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Summary:

Folks looking to edit Google Docs on the iPad appear to be out of luck. Or are they? This $7.99 app actually does support document editing in the cloud from an iPad. What can it do and more importantly, should you buy it?

With all the talk about Apple’s iPad, I’m noticing two trends. First, the device is polarizing opinions — people either lust for it or say they don’t see the point of it. Very few seem to be “on the fence” about the iPad. But there’s a common thread among all — folks are wondering how (or if) an iPad fits into their daily workflow, and that gets me to my second trend. People are looking to the iPad for more than content consumption — which it is excellent for — they’re trying to be productive with it. I’m doing just that, now that I found an app that not only links my iPad with my Google Docs account, but lets me edit documents and spreadsheets in the cloud.

Office2 Pro is the app and it cost me $7.99, which I think is more than reasonable for the functionality it provides. The software allows me to use the iPad as if I was running Google Docs locally on my computer. With it, I can view any of my documents, spreadsheets, presentations or even Adobe PDF files I have stored in the cloud. But Google Docs viewers are a dime-a-dozen — the difference here is that I can edit files on the iPad and the changes are saved online to my Google Docs account.

It’s not perfect (yet), but it works

Now there are some limitations and quite a few kinks to be worked out. For starters, you can view all kinds of file types, but for now, you can only edit documents or spreadsheets. Presentations are view-only. I also encountered a fair number of bugs when using the software. Adding an image to a document worked, for example, but when I zoomed the page to get a better view of the format, the entire doc zoomed off the screen. I was able to save the changes, even in this state, but it was a scary few moments. That’s not the only bug, but rather than run though them all, I’ll say this: the developer is aware of several issues and has already submitted a version with fixes to Apple for approval. I’ve captured the list of fixes in the image gallery below.

iPad: meet the cloud

It was tricky to connect Office2 Pro with Google Docs, and the support information could use an update. Once I figured it out however, the steps were actually quite simple. And I didn’t just connect the iPad with my personal Gmail account — the software supports Google Apps accounts too, so I’ve used it for both work and personal documents. Yes, you can link Office2 Pro to multiple web accounts simultaneously. Although I don’t have a MobileMe account, the developer says you can also connect Office2 Pro to an iDisk on MobileMe. And it also supports Box.net or any WebDAV server, so you’re not limited to Google Docs. In the file explorer, you can create folders and move documents just as if you were accessing your Docs account in a browser. Plus you can email docs right from the app. From a connectivity standpoint, most users should be covered.

Usability

Data entry is relatively straightforward. The iPad’s native on-screen keyboard is available by tapping a button — tap your screen where you want to insert or change data and start typing. All of the special function buttons are at the top of your document, just where you’d expect them. And the app works in portrait or landscape, although the file explorer stays put in landscape — I’d like to see the document in full screen but haven’t found a way to do that yet in landscape. In a spreadsheet, data entry can be a little cumbersome as you first tap a cell and then enter data in a field above the spreadsheet — not ideal, but it works.

Most functionality that people use for documents and spreadsheets is available in Office2 Pro. From a word processing standpoint, you have text and paragraph formatting, table creation, images and even real-time spelling correction to name a few features. Spreadsheet support includes multiple worksheets (although there’s a bug with this), sorting, formatting, cell merging, pane freezing, and 112 functions.

I’d estimate that most of what people need in a Google Docs editor is in the app, or is coming soon. Office2 Pro is surprisingly full-featured if you approach it with a Google Docs mentality — it’s good enough for most users, but won’t replace every function found in the Microsoft Office suite. Aside from charts and other advanced features offered by Google Docs, the basics are all here.

 

Note: to view any images in full size, simply right-click on one and open in a new browser tab.

Buy now or wait?

So if you can connect your iPad with a Google Docs account and edit information, why isn’t anyone talking about this application? I think there’s a few reasons — lack of awareness for starters, not to mention the buggy nature I’ve experienced. Unless you’re a patient person, I’d strongly consider waiting for the updated version with fixes before plunking down the $7.99. Yes, the app works, but it’s not quite where it needs to be. I’ve had to create workarounds for some issues and not everyone is willing to do that. A good example: there’s no Close button when you’re done with edits. I end up opening a new document in this case, which forces the app to prompt for a document save. And that’s just one of several user interface examples that need some tweaking.

