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TUAW Review: Quickoffice for iPhone

Having worked with Quickoffice on both the Palm and Windows Mobile platforms in the past, I was eagerly anticipating the release of the iPhone version. Quickoffice gives you the power to view, edit, and create Microsoft Office documents. The new Quickoffice for iPhone "only" works with Word and Excel files (no PowerPoint -- yet), and also provides a way to link to a desktop or MobileMe iDisk.

iPhone owners who have used Quickoffice on other platforms may miss the lack of PowerPoint compatibility. Another professional trainer I know actually used a Palm device with Quickoffice and a video-out cable to teach her business analysis courses. She's now an iPhone owner, but there's no way she's going to be able to leave her laptop at home until Quickoffice supports PowerPoint. On the other hand, this is the initial version of Quickoffice for iPhone, so there's nothing saying that the PowerPoint capabilities won't be built into a future version.
Quickoffice consists of three components in one app; Quickword, Quicksheet, and Quickoffice Files. Quickword creates, edits, and views Microsoft Word, Quicksheet does the same for Excel spreadsheets, and Quickoffice Files (US$1.99, click opens iTunes) is the piece that moves files to and from the iPhone as well as serving as a file viewer.

As I was beginning to write this review, Quickoffice 1.1.1 became available. It primarily adds functionality to Quickoffice Files, so let's start by taking a look at that component of Quickoffice.

Quickoffice Files
There are probably a hundred apps that let you transfer files between a Mac or PC and iPhone, and all of them have their own features and foibles. When you first launch Quickoffice, you're greeted by a screen showing your iDisk (if you're a MobileMe customer and have completed the setup) and a folder containing the documents that are stored on your iPhone.

At the bottom of this screen is an IP address (on my network, it was http://192.168.0.10:4242). Opening any browser and typing in that address brings up a clean web page that lists all of the files on the iPhone on the left. In a sidebar on the right, there is a button to push to select files for uploading:

If you don't want to use the web interface, you can mount the iPhone as a drive on your Mac or PC. On the Mac, I just selected Go > Connect to Server and typed in the URL that Quickoffice provided (the same address listed above). Within a few seconds, the iPhone appeared as a mounted Mac drive and I was able to drag files to and from it.

One of the features added to Quickoffice 1.1.1 is the ability to email any file that can be viewed in the app. I was able to email spreadsheets from the app and from my iDisk. The latter feature could be very helpful in being able to send documents to co-workers while traveling.

A missing feature in Quickoffice that may kill this app for some Mac users is the lack of support for uploading, viewing or editing of iWork files. You can always work on your files in either .doc or .xls formats, and then import those files into Pages or Numbers, although that adds more complexity to the process. As a spokesperson for Quickoffice said, "The company considers the product as a 'Live Application' that is constantly evolving and we're looking forward to adding more functionality!" Hopefully iWork compatibility will be part of that evolution.

Quickword
Quickword is surprisingly powerful as a tool for creating or editing Word documents. It uses the "old" .doc file format, not the .docx format that is the default in Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac. As a Word viewer, it does a pretty remarkable job.

I sent a large (13.3 MB) manuscript file to Quickword as a test. While it warned me that this was a large file and that it might take some time to open, I only had to wait about 20 seconds. The only issues I saw with opening this huge manuscript were that some small inline graphics didn't scale properly and one style (with a tinted background) didn't come across. Everything else -- fonts, all other styles, the location and size of graphics -- was perfect.

Once the document was open, it was ready for editing. I found it easy to highlight text by double-tapping and dragging. As you can see in the screenshot below, highlighted text is in a different color, and there are drag points at each end so you can add to or subtract from the highlighted area.

After text is highlighted, you can apply bold and italic styles to it, change the font color, highlight the text with another color, or change the font and size. You can also use cut and paste to move the text to another part of the document or another Quickoffice document. Tapping on the clipboard icon brings up a menu with Cut, Copy, Paste, and Delete items on it. On a short document, cutting and pasting takes very little time. With this manuscript, pasting in some text resulted in an automatic save, which took about 30 seconds.

If this is the way that cut and paste is going to work in iPhone 3.0, then I think we're all going to be very happy! Quickoffice's method of highlighting text for cutting, copying, and pasting is intuitive, fast, and -- dare I say it -- fun.

Tapping on the screen to place an insert point, then tapping on the keyboard icon to bring up a keyboard (which works in either landscape or portrait mode), allows you to insert text. Here I found a major issue with Quickoffice; it doesn't support the auto-complete "spell checker" that is common to most iPhone apps. It's very easy to make typing mistakes on the little iPhone keyboard, and here's a situation where it is critical that spell checking works. Hopefully this is part of the functionality that will be added in the future.

There were some other inconsistencies. While testing Quickword in landscape mode and typing in some garbage text, the app graciously saved my work. However, the "Save" information dialog was in portrait orientation, which made for an odd looking screen.

You're probably not going to want to use your iPhone and Quickoffice as your primary "netbook" unless the forthcoming iPhone 3.0 provides a way to use an external Bluetooth keyboard for data entry. However, Quickoffice a great way to make on-the-spot edits of existing documents or start writing new documents for future editing in Word. The fact that you can email Quickoffice documents to another person from within the app or send them to your iDisk for sharing is killer functionality.

The Quickword component of Quickoffice will be available separately soon for US$12.99.

Quicksheet
Now let's take a look at the spreadsheet component of Quickoffice. Quicksheet (click opens iTunes) is available separately from the rest of the Quickoffice suite for US$6.99.

The app supports 125 spreadsheet functions, so most of the capabilities you're going to need are in Quickoffice. You can open and save documents in native .xls format, so although you can't do anything with Numbers spreadsheets, you can use the standard Excel format as a go-between for transferring sheets to and from Numbers.

Once again, I tested the limits and abilities of Quickoffice by taking the nastiest spreadsheet I could find and blasting it into the app. It was a 7 column by 600 row document with a bunch of calculations associated with it. I threw some colorful formatting on it, then sent it to Quickoffice.

The spreadsheet opened quickly and with no visible issues, with all formatting intact. Strangely enough, cut and paste doesn't work in Quicksheet. It's important to remember that this is a rather new app, but it's surprising that the feature is available in one part of Quickoffice but not in another.

The spreadsheet functions of Quickoffice and Quicksheet are fast, reliable, and easy to use. I found the spreadsheet functionality to be very stable and robust. You won't find advanced data analysis capabilities such as pivot tables in Quickoffice, but for run-of-the-mill spreadsheet work, you can't beat this app.

Conclusion
Quickoffice for iPhone is a very complete and easy-to-use suite of applications. For $19.99, you're getting three apps in one -- a "mobile drive" and file transfer app, an outstanding word processing app with cut and paste capabilities, and a full-featured spreadsheet. That's not to say that all three of the functions can't be improved -- the lack of a spell checker and auto-completion of words in the Quickword component are a prime example -- but for a first release, Quickoffice shows a surprising amount of capability and stability.

If you're thinking about buying one app for your iPhone to fulfill your handheld office needs, Quickoffice is the one to purchase. Check the gallery below for additional screenshots from the app.



Having worked with Quickoffice on both the Palm and Windows Mobile platforms in the past, I was eagerly anticipating the release of the...