We're reaching the point where smartphones and tablets are poised to overtake laptops as the portable computing device of choice. While these devices are eminently mobile, historically they've been ill-equipped for document editing. OfficeSuite Pro 6.5 (priced at £9.19) aims to rectify this deficiency with a full office suite for Android that turns your phone or tablet into a document creation and management machine. While OfficeSuite Pro isn't perfect, it's definitely a solid tool for editing, creating, and dispatching documents on the go.
Right off the bat OfficeSuite Pro impressed me with its speed and responsiveness. Having never used a fully-fledged office suite on Android, I expected a rickety, feature poor affair. OfficeSuite Pro greatly exceeded my expectations as every icon popped alive at a tap. While it may look a little cheesy – 3D icons are so 2004 – the app feels solid.
From the home screen, users can create new text, spreadsheet, and PowerPoint documents. They can also edit existing documents, and the app supports a number of formats, including DOC, DOCX, DOCM, RTF, TXT, LOG, XLS, XLSX, XLSM, CSV, PPT, PPTX, PPS, PPSX, PPTM, PPSM, PDF, EML and ZIP files.
While the app can save files locally, it can also connect to cloud services, including Google Drive, DropBox, Box, SkyDrive, and SugarSync. Setting up cloud services was remarkably easy, as was accessing and editing those documents. This is a great feature, and OfficeSuite Pro handles it well.
In addition to cloud storage, OfficeSuite Pro provides a number of ways to get documents to other users – either by transmitting device-to-device, sending via email, or even by printing a hardcopy through Google's Cloud Print service.
Creating new documents
When creating and editing a text document, OfficeSuite Pro shines. The app sports some advanced features like endnotes, footnotes, highlighting, and many standard text formatting tools. Impressively, OfficeSuite Pro lets you create and edit comments in a document, which is a critical tool when editing documents from other users. However, users planning on using the app for in-depth editing should note that it lacks a means to view or track changes.
PowerPoint presentations are more of a challenge, and it's here that the awkward elements of OfficeSuite Pro's interface become more noticeable. It wasn't always clear to me what I was editing, or which of several views I had entered. It was also the only time I felt the app beginning to lag. That said, OfficeSuite comes preloaded with some smart colourful themes and it supports animated transitions between slides.
The cloud and other perils
The addition of cloud services is a great feature, though it does create some risks should users lose their data connections before they can save. If your Wi-Fi or data connection drops while working on a document in the cloud, OfficeSuite helpfully saves the document you're editing and will even restore it should your phone shut down. However, it is not saved permanently and will be lost if users navigate away from the draft without first using "Save as." Some clearer, more helpful alerts would reduce the danger of losing information.
Likewise, users should be wary of using OfficeSuite to edit collaborative documents stored in the cloud. On Google Drive, for instance, OfficeSuite downloads your document and then overwrites the new document to the cloud once you're done, obliterating any work which might have been completed by another user in the meantime.
For local storage, OfficeSuite Pro provides a pretty solid means to move through the file tree of your Android device. With it, users can create and move documents, as well as new folders in which they can house them. However, it often feels like treading in forbidden territory as finding a folder in which to save can be somewhat confusing.
While the app performed well in terms of letting me create and edit documents, on an overall level, I really struggled with its interface. It's not immediately clear where to find or even how to use some tools (editing comments was a particular struggle) and the online documentation did little to enlighten me. The app could benefit greatly from a redesign with the user in mind, and perhaps tutorials as well as more in-depth documentation. This app has a lot to offer, though, once you become more acclimatised to these foibles.
OfficeSuite Pro is a surprising Android app that succeeds in bringing many essential office tools to your mobile device, but struggles to make those tools accessible and understandable. I had low expectations for a mobile office app, and was happily surprised to see OfficeSuite Pro 6.5 perform so well. Unfortunately, that makes its shortcomings all the more frustrating.