Tweak that presentation, correct the typos in that report, and add data to that spreadsheet on the move with this selection of apps.
Documents To Go Premium
Free or $15
Documents To Go, or Docs2Go to its friends, is one of the longest-established office suites for mobile devices, having achieved popularity on the 1990s PalmPilot. It is still multi-platform, although two years ago it was bought by BlackBerry developer RIM, and has become the default office suite for BlackBerry.
Assuming you have a recent BlackBerry with OS 7, it will have Docs2Go Premium installed as standard. If your BlackBerry is older, the app will cost you around '10 from BlackBerry Appworld online.
What does that get you? Where the free version of Docs2Go on other platforms only lets you view documents in native Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, the premium edition adds file creation and editing'capabilities, including spreadsheets and presentations. It also has a PDF viewer and a file browser, and it can handle Office 2010 file formats, even password-protected files.
You can simply transfer files to the handset, for example over Bluetooth or USB, or else set up a permanent synchronisation link – Docs2Go runs in tandem with a Windows app, which synchronises files to and from the phone over USB. And you can open email attachments as it integrates with the BlackBerry email app.
The key value of Docs2Go is its maturity and sophistication. It can do much of what Microsoft Office can do, and its ability to use the native Office file formats means you can develop a spreadsheet on one platform and deploy it to another, or use the file-sync technology to move data collected via a phone spreadsheet back to the desktop for further use.
Of course, transplanting a PC-based app to a phone results in a user interface that occasionally feels a bit clunky, but experienced BlackBerry or MS Office users shouldn't find it too awkward. Frankly, if you have a BlackBerry and want to collect data or work with documents, this is pretty much all you need.
iWork for iPhone
Bundled with £13.99 application
iWork on your iPhone allows you to tweak documents you've created on your Mac, iPad or other productivity application, downloaded via Dropbox or similar cloud-based storage. Apple has crammed an impressive amount of functionality into its software; if you're familiar with the iPad apps, you'll be able to jump right in – and for the most part, it is intuitive.
Apple's productivity applications do indeed work. Mobile professionals working in the field will be able to perform basic document editing and share those documents with colleagues. Are they the best possible solution? It depends on how your business manages corporate documents. You can share iWorks documents with your personal iDisk space, WebDAV, and even iWork.com beta.
It's disappointing that the 'Numbers' app lacks the functionality of a full-featured spreadsheet program: it's geared more towards fancy graphs. Still, simple features like rotating the text in a cell are absent. With functionality missing on both the design side and the math side, one wonders to whom Apple is marketing.
Microsoft's Windows Phone takes advantage of its links with Microsoft Office. The hub is where you'll find productivity features, including creating and editing functions of all Office productivity documents. It is easy to create new OneNote, Word and Excel documents and see others that have been created. Cutting, copying and pasting of text and images is also possible.
PowerPoint allows you to carry out basic editing, and the viewing experience includes support for animations in slick presentations. Whether your phone can be connected to a projector will depend on the make and model, so a mirroring function would be useful.
Most importantly for enterprise users, Windows Phone 7 integrates with SharePoint 2010 so you can access shared office files and keep them synchronised. For those who don't have access to SharePoint 2010 there's Windows Live SkyDrive, Microsoft's consumer online storage service. Free space is limited to 25GB and can be used for a range of different files across a handset – not just for work-related documents but for photos as well, for example.
Another central activity for enterprise smartphone users is calendar management, and here Microsoft has taken something of a leap forwards. You can have a calendar 'tile' on the main screen of the handset, and this is double width so that it has the space to show information about upcoming commitments.
As well as all the office suites, which do a pretty good job of displaying spreadsheets, there are several standalone spreadsheet apps for Android. One advantage of taking the standalone route is the ability to create and edit for free – most of the suites are only file viewers in their free versions, and you have to buy the full version in order to edit.
Simple Spreadsheet may look simple, thanks to a relatively clean interface, but underneath is a sophisticated program that supports complex formulas, text formatting from cell to whole sheet level, row/column insertion, deletion and adjustment, and pretty much everything you might expect from a spreadsheet.
A neat touch is the in built keypad. Once you enable this, touching a cell pulls up a simple – there's that word again – numeric pad with just digits, a few basic arithmetic operators, and buttons to move to the next cell or call up the full keyboard. Another is a link to the barcode scanner app – scan a code and it inserts the barcode's numeric value, as printed under the code.
One area where the developer has deliberately chosen simplicity is file import and export. Instead of building in file format converters so it can talk directly to the likes of Excel, Simple Spreadsheet supports the popular and relatively standard CSV format. This enables it to import and export from virtually any other app – not just spreadsheets – though of course you do need to remember to export in CSV on your PC or Mac, and it could be a problem if you need to open an emailed spreadsheet in Excel or OpenDoc format, say. Be aware, too, that CSV transfers only the calculated values, not the formulae behind them.
This software is still under development and we did find a couple of minor snags. For instance, the on-screen keypad became misaligned when bringing the phone out of standby; pressing K for the full keyboard then backspace to return to the keypad fixed this.
In addition, also, there is no pinch-to-zoom; instead you have to zoom via the menu, which is a nuisance on a touchscreen device. Given the app's relatively fast development cycle, hopefully these will both be fixed before too long.