Quickoffice iPhone App Review

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One of the most useful things about my old Palm handhelds was the ability to take notes while on the move and bring them over to my Mac to finish them. I was disappointed in the iPhone for not having serious copy/paste/selection tools until the release of OS 3. It took a few weeks after upgrading to get back into the habit of starting documents on the iPhone, rather than waiting until I was at a real computer. I started moving that way with SyncBook, which I reviewed almost a year ago, but recently, I bought Quickoffice from the iTunes store (regular price, $19.99, current price $9.99), and things are getting a bit more complex. Quickoffice is the newest rewrite of the venerable office suite for Palm. It’s now the largest Office suite for handhelds in the category. I’m typing in it now – and I like it!

The editing function of QuickOffice is a familiar sight to most iPhone users who have used a note-taking program.
The editing function of QuickOffice is a familiar sight to most iPhone users who have used a note-taking program.

The company lists the following seven features as the main tasks for QuickOffice:

  • Create, Open & Edit Word documents
  • Create, Open & Edit Excel spreadsheets
  • Transfer desktop files via WiFi
  • Advanced Notepad Editor
  • Remotely access MobileMe® iDisk® accounts
  • Email files directly via iPhone
  • Mount your device as a drive

So, how does it work? Pretty nicely. There have been several recent updates that have fixed things like spelling corrections and the double-space-to-period trick. Cut, copy and paste works with the “real” iPhone tools. You can turn the keyboard on and off (one of my complaints with SyncBook), and you can really, truly, format your document in a way that will end up making your words look how you want them to when they are ink on a page.

QuickOffice lets you change font style and color.
QuickOffice lets you change font style and color.

Changing the alignment of selected=

Search and word count are also available.
Search and word count are also available.

It’s difficult, of course, to not compare the iPhone app to the Palm OS version, or one that runs on other systems. There are versions for Symbian, BlackBerry and WindowsMobile. I have not used it extensively on other platforms, but have noted that it seems to mix the UI of standard programs from each platform with QuickOffice’s own idea of how apps should work. (For the remainder of this review, I will only be speaking of the iPhone version.)

Before QuickOffice, adding formatting and alignment to documents had not been covered by many apps, least of all any from Apple, so there’s no precedent set for the user interface of how to do this. I found that once I played around a little, the icons and menus started to make more sense. There is an auto-save function that kicks in every few minutes, so you never have to worry about an errant phone call, text message, or calendar alert losing your data. You can also “save as” to make a new document with your changes.

Transferring from your computer and back is very seamless, and you can connect to any computer on your network with a simple web browser – even another iPhone or iPod Touch!

Any web browser can be used to browse, download, and upload files on your iPhone.
Any web browser can be used to browse, download, and upload files on your iPhone.

You  just type the IP address and port number of your iPhone into a blank browser page, and you can see the documents on the iPhone. Select one and click the “Download” button that appears, and the document is transferred. You can also upload documents to the handheld. The whole process is controlled from the other device, which makes this a great tool for anyone working from random workstations in the course of their day. No matter where you are, you can download various files, edit or print them, and send them back to your handheld. (For those worrying that their data is going to be stolen, there is authentication that you can use between machines, and the transfer can only take place while your iPhone is in transfer mode. If you’re editing a document or talking on the phone, transfers can’t happen. That’s one of the benefits of limiting multi-tasking.)

Document types supported include Word, Excel, Pages, Numbers, PDF, and basic text files, as well as the same graphic files that mobile OS X supports. Editing of graphics, iWork files and PDFs is not supported, and presentation files (Keynote and PowerPoint) can be moved to the iPhone, but not viewed there. (Edit 2010 Jan 13: I tested the current version after this was posted, and pptx, keynote, and ppt files are now supported. Some of the backgrounds and photos still have issues, but text comes across nicely.) Still, this is a great way to carry a file from one place to another without the use of flash drives.

Notice the various types of documents that can be held on the iPhone. Not all types can be edited, but most can be transferred.
Notice the various types of documents that can be held on the iPhone. Not all types can be edited, but most can be transferred.

Outer Limits

What are the limitations? First off, all of this data transfer stuff depends on being on the same WiFi segment. In places that limit sharing between peers, direct connections may be prohibited. (I have found this in several hotels. My work-around was to create an ad hoc network on my MacBook Pro and connect to it from the iPhone.) Secondly, there is not yet any true sync, only the transfer of files from one device to another. If there is already a version of the file on that machine in that place, a number will be added (or incremented) at the end of the filename. Thus, while writing this article and moving it back and forth, I have five files on my desktop, all named  “QuickOffice Review” with a number after it. Without your own vigilance, version control will get out of hand quickly.

I salute the QuickOffice folks for their determination. They are moving forward with development, tightening code, and updating on an encouragingly frequent schedule, despite the recent holidays and the Apple approval process (which subjects every minor release to the full review process, delaying updates to releases that may contain actual bugs). With the huge explosion of iPod Touches that were sold during the past Holiday, I’m sure there will be a lot of homework started and edited on this program in the next few years, and improvements to versioning and syncing will surely follow.

