In this day and age, likely the most commonly sought after need in mobile computing is compatibility with Microsoft Office, even more than keeping contact and appointment information. After all, you can jot a phone number on a napkin, but a PowerPoint presentation isn’t as forgiving or as portable. Quickoffice 7 is the first Palm OS office suite to include native MS Office support without conversion, and might have been top dog–if it didn’t feature so many ways to kill a Palm.
First impressions were less than stellar. While installing QuickOffice, my Palm m505 suddenly and massively errored. It wouldn’t respond, and when I reset it would not boot. This necessitated a hard reset–the first I’ve ever had to do on my m505 in the 16 months I’ve had it. Fortunately, I had everything backed up, but this was still not a happy moment. Also frustrating is the fact that during installation you must choose one Palm OS app to install–standard, Sony HighRes, or OS 5, and are unable to use different types with the same desktop without reinstalling.
QO7 is divided neatly into various programs. QuickSheet handles Excel files, QuickWord takes MS Docs, Palm Docs, and the like, QuickPoint to PowerPoint, and so on. Also included is FontBucket, a multi-program font repository, allowing you to create and convert fonts for use with a variety of programs including QuickOffice. You can even port over Windows fonts. Both FontBucket and QO7 support a variety of resolutions, including low-res, Sony OS 4 high-res, and OS 5 high-res. QO7 is also compatible with PiDirect, so it can be run mostly off the memory card by PiDirect VFS users.
The user interface is a little cramped, a little sparing of information on some functions, and it would be nice if you could use the hardware buttons to access features or to move around, but otherwise it works well. All the necessary functions are easily accessible once you get accustomed to the interface, and the overall aesthetics are pretty good.
Bells and whistles aside, the fact is if you’re looking at QuickOffice it’s probably for the claim it makes of reading native MS Office formats. How does this hold up? We’ll see. The first thing I tried was using the Palm Install Tool to drop an Excel spreadsheet onto the SD card. No joy–Hotsync told me I don’t have a program on the Palm to read the file.
Transfer Via Hotsync: Failure.
Next I tested the claim that you could receive beamed spreadsheets from laptops and PocketPCs via IR or Bluetooth. I sent several documents from my laptop to my Palm, and with each I was presented a confirmation to accept the document into QuickOffice. When I accepted and opened the file, it displayed correctly.
Transfer via Infrared: Success.
For a third test, I placed MS Office documents directly onto the SD card, avoiding Hotsync. QO7 took an inordinate amount of time to load from the card- -a full ten minutes for a 300 KB spreadsheet, which is far too long for most users to wait. After the ten minutes, it gave me an ‘out of memory’ error and left me with 67 KB free memory: a 300 KB spreadsheet eating up 2800 KB of memory. Worse yet, I had to delete QuickSheet to get the memory back.
Transfer to SD card: Failure.
Fourth, I tried using the plugins for MS Office. The fact that for most users, this would be the only way to get their Office documents onto their Palm effectively negates most of the benefits of reading Office documents without conversion. If you’re going to need to use a plugin anyway, why not use just any old program rather than paying extra for native compatibility? In any event, the plugins functioned adequately.
Transfer via plugins: Success.
Obviously, I’d be lying if I said I got a warm fuzzy feeling about QuickOffice 7. The amount of hassle and difficulty it created is not acceptable for a product aimed at business users. Still less pleasing is its inability to correctly provide its most touted feature. QuickOffice 7 isn’t ready for primetime–perhaps version 8 will smooth out the wrinkles. Until then, Quickoffice is limited in practical scope to a few people who desperately need to beam receive Office documents, and don’t care about other hassles.
Reads native MS Office documents
Poor support for Hotsync and memory cards
Unless you want native support for Office documents beamed to you, other alternatives are much more proven and reliable.
Download a trial version or purchase for $49.95 from Handango (product link).
Adama D. Brown