Mobile Suite Showdown - Importing and Exporting

Note: This post was originally featured 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.

Today we'll be looking at the fourth, and final, comparison – importing and exporting. Each suite will be reviewed on both how they deal with data both on a local network and to the cloud.

Quick Office HD

One of the selling points for Quick Office is the ease of which documents can be uploaded to, and retrieved from, computers on the local network via a built-in file transfer interface. This setting can be toggled by tapping the gear button in the file screen and toggling the "file transfer" option. Turning the option on will reveal an ip address which can be used to acces files which are locally stored inside Quick Office. For additional (or, really, any) security an added authentication option can be toggled which will require users to input a user and password combination before connecting. It's a good idea to make sure this is on. Once file transfers are enabled, users can access Quick Office's files (for locally stored files only) though a simple web-interface, or by connecting to the server through the finder or windows explorer. In my experiments with Quick Office I found that the file transfer server will disconnect a finder connection when switching to another app on the iPad – this is probably a limitation of iOS.

Quick Office HD also has an impressive number of options available for storing documents in the cloud. Aside from the "big three" of Dropbox, Google Docs, and Box – Quick Office also allows to connections to Sugar Sync, Evernote, and several more. Connections to these services benefit from Quick Office's excellent file managment tools, however features which are unique to each service are not implemented. This is especially true for the lack of "starred documents" in Google Docs.

Documents imported into Quick Office are handled well – even supporting elements such as outlines, which cannot be generated by the suite itself. Quick Office will also display unrecognized fonts in a default sans serif face without stripping the font information from the actual document. The suite handles spreadsheets well, but my two test presentations suffered from lost formatting and stripped animations.

Office2 HD

As with Quick Office, HD Office2 HD has a built-in file transfer option. This can be access by tapping the gear button in the lower left of the file management screen and toggling "Enable File Sharing." Similarly, security can also be enabled for this feature. While Quick Office has a colorful and well-thought out web interface, Office2 HD brings up a plain list hyper-links with an upload button at the bottom of the page (which you will probably need to scroll down to reveal). It gets the job done, but it's not fun to look at. If you are using the file transfer option for this suite connecting via the finder or windows explorer is a better option.

The available options for cloud storage are not as great as in Quick Office. The "big three" are present, as are some other players, but that's it. The suite, however, adds the ability to connect to a service via webDav – so "roll your own" cloud storage is an option.

Importing files into Office2 HD doesn't render quite as good results as Quick Office. Unrecognized fonts are displayed in a sans serif font (and retained when opened elsewhere). Outline lists, however, are not displayed correctly though, again, the formatting is retained when opened elsewhere. The application handles spreadsheets well, however, and has in previous months been able to handle files which caused the other two suites to crash. It retains most cell formatting, but cannot hide cells. My first test presentation displayed with moderate success. My second test presentation removed the gradient background and didn't handle a bullet list very well. Neither presentation retained animations.

Documents to Go

Unlike the other suites in this comparison, Documents to Go makes use of a desktop application to handle local transfers. In one sense, this can be seen as a hassle, because it requires the downloading an application to transfer documents over a local network. On the other hand, Documents to Go removes the need to manually move documents between devices (as in the other two suites). Once installed, Documents to Go's desktop application creates a folder which will automatically sync files across devices. For uses who want to sync only on their local network, this is a good option.

Documents to Go has the least available options for cloud storage out of the three suites in this comparison. It has the big three, and adds only Sugar Sync as an alternative (each suite also offers iDisk, but this product will soon be discontinued so it can hardly be counted). It does, however, offer some special hooks for GoogleDocs users (the previously mentioned "stared documents") – this is a nice touch.

Files imported into Documents to Go are displayed nicely. Text is re-flowed for the screen and font information is retained. I sometimes noticed a glitch in the font for outlines when a document is created in the Suite and then uploaded to GoogleDocs, which is an error which should be addressed. Also, Documents to Go has a tendency to strip out paragraph spacing when information is moved through the suite. Again, this is a glitch which I'd like to see fixed. Spreadsheets imported well, retaining cell formatting and even hiding cells which had been hidden in GoogleDocs. One of my test presentations, however, caused the application to crash.


Each of these suites handles importing and exporting in slightly different ways. Documents to Go allows for local syncing, which is a plus, but the added step of installing a desktop application to do so is a non-starter for many. The local file transfer feature for the other two suites is a nice touch (though the web interface is prettier in Quick Office) but requires a manual transfer of data. Again, this is a non-starter for many users.

Each suite has the "big three" cloud storage services available, but Quick Office offers the most options of all the suites. To it's credit Office2 HD has built-in webDav support, allowing users or organizations to set up their own cloud storage services. Documents to Go has the fewest cloud storage options available, but has some key features GoogleDocs users will appreciate.

The suites each do a credible job importing word processing documents and spreadsheets, but are dismal when importing even the simplest of presentations (really, don't even bother). The parity of features for each suite makes it difficult to declare a "winner" in this category. As a GoogleDocs user I tend to lean towards Documents to Go, but users of other cloud solutions will be happy with any of the three suites in this comparison.