According to developer DataViz, Documents To Go was the first native office suite for Android; now on its third iteration the app offers support for creating and editing multiple file formats, including DOC, DOCX, XLS, PPT, PPTX, and PDF documents, and some surprisingly powerful editing tools. On paper, Documents To Go sounds like a valuable mobile office companion; however, it’s held back by outdated UI design and a lack of basic features all of which makes the $14.95 price tag seem steep.
Designed As a Sidekick
Though DataViz markets Documents To Go as a mobile office solution, it’s not really designed to be an all-in-one document creation and editing tool. While it can create new documents from scratch, it feels more like a companion app to edit documents received over email or from a cloud service. Considering that it’s meant to sync with their desktop document management software, this interpretation is probably close to home.
To my mind, a design focused on mobile editing is a strength. Too many office apps, such as Polaris Office, seem to be designed for document creation more than editing. While Polaris Office looks great, it had no revision control and could not view MS Word’s “Track Changes.” Also, although Polaris Office allows you to read comments (and only with difficulty) you can’t use it to create new ones.
Documents To Go, on the other hand, can view changes made to the document in but it cannot record the new changes you make to the document. You also cannot accept or reject changes, but at least you can see them by tapping Menu, View, and then Show Changes. Comments are visible by default, and new comments can be easily added to a document by highlighting a section and tapping Menu, Insert, and then Comment.
The app also has a powerful Find and Replace tool that is easily accessible.
Using Documents To Go
While Documents To Go seems to have a clear understanding of its niche, it does not fill it gracefully. Polaris Office blew me away with its large, consistent menus and its slick interface. Documents To Go uses a series of nested menus, which are frequently divorced from context and difficult to find. The website boasts that it is compatible with Honeycomb devices (ca. mid-2011), and the design philosophy is about as old. The app’s main page has large buttons to access recent files, locally stored files, files you’ve marked with a star, and files synced to the device from Documents To Go’s desktop application. There’s also the option to log into Google Drive, which it still calls Google Docs, but the app does not support any other cloud storage services.
The button to create a new document is easily overlooked in the bottom left-hand corner. New documents, and other options, are accessible from a ribbon of buttons throughout the app.
When creating a spreadsheet, I easily accessed the collection of 111 mathematical functions. However, adding individual cells to the equation was difficult, as I had to manually type in each cell location instead of simply tapping on the cell. I was also unable to find any means to change the default type of information displayed in a column—such as currency, or date. The app seems to assume that you’re not going to be creating a spreadsheet from scratch, but manipulating an existing one. The edit-over-creation philosophy reached its apex when I tried to create a new PowerPoint presentation. In Documents To Go, the default view for slideshows is an entirely text-based “overview” mode and is the only view that allows you to make any changes to the presentation. When viewing slides, tapping to make changes simply returns you to the overview screen.
It is an entirely text-only experience, and comes with no formatted templates. It does, however, allow for bulleted lists.
While you can add new slides, they can only contain text. If you open an existing slideshow in Documents To Go, you can view the images, but can only edit the text. There is no presentation mode, unlike Polaris Office which was quite robust in this area. Despite the focus on editing, you cannot view comments made to PowerPoint documents in Word.
In Need of an Overhaul
One hopes that developer DataViz will revise their languishing office offering. The potential is there, but it’s buried behind an outdated, unintuitive design and a lack of support for cloud storage and basic office features.
To its credit, Documents To Go seems to understand that its primary function is to edit documents received while “on the go,” as it were. While reviewing Polaris Office, I was annoyed at the apparent focus on document creation among mobile office apps. To my mind, receiving a document to edit is far more likely (and enjoyable) than trying to write one from scratch on a phone. With a significant update, this app could shine as an on-the-go editor, but its relatively high price, poor UI, and spotty feature support hold it back.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc