The iPad has been taking the enterprise by storm, and it is clear that among many office workers it is quickly becoming the device of choice for taking meeting notes, emailing and keeping up with your calendar. With the average person moving to a more browser centric work style, it is only natural to see that corporate will find tablets more enticing.
But there are a few things that PCs still do better than tablets. Not everyone agrees that tablets are the future of computicket, but I do particularly like Steve Jobs’s vision for the future of tablets:
“When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks because that’s what you needed on the farms. Cars became more popular as cities rose, and things like power steering and automatic transmission became popular.”
“PCs are going to be like trucks,” Jobs said. “They are still going to be around.” “only one out of x people will need them.”
One of the key areas where tablets still suffer is with proper Office suites. While Apple has made a lot of effort with the iWork range of apps, Microsoft has been slow at adopting iOS for Office. As such, they have not yet released an iOS or Android version of Microsoft Office, despite the massive popularity of tablet device. But just like in the Palm and Windows Mobile days, there are companies that specialize in building Office compatible apps for the iPad and similar Android tablets.
First off – none of these aim to replace the full functionality of Microsoft Office – and they do not deal well with more advanced documents and spreadsheets. So forget about running macros, or that lovely multiple worksheet spreadsheet with conditional formatting and advanced formulas. These are meant for on the go editing of simple documents.
Apple’s suite of apps are actually separate, and cost $9.99 each. iWork consists of Pages (a word processor), Numbers (Spreadsheet) and Keynote (Presentation software). Seen as they are made by the creators of the iPad, they definitely have the most polish of these types of apps. The usability is great, and they are exceedingly easy to use.
But with that simplicity comes a seeming lack of features – we found it difficult to find certain controls. But compared to the other apps listed here, the iWork apps are definitely more functional. One feature the iWork apps do better than the others here is charting. Because the apps primarily work in the Apple iWork file formats, the formatting when converting to Microsoft Office get messed up very quickly. If you do use iWork on a Mac, the iWork for iOS apps are the natural choice.
In terms of cloud storage you are stuck with iCloud, and WebDAV for more technical users. This is by far the biggest disadvantage of the iWork apps. You can however email documents out of iWork, or open documents in another app, like Dropbox, using the Share and “Open In” buttons.
Yes, it is primarily meant as an interface to your Google Drive storage, but it provides very capable editing for your office documents. Just like the iWork suite it keeps its interface very simple, and does guide you through working with documents, giving you tips along the way.
Needless to say, you need to be using Google Drive to use this app, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. With excellent collaboration features and a free 5GB of cloud storage, it is pretty great. There is also a Google Drive app you can install on your PC or Mac, and keep your documents in sync with your cloud storage, just like Dropbox.
Documents to Go
These are the guys that have been focusing on mobile-compatible Office suites since the days of Palm, so they should have a good amount of experience in building these apps. Problem is, it does not show. The interface is not particularly pretty, and they do not always follow Apple iOS conventions.
Docs to Go also has a broad range of cloud syncing options – you can use Dropbox, Box.net, Google Docs or SugarSync. You can also take the documents you are working on and send them to iWork for further editing.
By far the best value of the Office apps we list here – at $7.99 it includes word processing, spreadsheet and presentation apps, and the interface is easy to use as well. For example, you can have a document displayed on the right hand of the screen, while seeing the cloud storage folder structure on the left. You can add images to documents as well.
The range of cloud storage options is also great – it has all the big names there, and some ones we have not even heard of yet.
QuickOffice Pro HD
Another great option at $19.99 for all the editors in one. Just like Documents to Go the interface is not entirely intuitive, but there is document versioning included in the latest release. Personally I would not rely on that between multiple editors though.
QuickOffice is very quick to release new features all the time, so the app is improving all the time.
Google recently acquired QuickOffice, so expect the app to either go free, or become fully integrated with the Google Drive app.
If money is not a problem, look at the iWorks range apps for creating documents, otherwise use Office2 HD for simple edits to documents.
But the fact of the matter is that not one of these apps can do everything you want – some specialize in creation (like iWork) whereas others work better as simple editing tools (Office2 HD). But none of them will replace the Microsoft Office you know on your PC or Mac.
There are some rumours that Microsoft is working on a version of Microsoft Office for iOS and Android, but it will apparently be tied in with Office 365, Microsoft’s new subscription model for Office.
Until then, we must just grin and bear it with the current apps…