Note: This post was first featured over at Painfully Hopeful.
Productivity apps on the iPad continue to be one of the top selling points for the device. It's no surprise, then, that there are several office suites available in the App Store. This post is going to explore the three main "all in one" suites which are available on the iPad – Documents to Go, Quick Office, and Office2 HD. Apple's iWork is also available in the App store, but the "separate app" nature of the suite sets it outside the scope of this comparison.
Each suite will be explored for file management, editor layout, editing features, and importing/exporting. We'll primarily look at the word-processing features of each suite, but will also compare the spreadsheet and presentations modules for each app. Today we'll be looking at the second comparison – editor features.
This installment of the series is going to be handled a bit differently. The same three suites will be reviewed, but we'll break down the review for each module in the package – Word Processor, Spreadsheet, and Presentation.
This is the module I use most in any of these suites. Given that I have to write what amounts to a short reflection paper every week, this makes sense.
As was pointed out in the previous segment of this comparison, Quick Office HD attempted to create a simple interface which was pleasant to look at and easy to navigate. Unfortunately, the shortcomings of their interface choices also impacted the feature set they included in the suite. The word processing module can do basic character formatting, color and font changes, and simple paragraph formatting like indents and lists. It handles these tasks, decently and can interpret more complex formatting well when it's imported into the suite, but there is no way to handle more complex formatting directly in Quick Office HD. There is no way to customize lists or add spacing between paragraphs. These are two features I use constantly, so their absense is something I feel.
Quick Office HD feels like a mobile editor, which is odd given their decision to present content in a page-layout view. It's useful for editing existing documents, or creating documents with basic formatting, but it doesn't seem to be designed for complex projects.
For an inexpensive package, Office2 brings a lot of punch to the features debate. This suite handles all the basic formatting covered by Quick Office HD. It also, however, has an excellent slate of advanced formatting features. Paragraph spacing, line spacing, columns, manual breaks and tab stops, and full-fledged styles. While I gave Office2 HD poor marks for it's cluttered interface, it seems the developers were busy adding an insane amount of features to their product. In addition the already listed features, this suite also allows the insertion of images and footnotes into a document. Something no other application in this comparison is able to do.
The desire to have desktop-level features in their application is admirable, and it is rather amazing to have so many options available on a mobile editor. Unfortunately, some of the features feel half-baked. When version 5 first came out, the suite was sluggish – leaving many of the advanced features buried behind a frustrated waiting game. Two iterations have passed since 5.0 was released, however, and the speed has gotten better each time. In fact, Office2 is actually faster on my iPad than Quick Office HD. Other features, however, still need some work. Hanging indents on lists have a tendency to disappear once a document is closed and re-opened.
This is a suite which shows much promise – but it still needs to work out some kinks.
Documents to Go
As with layout, this suite splits the difference between the other two in this comparison. It has many of the features included in Office2 except paragraph styles, images, and footnotes. In place of these omissions, however, Documents to Go adds an extensive array of list options. This includes a good range of multi-level lists for the creation of outlines. As this is a feature I use every week, it's something I appreciate.
Unlike Office2, the advanced formatting features in Documents to Go "just work." The only glitch I've discovered so far is the omission of paragraph spacing when a document is synced and retrieved from Google Docs. This is an inconvenience, and one which I wish would be rectified, but it's not a show-stopper.
I use spreadsheets infrequently, but when I do they are an indispensable tool for my work.
The Spreadsheet module in Quick Office HD is slick, fast, and intuitive. Functions are easily accessed next to the editor bar, and some basic formatting is found in the main editor window – including the option to format cell data into a pre-arranged type. Other editing includes the ability to do simple borders, change cell color, and align cells both vertically and horizontally. In fact, the same "drag to align" interface which seems unnecessarily graphic in the word processor feels elegant in the spreadsheet. Merging cells and wrapping data in a cell is also easily accomplished.
Selecting multiple cells in Quick Office HD is also easily done. When a cell is selected, a handle appears on each side which can be used to drag a selection across multiple rows, columns, or both.
The spreadsheet (called "workbooks" when you create a new one) in this suite has a great many features, all accessed through the buttons on the editor toolbar. Included among these buttons are quick borders, and button which will sum all the data in a column (I love this). Data types are found under a dollar sign icon, but advanced formatting is found under an unattractive "..." icon (again, the interface needs a little work). As with the word processor, the formatting buttons span between two pages.
Selecting multiple cells isn't initially as elegant in Office2 HD as it is in Quick Office. A basic selection requires double tapping a cell and then dragging through the cells you want – a handle appears which can be used to adjust the selection. Alternatively, however, if you tap a single cell and then long-tap another cell a range can will selected (row, column, or box depending on where you long-tap). This would be helpful when trying to select a very specific data-set in a large spreadsheet.
Documents to Go
Documents to Go has an impressive array of functions which can be done with it's spreadsheet, and can handle basic formatting to display it's data. Borders, however, are missing from it's tool-set – which I find an odd omission. The spreadsheet module of this suite, however, does add the ability to hide and unhide rows and columns. This is helpful, for example, when a spreadsheet is used to create a schedule – past weeks can be hidden from view to allow the quick browsing of data.
Selecting multiple cells in Documents to Go, however, is an exercise in frustration. The feature is accessed by double-tapping a cell and then dragging. There is, however, no handle present which can later alter a selection. On large spreadsheets, this creates headaches when attempting to select data.
My initial response to anyone wanting to use the presentation modules in these suites is, "Just use Keynote." As they are a bundled part of the suite, however, I include them in this comparison. I won't bother with the screenshots, though, it's just too depressing.
When thinking of the presentation module for Quick Office HD the word, "rudimentary" comes to mind. It has support for the formatting of basic shapes and text boxes – and that's it. No builds, no backgrounds, no transitions. Just the text and shapes. The purpose of this app seems to be to display, and edit, imported slides rather than build new presentations from scratch.
This presentation module includes a few more features than Quick Office, including the ability to set a background image. In addition, there are some included slide templates and to import images into slides. Builds, transitions, and compositing features (such as borders and drop shadows) are not included. I also find the presentation module to be a bit unstable, as it tends to crash when inserting images.
Documents to Go
If Quick Office was "rudimentary," the presentation module in Documents to Go is "bare bones." There are several simple templates offered when creating a new presentation, but once created the content of the slides can only be altered via an outline view! Speaker notes can be added to slides, in the slide-view mode – but I'm not sure why anyone would bother.
If you're not importing slides into Documents to Go, it's best to forget this module even exists.
In terms of sheer features, Office2 HD dominates. It's advanced formatting for word processing documents, and several nice touches to it's spreadsheet module, make it come out on top. Some of the features aren't quite stable, however, so it might be best to save often when using this suite for content generation. Over all, Documents to Go comes in second due to a stellar word processing feature-set – but Quick Office's spreadsheet module is also a tempting offer.