I’m sure that you, like me, have seen all those TV commercials for those Windows phones at the moment. The major point Microsoft is focusing on is that a version of Office is available on Windows Mobile 7. Gates and his crew are pitching it to people who feel tied down to the office and promises that it allows you to work on the move, which is certainly something that is very appealing in today’s society. Even Apple have ported their iWork office suite onto the iPad and although it is quite a cut down version of the one you’d expect to see on any Macintosh computer, it’s still relatively functional, if little basic.
Android users are a little spoilt for choice with regards to office suites. Google even finally pulled their finger out and recently released the long-awaited Google Docs standalone application for Android, but it does have limited features (to say the least). Other than that, QuickOffice, DocumentsToGo, OfficeSuite and ThinkFree are all available for Android and all are priced around the $15 mark for the full editions (the free editions will often allow you to read Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents but not to edit them).
QuickOffice HD is, however, one of the very few office suites optimized for Honeycomb so I decided to give it a go on my Motorola Xoom tablet. Read on for my full review.
As QuickOffice HD features a word processor, a spreadsheet and a presentation program, I have decided to split these up and focus on each one individually.
QuickOffice HD can open Word documents — in both .doc (Word 97-2003) and .docx (Word 2007 onwards) format — .xls and .xlsx spreadsheets, and .ppt and .pptx presentations. It also has a built-in PDF reader.
It also syncs nicely with several cloud-based storage services, including Google Docs, Dropbox and MobileMe (although as of yet there is no automatic synchronization with these services), which is very useful if you want to work on the move or to access your documents from different locations.
Office applications on smartphones are notoriously difficult to use properly due to the small screen size. It is quite fiddly to edit documents or spreadsheets on them without making mistakes or making life difficult for oneself, but the new user interface on QuickOffice HD is much easier to use and certainly suits larger tablet screens. Upon opening the application you are greeted with the Welcome screen, which brings up a list of local files, any recent documents you have accessed, and any cloud services you are connected to:
You can also search for documents within the application using the built-in search function, which obviously eliminates the need to exit the program to hunt for a particular document.
Upon opening a document the user interface is simple and uncluttered and the application is relatively simple to use:
The word processor is what I use most on QuickOffice HD, but it’s a little basic, to say the least. You don’t have the choice between any templates unless you download them and open them on your tablet (even then the formatting can sometimes get lost) so you’re pretty much stuck with just writing in single paragraphs. You can insert pictures from either your gallery or even take one and insert it into the document, and you also have the option of customizing the text’s fontface, size, and style, and its alignment on the page.
If you’re expecting an Android version of Word or Pages, then you’ll be sadly disappointed. But this simplicity will appeal to people who just want a basic, no-nonsense word processor without any unnecessary features. It does get the job done but don’t expect any mind-blowing features from it.
The spreadsheet section is a cut-down version of any spreadsheet program you’d expect on a computer, such as Excel or Numbers, although it does have some features that you wouldn’t expect from your average tablet office suite. There is a library of about 100 commonly used formulas built in and you also have the option of changing the number format and border of the individual cells — and of course you can play around with the font. Like the word processing program, there are no in-built spreadsheet templates and importing Excel spreadsheets can be problematic.
Selecting individual rows and columns is also hit and miss and the application does not support multi-touch capabilities. Although there is a built-in library of commonly used formulas, any formulas from spreadsheets created using Google Docs or another office program often do not show up properly; instead you get a blank cell. It is therefore not ideal for editing large, formula-rich spreadsheets, though it does do a good job of viewing any spreadsheets created in Excel.
The presentation section of the application is perhaps the most simple (and the most disappointing). Don’t expect to be creating flashy presentations with lots of animation on the move – there is the choice of one theme (plain) as well as several different common slide layouts. QuickOffice HD can read PowerPoint presentations created on the computer without any problems, however any animations in the presentation disappear and the layout and formatting may appear a bit wonky. This is a real shame as it means you cannot use your tablet as a presentation aid. Most tablets nowadays come with a mini HDMI port as standard, meaning you can connect it to an external projector, but your presentation has to be very simple if you want to present using your tablet and QuickOffice HD.
QuickOffice is heavily lacking in certain features that would otherwise be considered vital in office suites, which is rather disappointing. It is priced towards the high-end of the tablet office suite range (and even when I bought it there was a 40% discount on it, so get it whilst you can!) and if I’m going to be spending $15 on a tablet app (which when most apps cost on average around $2-3 is a little over the top), I want something that’s decent and usable. Unfortunately, there is plenty to moan about with QuickOffice HD.
My first complaint is that QuickOffice HD does not integrate with the built-in spell check on Honeycomb, which can be a nightmare if you’re writing long Word documents. Although alternative spelling suggestions are shown as you are typing, it does not automatically correct them or flag up any mistakes you make (there is no built-in spell checker either). I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it is a waste of time having to check a document you are writing twice for errors: once on the tablet and once on the computer. A word processor without a spell checker is about as useful as an inflatable dartboard and this certainly won’t get it a high ranking among business people wanting to use their tablets to do work on the move.
Another glaring error is that there is no auto-save function built into the application. It doesn’t even support multitasking; as I learnt the hard way, if you are using QuickOffice HD and you switch to something else (say an e-mail or to change that delightful tune you are merrily listening to) then boof! Off goes all your work you’ve done since the last save. There’s no confirmation box either so just remember to save your work at regular intervals! You have been warned…
I am going to put the glaring errors in QuickOffice HD down to the fact that it is the first release in the hope that these frankly inexcusable errors will be sorted out in a nice, big update. I was certainly expecting more from quite an expensive application (by Android standards anyway) and the other office suites out there on the Market are more feature-rich than QuickOffice HD (and they cost the same). There are also certain features in the application which are completely useless and, in my opinion, entirely unnecessary. The application can read out your entire document in a robotic, American voice, for example, but it won’t spell-check for you. The whole app feels a little bit rushed and incomplete, though as I said, I’m hoping for a quick update to iron out these creases.
Having said that, there are things to be liked about the program. Typing on it is a dream, especially with Honeycomb’s new keyboard, and I can type as quickly as I would on my laptop. The fact that the application also syncs with several cloud services, especially Google Docs, is extremely useful as it means that any changes to your work are automatically synchronized, meaning you can start working on your tablet where you left off on your computer. The app is also very stable, seeing I’ve experienced neither a force close nor any freezing or stuttering whilst using it (though there can be a slight lag when typing).
Whether QuickOffice HD is ideal for you depends on what you expect from a tablet office suite. It certainly won’t replace Microsoft Office or Apple iWork or whatever you use, but it is extremely useful for getting any work done whilst on the move and detaching yourself from your office. Although there are some niggling flaws in the program, it is good for a basic office suite and a great foundation to build on. The developers of QuickOffice HD have set up a website where users of the program can submit their ideas for further editions, which I would highly recommend doing for the benefit of everyone. All we have to do now is lie in wait patiently for that update…