For more than a decade now, going back to Palm Inc.'s heyday, Documents To Go by DataViz has stood front and center as a big name in mobile office apps. It continues this long run today with office suites on contemporary platforms such as Android OS and Apple's iOS. In this review, we'll take a close look at the current version for Android OS phones, and how it actually stacks up versus rivals such as ThinkFree Mobile Office and Quickoffice.
On a basic level, DocsToGo does the same thing other office suites for Android do. It allows you to create, edit and view Microsoft Office documents on your mobile device. Yet that's sort of like saying that a pickup truck and a Mustang sports car are both designed to move people and goods from one location to another. Where the pickup truck outdoes the Mustang in some ways, the Mustang shines elsewhere.
The DocsToGo app comes in two "parts." First, there is the "main app," which acts as a free viewer, letting you read Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files from your phone. If you purchase and download the second part, the "key," you'll be able to unlock the additional features of the paid version. These additional features let you create new documents and edit existing ones. The paid version also adds support for viewing PDF files. (Since there are lots of other free PDF mobile viewers, anyhow, the absence of a PDF viewer in the non-paid edition of DocsToGo isn't a huge problem.)
DocsToGo's user interface (UI) is a mixed bag. On the down side, the File Explorer cuts off the ends of long file names. This can make finding the right file a bit annoying (or more than a bit annoying, if you have multiple files which start out with the same letters). On the other hand, once you get into actual editing, DocsToGo's menus are relatively straightforward. Most of the options are grouped together under familiar categories such as File, Format, View, etc.
One especially convenient feature in DocsToGo is the ability to look exclusively at "starred files." Let's say that you have 20 or 30 different Office documents on your device, but you're only dealing with a few of them regularly. You can mark those documents -- and then see them but only them -- by looking at a list in a special view of the file manager. Starring or unstarring a doc is as easy as one tap.
DocsToGo vs. ThinkFree Mobile & Quickoffice
If you read my recent review of another office suite for Android, ThinkFree Mobile office, you might wonder, "Why should I pay $15 for DocsToGo when I could get another office suite with similar features for $10?"
The answer here is the robustness of DocsToGo's editing options. Both apps support basic functions such as opening Office documents, simple word processing and spreadsheet work, non-destructive editing, and so forth. Yet DocsToGo supports a number of formatting options such as footnotes, endnotes, and bulleted lists that its less expensive competitor doesn't.
Another rival, Quickoffice, also compares unfavorably in terms of editing options. Depending on what you use your office suite for, these differences might (or might not) matter to you.
DocsToGo uses company-branded technology known as InTact in efforts to keep the formatting of exported documents -- you guessed it! -- intact.
Compatibility is another matter, though. DocsToGo supposedly added full support for Office 2010 in October of 2010 with version 3.001 for Android OS. Still, in my experience, if you try to open an Office 2010 file in the current version, 3.004, DocsToGo will simply refuse. In online forums, other Android users have pointed to lingering problems with importing the formatting from any version of Word, and in exporting files to other Android office apps, for example.
Nothing Is That Cloud-Friendly?
Meanwhile, Documents To Go provides surprisingly little integration with online "cloud" storage. While it now does furnish built-in support for Google Docs, there is no native ability to handle Dropbox, Box.net, Sugarsync, or any of the other major online storage and file-sharing services. Some of these services do provide their own downloadable mobile apps. You can also upload to these services via the "Send" menu option, but that's a standard Android feature, anyhow.
Actually, in fact, I haven't seen any mobile office suite work all that smoothly with cloud storage, but it's kind of puzzling that DataViz -- as a long-time industry leader -- hasn't jumped on these softs of capabilities to gain competitive advantage. Even just a simple option for automatically syncing your saved documents to an online storage account would be a blessing for anyone who has ever lost data in a crash (or worse yet, lost their smartphone).
One little sync option could save a lot of people a lot of grief. DocsToGo does now include an app for syncing your documents with a desktop PC, but that's not quite the same thing.
The best advice I can offer a would-be buyer of a mobile office suite is to read the respective feature lists carefully, taking into account those features you think you're really going to need. Documents To Go may not have the broadest compatibility, but it definitely supplies extensive editing options as well as a relatively comfortable UI. The editing features makes it practically a required app if you want to do more than basic editing of your docs from your smartphone.
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