet required, however.

SkyDrive Live. Skip the app altogether; the website lets you manage, access, and edit all your cloud data. It also requires constant internet presence (and requires signing up for MS Sky Drive, which provides 25G of space for free.)

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Nate Adcock's picture

Nate Adcock is a system and integration engineer with experience managing and administering a variety of computing environments. He has worked extensively with mobile gadgets of all shapes and sizes for many years. He is also a former military weather forecaster. Nate is a regular contributor for the iphonelife.com and smartphonemag.com blogs and helps manage both websites. Read more from Nate at natestera.drupalgardens.com or e-mail him at nate@iphonelife.com.