iPhone Doc Editing: Documents to Go vs. QuickOffice Pro

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A little while ago, QuickOffice ($19.99, iTunes link) brought Word document editing to the iPhone. This week, however, QuickOffice officially loses its corner on that market with the introduction of Documents to Go ($4.99, iTunes link) by Dataviz, a seasoned contender.

The iPhone may not be my device of choice when it comes to doing significant edits to text documents, but in times of duress, it might be the quickest, most convenient, or even the only option available, so I like to have the capability. Let’s see which of these two apps will earn a place of honor on my springboard.

User Interface

Full-featured word processing on an iPhone might not make for a very pretty experience no matter how you slice it, but there are definitely ways to make it more or less pleasurable, depending on your UI choices. It’s a challenging task, taking the ribbon and/or menu bar of a full-featured desktop app and trying to somehow incorporate the same features into a mobile app interface.

Both Documents to Go and QuickOffice try to tackle the problem in much the same way: Store features in a menu bar across the bottom using expandable icons that open up to reveal more functions. While both apps use this feature, they both do so in a very different way, and you will probably vastly prefer one over the other, depending on your personal taste.

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Documents to Go editing interface

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QuickOffice editing interface

As for me, I like the implementation found in Documents to Go. The main difference between the two is a multipage menu bar that you can scroll by swiping left or right. It means that more features are available to you in fewer steps. There are three pages worth of menu bar items for word editing, including document info, bulleting and numbering. QuickOffice offers far fewer functions from its own bottom menu bar, although both include a very necessary document search function.

Some might prefer QuickOffice’s full-text menu list items, but I like the icons used by Documents to Go. They may be a little harder to grasp at first, but the space they save is well worth the learning curve.

Features

In both cases, most of the features are spot on in terms of what you’d expect from a mobile word editor. You won’t get table editing/creation capabilities, but you will get font and paragraph formatting, list creation, and copy and paste. Interestingly, neither takes advantage of the newly built-in copy/paste functions of OS 3.0.

QuickOffice loses out to Documents to Go by not allowing you to create numbered lists, only bulleted. But it does offer some macro-level features that definitely trump Dataviz’s offering. For one, it has MobileMe iDisk integration baked in, so that all you have to do is enter your credentials and you’re off. Another incredibly useful feature is the ability to email documents you create to anyone from right within the app. Documents to Go doesn’t even have an export to mail function.

Documents to Go does have the ability to sync with a desktop client they offer for free, and to save directly to the desktop should you so desire, as long as you have a network connection. I tend to prefer not having to install any client software on my Mac, though.

Usability

In terms of actual editing mechanics for individual documents, Documents to Go beats QuickOffice on usability. The interface is nicer, you have more control at your finger tips, and the keyboard button is more conveniently located. It’s also just much more pleasant to look at, in my opinion, which can be a big plus if you’re stuck staring at a small screen for any length of time.

With overall usability, though, QuickOffice takes the cake. Being able to share docs so easily via email and iDisk is a huge bonus, and loads easier than using Documents to Go’s desktop client sync.

Verdict

I actually had a hard time picking a winner in this rumble. For the purposes of this comparison, I was only looking at document editing, so I didn’t take into consideration the fact that Documents to Go can’t yet handle Excel file editing. That’s supposed to be on its way in a future update, though.

What I did look at was price. There’s a big difference between the two apps in that regard. QuickOffice is $19.99, and even QuickWord is $12.99. Documents to Go, on the other hand, is only $4.99 ($9.99 for a version with exchange support), and will eventually include Excel editing for no extra charge. That’s a quarter of the price of QuickOffice.

Given that the primary reason I’d even want to have a Word document editor on my iPhone in the first place is for quick edits at the request of a client or employer, and that I don’t use Microsoft Exchange-based email, I decided that the ability to share via email trumps any advantage Documents to Go has with pricing and usability. If future updates introduce Mail integration, consider my verdict officially reversed, but for now, I have to give this one to QuickOffice.

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