Feng Office: Putting the "Flow" in Workflow

feng-officeBefore I get into my review of Feng Office, yet another app that aims to provide one-stop shopping for calendar, email, task and contact management, I want to take a moment to address cost issues. Feng Office, like a lot of apps I’ve come across lately, doesn’t offer a free version. At minimum, it costs $10 a month. While at first, I balked at testing out paid solutions, I now believe that so long as the app offers a high degree of professional-caliber fit and finish, it may be worth the price even when compared with free offerings in the same category.

So is Feng Office worth the price of admission? To some extent, that will always depend on your available budget, but here are my impressions.

Interface

I’m partial to the Feng Office interface, because it’s clean, simple, and works well on any platform that I’ve tried thus far (Windows and Mac, IE, Chrome and Firefox). It also reminds me of Office 2007’s look, which is great for at least visually integrating with my existing workflow, which involves using Office in a virtual machine via VMware Fusion.

Picture 4The interface uses a tabbed control screen, without the need for continual page refreshes whenever you update, which means response time is super snappy. Menus are dynamic and load without delay, and are organized as you would expect them to be, especially if you’re familiar with Office menus and command locations. The degree of polish on the interface alone shows me why Feng Office costs $10 per month when compared with some of the free options I’ve tested in the past.

Features

Feng Office packs most of the features you should require for most project management duties. In addition to basics like calendars, contacts and email, it also provides milestone and task management, and a built-in time-tracking function.

Picture 5All of the above are well-implemented, although some users may actually find the similar interface design of all the functions more confusing than helpful, since it’s often not clear which function you’re using at any given time without looking at what tab is highlighted. I like the uniformity, though, since it gives each feature a sense of connectedness to the others and adds to the feeling that Feng Office is a holistic solution.

Notes, Links and Documents features also bring much to Feng Office’s overall value proposition, and each is well-executed. You can even create new Word docs and PowerPoint HTML documents and presentations directly from within Feng Office using its own built-in editors, both of which retain UI elements from Microsoft’s own suite. That means less time switching from browser to standalone apps, which adds up to better productivity.

Picture 7Tags can also be applied to anything and everything in Feng Office, which really helps keep things organized. On the left-hand side of the screen, persistent menus allow you to change workspaces and filter by tags, so that you can drill down and find things quickly if you’re working on a larger project, or multiple projects with many team members.

Pricing

As mentioned, Feng Office offers no free option. You can try it out free for 30 days, which is what I did for the purpose of this review. After that though, if you like it, you’ll have to choose one of its five tiered plans to continue. Plans start at $10 per month for a single user account with a 300 MB storage limit, and range up to $179 per month for 40 users sharing 15 GB of space. The longer the term of your subscription, the larger the discount applied to that fee, up to a maximum of 10 percent. Both onsite (self hosted) and online (hosted by Feng Office) options are available, depending on your needs.

It isn’t free (normally a dealbreaker for me, given the number of free apps available), and it isn’t really cheap either, but it definitely is a very well put together piece of software. In fact, no free alternative I’ve come across offers quite the level of professional, bug-free service that Feng Office provides. It’ll probably ultimately depend on your project’s budget, but don’t pass up at least the free test run of this little gem.

Let us know your thoughts on Feng Office in the comments.

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