One thing we’ve learned here at Brighthand is that nothing beats seeing for yourself. That’s why we continue to do our own hands-on testing before passing judgment on any product.
Take the word processing and spreadsheet software that comes with your typical handheld computer, for instance. Most people assume that Pocket Word and Pocket Excel on a Pocket PC handles Microsoft Word and Excel documents better than a third-party application, such as DataViz’s Documents To Go, on a Palm Powered handheld. After all, Microsoft makes both products so naturally it should be more consistent, and more compatible. But in a recent hands-on study conducted by Brighthand, we found that a Palm handheld with Documents To Go does a significantly better job of handling Word and Excel documents than does a Pocket PC using Pocket Word and Pocket Excel. Surprised? So were we.
How we tested
For our testing, we created two documents (see images below) using Office 2000: a Word document with a variety of different features, including headers, footers, footnotes, tables, and imbedded graphics, and an Excel document, with features such as formulas, imbedded graphics and charts. We synchronized these documents to a Palm Tungsten T handheld, which comes bundled with DataViz Documents To Go Professional Edition (which is comprised of Word To Go and Sheet To Go), and a Compaq iPAQ 3970 Pocket PC, which includes Pocket Word and Pocket Excel, and observed how the documents appeared on each handheld. Next, we made a minor change to the documents and synchronized them back to the desktop PC.
Before we go any further, we should state that neither Documents To Go nor Pocket Office perfectly emulates the desktop experience of Microsoft Office. For one thing, neither product supports all of the features of Word and Excel. For example, Documents To Go does not include Spell Checking or Word Count in Word To Go, while Pocket Word does not support Tables or Footnotes. However, after an extensive features comparison of Word To Go with Pocket Word, we found that Word To Go supports more of the commonly used Word features than does Pocket Word. We also compared Sheet To Go with Pocket Excel and found them to be relatively equal in their support of standard Excel functions.
But the most significant portion of our testing involved observing what happens when a change is introduced to a document and it is uploaded back to a desktop computer. This is a commonplace event that is germane to using handheld computers in a corporate environment. For example, you are on the road and receive a Word document attached to an email for your review. You modify a sentence in the document and email it back. Are you sure that’s all that’s changed? The same can be said about an Excel spreadsheet where you alter the value in a single cell. Will it be properly reflected in the original document? That’s exactly what we were looking to determine.
Results of our testing
Our testing revealed that Documents To Go does a significantly better job of retaining the formatting of the original documents than does Pocket Word and Pocket Excel. For example, after adding a single line of text to a Word document using Pocket Word and uploading it back to the desktop PC, it lost the header, footer, footnote, images (both .jpg and .bmp), line drawing, superscript, subscript, and colored text background (see picture, below left). It also changed all text fonts to Tahoma and modified the table to a series of tabbed text fields. Meanwhile, Documents To Go retained all formatting (see picture, below right).
The results were similar with Documents To Go and Pocket Excel. After changing the value in a single cell, Pocket Excel lost the imbedded image and the chart (see picture, below left), while Documents To Go retained all formatting and the changed value was reflected in the chart (see picture, below right).
Handheld computers are no longer simply electronic replacements for paper-based calendars and address books. For many handheld users, especially those in the corporate arena, access to Microsoft Office documents is just as important. To address this, handheld makers have begun to include software that enables users to download, view, and even edit standard Office documents. For example, Microsoft includes its Pocket Office suite, which includes Pocket Word and Pocket Excel, in its Pocket PC platform, while Palm includes a third-party application, DataViz’s Documents To Go, along with its handhelds.
While neither product perfectly emulates the desktop experience of Microsoft Office, our testing revealed that Documents To Go running on a Palm handheld supports more features and does a better job at maintaining the integrity and accuracy of an Office document than does Pocket Word or Pocket Excel running on a Pocket PC. Also, Documents To Go includes Slideshow To Go, which supports Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, something Microsoft does not offer in its Pocket Office suite. Finally, Pocket PC does not support computers running the Mac OS, while Palm and Documents To Go does.