I’m looking forward to the updated version as I see great promise in Office2 Pro. I made the transition to Google Docs well over two years ago and this software is breathing an air of productivity into my iPad that I didn’t expect. I anticipate that Apple will update its iWorks apps to address compatibility and file management issues but I’m not so sure Apple will fully embrace Google Docs in iWorks. If it does, great, but if not, Office2 Pro is worth the look.

(Special shout out to Joshua, a reader that tipped me on this app!)

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  1. This seems like a neat workaround (and I’m sure more will pop up over time), but I’m left wondering why we couldn’t just work with documents the cloud right out of the box: http://webworkerdaily.com/2010/04/06/the-ipad-and-the-cloud-a-missed-opportunity/

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  2. I’ve been waiting for this. Thanks Kevin.

    If I get a word doc in an email, does the iPad let me open it in Office2Pro directly, and then save out to Google Docs?

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    1. Rich, you can’t open an email attachment with Office2 Pro and unfortunately, Google turned off the “upload by email” functionality in December. :( That could have done the trick.

      Although I haven’t used it, Office2 Pro has a Wi-Fi sharing function. Obviously, you’ll need another device where the doc or attachment is, but you should be able to browse for it over Wi-Fi to get into Office2 Pro and Google Docs.

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  3. I think the challenge of creating useful content-creation apps for the iPad will sooner-than-later reveal the shortcomings of the device. You cannot substitute a real keyboard with touch, nor can you successfully mimic the way a real computer and it’s file system works with just “an app for that”.

    Again it comes down to using the right tools for the task. As clever as the iPad’s app creators are becoming, it makes little sense grabbing the slate to do jobs where a notebook/netbook is far better suited, and perhaps even cost competitive.

    It’s not that I hate slates and love netbooks, I just don’t see the iPad doing enough to justify making a purchase, especially when I already have a feature-packed smartphone, capable netbook and quad-core notebook at my disposal.

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    1. I’m not trying to convince you to purchase an iPad — I’m just trying to point out what you can (and can’t) do with it, so folks can make an informed purchase decision. From your many comments, I know that it’s not a device for you and that’s totally cool. :)

      One thought though. “it makes little sense grabbing the slate to do jobs where a notebook/netbook is far better suited, and perhaps even cost competitive.” I agree with you — always use the right tool for the task. But there will be situations where people don’t have another device with them other than the iPad. We don’t always carry the device we know we’re going to need, so options are key.

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      1. I understand what you’re saying and where you’re coming from – I know the iPad has a lot of tricks up it’s sleeve, and it’s great to get that info out there. The more you know the more you learn! My view is that what the iPad can do, or would like to do in this case, other devices may be just as good or better at it.

        I’m not at all trying to give you a hard time, but in it’s current form I just don’t see the iPad as offering anything spectacular. As a convergence device the iPad can be useful, I concur, but it is not what I would consider an improvement. It doesn’t radically change the way I use, or what I use for, the gear I already have. You could give me an iPad, yes, and it would most likely gather dust in a corner somewhere for I would have no real use for it! I do have other reasons for staying away from a purchase, and I won’t go into that here, but I’m sure it’s fine if we happen to have a different opinion and perspective.

        Again, no hard feelings meant, and I hope I haven’t rocked the boat too much. :)

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      2. No hard feelings taken — good points on your usage patterns and stable of available devices. :)

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      3. So when he gives you the dust-gathering iPad, please let me know and I’ll be happy to give you my postal address. (grin)

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    2. I have to take issue with the statement that “[y]ou cannot substitute a real keyboard with touch.” I think it really depends: by whom, and for what? I’ve been able to type at close to my physical-keyboard speed with my iPad nearly since the moment I turned it on, and it works incredibly well for me so far as a note-taking device at meetings. That said, most of my colleagues who’ve tried the keyboard just produce gibberish on their first attempt, so my success may have something to do with my idiosyncratic, untutored typing technique. Likewise, a touch keyboard is not going to work well as a physical keyboard substitute in situations where you can’t devote screen real estate to your input mechanism – current MMORPGs come to mind, and I’m sure you can think of a half-dozen other examples without breaking a sweat. Ultimately, though, the usability of the iPad is going to fall out on a case-by-case basis, like most other pieces of technology.

