Product Review: Quickoffice

Posted: May 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

2014-04-29 17.01.49

© 2014 G.N. Jacobs

Sometimes, it’s the small things that force a rethink. Until, a few weeks ago I was a devoted user of Documents to Go, the granddaddy of mobile office suites. I didn’t mind that I might pay $16 for the Premium edition. Everything worked and still generally works well, but a recent update destroyed the ability to type using a Bluetooth keyboard. And so I found Quickoffice…

When I was first searching for my writing tools, I’d looked at Quickoffice and rejected it for Documents to Go, on the theory that sometimes the more expensive system saves backend trouble. But, when the Bluetooth keyboard couldn’t type at the same time that I was modifying my work habits to actually use my Bluetooth keyboard, I was glad to see that Google had bought Quickoffice and had turned it into a free loss leader to drive traffic to GoogleDrive, Google’s cloud service. A quick read of the comments in the App Store to make sure I didn’t bite the lemon by getting something that wouldn’t work with pre-existing arrangements (I’m heavily invested in a Dropbox account) and I made the change.

On an iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard, the choice will still be clear in favor of Quickoffice even after whatever update fixes the problem with Bluetooth keyboards on Documents to Go. My most used controls: bold,italics and underline are placed at the top left corner of the main writing screen. Other controls like the basic font and paragraph controls are at the top right of the same screen, waiting for the user to use a finger to fix his or her copy the way they want. And Quickoffice actually allows the usage of AirPrint, somethingstill not allowed on Documents to Go.

On the iPhone, the choice between the two giants is less clear, more like a coin toss. The layout of controls in Quickoffice iPhone is less well conceived being roughly equivalent between the two platforms in terms of how many buttons need to be pushed to do what you want. In the small screen iPhone environment where we don’t do silly things like marry a Bluetooth keyboard to the phone, the name of the game is emergency touchscreen typing. In a few cases, Documents to Go has a slight edge, but not enough to change back on my iPhone.

A word about printing with AirPrint or the Android equivalent, Quickoffice has a tendency to strip out any document headers and footers that you may have added to the document on your computer. So, you won’t see them if you print directly from the mobile gear. Even though Documents to Go couldn’t print directly from the app, a document that you emailed to yourself after working in Documents to Go could be printed out headers and all if you print from the email attachment. This means that any printing you do with Quickoffice will simply be work copies good for editing with a red pen.

Even though Quickoffice has sensible defaults in the paragraph controls, where the assumption is single-space 12-point type, I still use the document templates created for Documents to Go. Documents to Go’s defaults are in favor of double-spaced 12-point type and I had to make those templates because to me double-spaced typing is an afterthought for when I have to mail someone a manuscript. I don’t edit any better on the computer with double-spaced type. Ink and paper is a different story. I don’t need those templates, but I can still use them, so we’ll call them a force of habit and move on.

Put all of this together, and my work process for books is to write the next chapter on the more appropriate of my iPad or iPhone (depending on whether I’m just writing or trying to exercise at the same time) and Cut and Paste the new chapter into the manuscript on my computer. I do a lot of fix it later on the computer, which is a quirk common to many iterations of the mobile office suite. For instance, I used to whine about how Apple products typically omit certain punctuation marks in favor of the generic versions. I later discovered that when you use fingerprint typing you can hold down keys to get the appropriate punctuation marks, as they should look in the chosen default font.

You hold the key down long enough to get the similar choices and move your finger to the appropriate punctuation mark (Open Quote, Close Quote, etc.) and that this also works for foreign words with umlauts and other wonky diacritical marks. It worked on everything I’ve ever used to write, including Quickoffice. But, it only works when you type with your fingers, not a Bluetooth keyboard. So, now I can just type and go over it again with the keyboard turned off to fix the punctuation marks with my messy grubby fingers.

While I generally like Quickoffice, it has annoying quirks. The usage of the iOS autocorrect that finishes common words for you unless you click the big X in the corner is sporadic at best. Similarly, the autocorrect from lower-case i to I doesn’t work at all despite being a feature of every other writing interface on the iOS system. The real annoyance is Quickoffice’s auto-save feature, it seems to fire off when I’m in the middle of a word and instead of being a background save is a foreground save which means I have to retype the word.

All in all, Quickoffice does the work with the same amount of fix it later on the computer as before. Verdict: awesome for being free!

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