Tablet computers are greatly expanding our means of content consumption, but they still play second fiddle to traditional PCs when it comes to content creation — as in, getting some actual work done. However, the portability and flexibility of tablets make them perfectly serviceable productivity devices, especially if you’re a professional on the go. You just need to install an office software suite.
Here’s a look at the three main office suites for the market-leading tablet, Apple’s iPad, and their respective pros and cons.
Treo users may be familiar with DocumentsToGo (sometimes known as Docs2Go), a venerable program from DataViz that’s been around for years. Its pedigree shows in its iOS iteration. Although all three iPad office suites mentioned in this article have some fairly irksome formatting issues — unsupported fonts, indentation oddness, etc. — DataViz’s effort presents the fewest hassles. It also has excellent cloud-service connectivity, offering sync with Google Docs, Dropbox, and most other popular services. DocumentsToGo is easily the cheapest option, too: At $9.99, the program is not only half the price of Quickoffice, but also a universal app, meaning that if you want to use the program on your iPhone or iPod Touch as well as your tablet, you don’t have to buy it twice. However, DocumentsToGo has at least one glaring problem: In my experience, crashes are disconcertingly common, even for tasks which weren’t particularly computationally intensive; more than once, whatever changes were being made to the document when the crash occurred were lost.
Quickoffice (pictured) is an all-around solid performer. It has a marginally more streamlined interface than DocumentsToGo (though, predictably, it’s not quite as polished as iWork). It has excellent cloud connectivity, it’s frequently updated with bug fixes and new functionality, and, perhaps most importantly, it’s stable. On the downside, it’s not a universal app, so you’re put in the position of possibly having to buy it twice (at $19.99 a pop) if you have both an iPad and iPhone. Furthermore, Quickoffice seems to have the most trouble with quirky rendering of fonts, tables, and whatnot. It’s not crippling, but it’s definitely noticeable.
iWork from Apple is graced with the company’s customary attention to detail — and thus has an incredibly elegant interface. Like its competition, it suffers from formatting issues, but at least the program tells you up front what aspects of the document it’s unable to render. Each of the three individual apps which make up iWork (Pages, Keynote, and Numbers) are sold separately, and this is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, they’re all universal apps, so there’s no double-purchasing here. On the other, buying all three (at $9.99 each) makes iWork your most expensive choice. iWork’s biggest drawback, however, is its baffling lack of support for third-party cloud services; you’re stuck with its proprietary one.
Which is best? None of these three office suites is perfect, but, for now, if you’re looking to do some work on your iPad, Quickoffice is your best bet.