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      1. It’s not so much the loss of screen real-estate I was trying to emphasize, rather the impact on productivity, since we are talking about content-creation. Physical keyboards have real feedback that a touch screen cannot offer – taking away that familiar element while expecting to maintain the same level of productivity is something that most likely will not happen, hence a measurable drop in user performance.

        You could argue that tricks such as haptic feedback and on-screen resizing help, but a screen still doesn’t give back the “feel” of a true keyboard, or provide the same typing comfort. Folks may not notice it immediately, but it is there. The other problem I have is that it is totally dependent on the application and touch panel – encounter a software or system error serious enough and your virtual keyboard might not be able to be invoked at all. With a hardware keyboard, your chance of failure is much less.

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    3. you don’t have to buy the ipad. i felt like i met you at the best buy while i was trying out the ipad. just hovering around the devices and people being negative. no one is forcing you to buy the ipad!!

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    4. When you say “You cannot substitute a real keyboard with touch, nor can you successfully mimic the way a real computer and it’s file system works” I think you must mean that it doesn’t make sense for you, Lucious, or that you are unwilling to, for whatever reason.

      I’m not arguing with your decision, it’s yours to make. But to make a broad statement as you have done requires a somewhat broader viewpoint.

      Your statement is CLEARLY inaccurate, as many people ARE doing those very things, on both the iPad and iPhone, as well as Android devices.

      Read this link for a fact based discussion of average typing speed:

      http://imlocation.wordpress.com/2007/12/05/how-fast-do-people-type/

      It seems clear to me that the average person can do just fine with a virtual keyboard, and I know FOR A FACT that my mother is more comfortable with her iPad’s keyboard than her MacBook’s keyboard.

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      1. I understand your argument, and thanks for sharing the link, but I must still adhere to my original comments. While using a virtual screen-keyboard may be fine for occasional use, it’s nowhere near acceptable for full productivity – again going back to using the right gadget for the task. Sure, I too can punch out SMS like a banshee on my TP2, but there’s no way I’d be creating a 40-page report, essay or what-have-you using Word Mobile on a smartphone – for that kind of work, along with spreadsheets etc. I go to my netbook when I’m on the run, and my notebook when I’m not.

        It’s not about dismissing or hating the iPad, but I KNOW that I’ll get far more work done over 8 hours using my loaded netbook and be far more productive with it, than I will spending 8 hours hitting roadblock after another with a convergent device primarily designed for content consumption.

        The iPad DOES have it’s uses, don’t get me wrong, but to me those are sorely limited on one hand, and sometimes exaggerated on the other.

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  4. I’ve been using godocs, but editing would be nice. Funny how godocs has 318 reviews and this only 18 so I didn’t give it a second look… Till now.

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  5. Huh? I don’t have an iFad, I don’t know anyone who does, and I’ve never physically seen one, but I certainly thought that it might be useful for basic browsing and web apps. But, you mean to tell me that you spent $500+ for an iFad, and you can’t even natively edit Google Docs in a browser?

    That’s good to know. I’ll definitely wait for a competing product that has more capabilities.

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    1. I think your P and F keys are transposed Dennis.

      Let’s be honest here. You weren’t looking at buying an iPad anyway, were you. Just thought you’d get a clever little dig in, disguised as a comment.

      As you well know, editing docs is only one aspect of this video player, gaming device, internet surfing gadget.

      Well done.

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    2. Dennis: Google Docs attempts to detect Safari as running on an iPhone and uses the ‘mobile’ site, which lets you edit docs sometimes, but you cannot create new ones. Trying to use the full desktop version doesn’t work very well because it keeps trying to open new ‘windows’ to make a new document, which then flips back to the limited mobile version. Since you cannot change the user agent in mobile safari, you are then stuck.

      It’s a combination of mobile safari and google’s own web design that causes the trouble.

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    3. Mark McIntosh Thursday, April 8, 2010

      Don’t be such a Debbie Downer. I am sure you will eventually get to see and use an iPad. Please remember that the 300,000+ iPad seeds were only planted a few days ago. Be Patient. Also, many many more Apps are showing up every day tailored for iPad and these apps will be improved over time to do just about everything you can imagine. When your done waiting for your competing product to show up (say 6 months from now) don’t forget to re-evaluate the iPad as it should have matured exponentially in that timeframe.