I give the current version a solid four stars – they are doing more than most note-taking apps to push the user interface for formatting and text manipulation, and the data transfer over wifi through the browser is fast and painless. There will be some folks who complain about the price. Over the past ten years, I have paid probably on the order of $100 for various versions and upgrades of QuickOffice. Paying $10 or $20 for the iPhone version with free upgrades is a bargain. If you’re a business user or a student, this is well worth the few lattes you’ll have to do without to finance it.


Product Information

  • Transfer files from handheld to other computers easily
  • Edit WP and SS documents on your iPhone
  • WiFi transfer means you don't need a cable
  • No true "sync" capability means no version control for duplicates
  • Loading the program and documents is quite slow
  • WiFi required means no moving documents if there's no Wifi

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12 thoughts on “Quickoffice iPhone App Review”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. Just did a quick save and transfer, and it works as expected. Since I submitted this review, Quickoffice has released a version for Android, which I hear is a new operating system for some little niche of phone developers. :: ducking, running ::

  3. Your review failed to mention its rival, Documentstogo, which in my opinion is superior for two simple reasons: it is easier to transfer documents to a computer, and it is much easier to access email attachments (something that is needlessly complicated in Quickoffice). Have you tried Docstogo?

  4. DataViz, the makers of Documents to Go have proven to be Mac-hostile, so I have cut my loses and will most likely never use their software for any reason. Yeah, that sounds close-minded, but I’ve been bruised in the past. My full explanation is here:


    Short version: they are a small, closed-minded company that is more interested in milking their current customers through upgrades, rather than actually trying to innovate or even update their proven products. If they chose to actually send me free software, and maybe refund a few of the upgrades I’ve paid for over the years, I may consider using it, but I’m surely not going to actually spend any of my money on them, as I gladly did with Quickoffice.

    Re: email attachments – I’ve not had any issues using attachments that are in Mail on my iPhone, so I didn’t even try that feature of Quickoffice.

  5. I still use a Palm (more then one, mostly Clies) and am so glad that I don’t get an iPhone or iPod. The problem is that because it needs to be finger usable, everything is way to big and wastes screen. Plus you can’t really have a good keyboard unless you jail break it.

  6. If only Apple will give us the chance to use a BT keyboard this would make me rush out and buy an iPhone immediately. Mr Jobs, are you listening?

  7. Hercule – I am SO there! When the jailbroken Bluetooth stack was announced that gave keyboard capability a few weeks back, I was sorely tempted to jailbreak mine. This is my single greatest complaint on the iPhone. I have great AT&T 3G service in my area, the plan is not horribly expensive, compared to other carriers, and I have never, since becoming a customer in 2004, had a bad experience with Cingular/AT&T rep. They regularly make adjustments to my plan (add/turn off international roaming, texting limits, adding and removing lines of service, etc.) without increasing my contract or dinging me with service charges. I live in central NC, where the Triangle area has a huge number of high-tech companies, and see iPhones in every venue, from coffee shops to church services to Target check-out lanes. They are, quite literally, everywhere – yet the calls go through, at least in the Raleigh area.

    But I _hate_ typing long text passages on it.

  8. Been following you for a few weeks now. Keep up the great work. Just a comp note to comments on Docstogo vs Mac friendly. I bought one of the first IMacs with a superdrive to edit movies, etc. Works great, but it wasn’t long before I realized their web browsing capabilities were directly tied into their operating system and it’s need to be upgraded.

    You could use windows 98 and still browse the web, but unless you pay the $200 a shot and upgrade REGULARLY, you’re toast. I don’t have the time anymore to figure out the backdoor to making safari or others work without the upgrades, so this has led to my boycott of IPhone, this far anyway. (avid BlackBerry user btw). I’m not a cheap date, but I can be bought, however. So I’m keeping the door cracked to see if IPhone can woo me. But this app doesn’t do it for me for the reasons discussed.

    Anyway, keep up the heat work! Thanks.

    PS don’t tweet out much, but my tweet I’d is Contactguy

  9. FYI, Dcstogo has issued upgrades (yes, upgrades) more than once for the iphone, and those upgrades were free! I had Palms for years and used the program without spending what you did. And I don’t understand what you mean by macunfriendly: I have both a PC and a MacG5 and Docstogo syncs with both.

  10. Did you read their replies to my questions in the article cited? In mid-2006, they sent this message: “DataViz has yet to determine if and when we will release a Universal version of our titles for Intel Macs. Our developers constantly review our customer feedback database to assist in the product development decision making process. If you would like to request a Universal version of Documents To Go, please submit feedback to us.”

    When your product does not function on the new chipset that a manufacturer has moved to for their entire product line, and your response is that you’re waiting for customers to request updates before you decide to develop for the platform, I call that hostile. They may have since changed their stance, but they lost my customer loyalty before they did. I’m glad you are enjoying their product.

  11. Regarding document types supported, I was alerted that the newer version of Quickoffice now supports ppt, pptx, and keynote files. I tested this and verified that, indeed, it does both transfer and display them. I’ve edited the article to indicate this.

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