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  6. The ipad is as good of a content consuming device as the iPod touch(or well, better)… which is not very. for $500 it lacks fundamental features such as mkv support (or subtitle support in general), audio codec support(the fact that I have to convert all my music to mp3 is bs), and being restricted to iTunes and apples regulations as to what content you can and can’t consume. want to listen to grooveshark? too bad. play old school games with a Bluetooth-connected wiimote? too bad.

    while jailbreaking will lift the arbitrary restrictions by apple, it won’t change the fact that it’s an iPod touch with a large screen(no really, they even have the same gpu and ram capacity) so no advanced content consumption.

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    1. Mark McIntosh Thursday, April 8, 2010

      Be Patient grasshopper. All these deficiencies will be solved in time. The iPad has only be out a few days. It is very good at what it does so far AND is getting better every day. Check the iPad store daily and you may wake up one morning and all your problems have been solved by this magical device. No other 1.5 lb. tablet can do everything the iPad can do, so you can keep waiting and waiting for the PC makers, or i would invite you to hop onboard the iPad train NOW and enjoy the ride ! :-)

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  7. Thanks for checking out the app! I’m one of those few you say are “on the fence” about the iPad. After the famed anouncement of the ubiquitous slate, I was underwhelmed. On paper, the iPad was nothing to write home about. Being a long time UMPC/tablet user, the slate form was something I’ve been looking forward to. I thought the iPad was close, but fell far too short.

    That was, of course, till I played with one at my local Best Buy. I didn’t end up getting off the thing for an hour or so! All I can say is, one you use one, it just makes sense. Does it have shortcomings? Yes, but so does everything. After using the iPad, I found them forgiveable, however.

    I was then dissapointed at the lack of a proper file system and the inability to seemlessly go back and forth with documents over several devices. But these possibilities with apps like Office2 Pro change that up a bit for me. Yeah, my netbook is way better for serious work, and the iPad won’t replace it. but I’ll use the iPad plenty and it’ll make so many things so much more convienient.

    Hmmm. . So. .. iPad or Canon T1i? Maybe best buy will give me a bigger credit limit ;)

    Oh, and Luscious, that iPad that’s collecting dust, just mail it my way ;)

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  8. confused. if you can remotely connect to a desktop machine…can’t you then use that desktop to work in the “cloud” with full functionality?

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    1. The Wi-Fi connectivity in this app is solely to pass files back and forth, not to remote control a computer. There are other apps that can do that however.

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  9. I really don’t get why all you people are trying to make yourself MORE miserable by trying to get work done on a device that was designed to NOT let you do that properly.

    Want to use Google Docs? there’s a neat device called netbook, you can buy one for $300 and will let you do that just fine, but with more screen real estate available, while streaming music from Pandora or having a co-working session with GotoMeeting.

    Dunce of the year award for the first one that comes up with “yeah, but the screen resolution on most netbooks is only 600 pixels tall compared to my iPad’s 768 in landscape mode…”

    One hint: the keyboard is ON the screen.

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    1. I agree with you on the overall sentiment, but I think you’re missing a subtle point. Nobody is suggesting to use the iPad as a full-time productivity device — but as a supplemental or as-needed basis, it’s handy to have document editing functionality while on the go. It’s also the same reason that smartphone apps are developed for this purpose.

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      1. Look forward to your thoughts with the announcement now of OS 4. Being able to open attachments in 3rd party apps caught my eye as being very pertinent to this discussion!

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      2. I’ve been reading all the comments on this post and so far, it seems that a lot of arguments stem from the obvious fact that the “haters” just don’t realize that the iPad is not an all consummate device. In my opinion, it is not a device designed to replace the things that we can do with our PCs or Macs. It’s a social gadget. A gadget for both fun and a slight tinge of productivity in the hours that we are away from our computers. There is really no comparison. :)

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  10. I played with the iPad virt keyboard and didn’t have any problems typing on it. I’m sure that might be different on differet iPads, but I typed along without a flaw for about 15 minutes. Do I prefer a real keyboard? Yup. But the iPad keyboard would work good enough for me for email and typing simple documents.

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