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What is the Best Office App for my iPhone or iPod Touch?

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Want to see what all of the major Office apps for iPhone and iPod Touch offer without wasting money purchasing them all?  Here’s our definitive guide to the best iOS Office apps, so you can learn before you buy.

iOS devices work great for viewing a variety of documents without any extra software, but if you want to create new documents or edit and share existing ones, you’ll need an Office app.  There’s a number of popular Office apps in the App Store, and today we’re going to look at the features each app offers, compare how they each render documents, and help you see which one is the best fit for your needs and budget.

First, Do You Need an Office App?

First, though, you’ll need to decide if you actually need an office app.  If you mainly use your iPhone or iPod Touch for personal use, then you may not need to view or edit documents and spreadsheets.  If you sometimes need to view documents and give feedback without editing the files, iOS’ built in document viewer works great for looking at documents in email attachments and online.  Just tap on a document or file in an email, and you’ll see a preview that renders documents almost perfectly.  Rich documents may not display fully, but it should be close enough to work.

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You can also easily view your online documents in Safari, as both Office Web Apps and Google Docs let you view your files with a mobile browser.  Unfortunately, though, you cannot edit documents in either on your iPhone or iPod Touch.

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So viewing documents isn’t a problem, but if you want more than this, you’re going to need an Office app.  Let’s dig in and see what’s available.

What Office Apps are Available?

The Business and Productivity sections of the App Store list numerous apps to help you edit Office documents, spreadsheets, and more.  Just from the descriptions, it’d be hard to know how each one works.  To solve this problem, we’ve tested 3 of the most popular Office apps recently: Documents to Go, Quickoffice, and Office2.  We’ll take a quick look at each one’s features here, but you can click their links to see the whole review.

Office2

Be sure to Read our full review of Office2 for iOS

Office2 fared the worst in our test.  This app is popular because it only costs $5.99, but it struggled to render documents and spreadsheets in our tests.  Worse still, it lost any formatting that it couldn’t support after saving edited documents.  On the bright side, it supports a wide variety of online documents storage services and runs faster than competing apps.

Quickoffice

Be sure and read our full review of Quickoffice for iOS

Quickoffice Mobile Connect suite is priced in the middle at $9.99, and it offers a lot of bang for your buck.  It can edit advanced documents fairly good, and then saves formatting that it doesn’t support so your document will still look the same back on your PC.  You can easily access all of your files from Dropbox, Google Docs, and more, then edit and save them online.  Quickoffice spreadsheets struggled with .XLSX formatted spreadsheets, though, but otherwise handled modern rich Office files with ease.

We especially liked the innovative web interface that lets you browse and add documents to your iOS device from any nearby networked computer.  And if you don’t need to access your documents from online storage services directly, you could get Quickoffice Mobile Suite for just $4.99.  With the advanced document support and cheaper price, Quickoffice is a great option.

Documents To Go

Be sure and read our full review of Documents To Go for iOS

Documents To Go is the most expensive Office app we reviewed at $16.99, but it’s also constantly one of the most popular in the App Store.  This app includes the best interface for editing documents, and even includes support for viewing advanced document components such as sidebars and images in documents.  It lets you edit formatting more than any of the other apps and required fewer taps to accomplish the same tasks.

Documents To Go also includes some unique features such as searching among all of your online document sources and basic PowerPoint editing.  The PowerPoint editing and creation options were very limited, though, so this one feature isn’t worth purchasing the app.  If you don’t need PowerPoint editing and online document support, you can get Documents To Go Standard for just $9.99, which isn’t a bad choice if you need to edit rich documents directly on your device.

Which Office App is the Best?

The hardest part is deciding which app is the best for your needs.  Documents To Go did support the most advanced Word document features, and was the most stable overall.  Unfortunately, though, it’s also the most expensive.  Quickoffice is a close second, and we actually liked the web interface for accessing your iPhone documents from your computer.  Office2 was poor enough that we cannot recommend it for normal Office document usage, but both Documents To Go and Quickoffice were both good enough to easily recommend for normal usage.

Here’s a comparison of each app’s features:

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So, in the end it comes down to what features you need.  Need PowerPoint and online document support?  Get Documents To Go Premium.  Only need to edit documents locally on your device?  Quickoffice Mobile Suite is a great option for you that’s not very expensive.  You can’t go wrong with either of these apps, so pick the one that suites your budget and feature need best.  In our opinion, Quickoffice Mobile Suite will be the best choice for most consumers.

Filling in the Office App Gaps

Microsoft Office today isn’t just for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, though.  Outlook and OneNote are also popular Office apps that many don’t want to give up, so let’s look at some options for these.

OneNote isn’t available on iOS, but there is a great alternative app, MobileNoter that brings almost all of OneNote’s features to OneNote.  You can sync your existing OneNote notebooks from your PC and edit them on the go, or add new notes and sync them online wherever you are.  Check out our review of MobileNoter for more info.

The default Mail app works quite good for email on the go.  It includes full Exchange ActiveSync support, so you should be able to access all of your personal and business email accounts from anywhere.  The only problem is, the iPhone Mail app only lets you create plain text messages.  If you need to send full HTML emails, you can try out MarkdownMail.  This app lets you create richly formatted HTML emails on your iPhone using Markdown syntax.

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Conclusion

After some initial disappointments with Office2, we were excited to see that both Quickoffice and Documents To Go offer great Office support on iOS.  Editing rich documents is never perfectly easy on a small screen, but with an Office app, you’ll find you can do more business on the go than you ever found possible.  Plus, in many cases, viewing a document and making changes later is a great option.  What’s your favorite Office app, and how do you use Office tools on the go?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Did we miss an Office app for iOS that you love, or overlook a feature you need?  Let us know in the comments, and if it’s something we can test, we’ll let you know!  There’s no reason to spend $50 on apps just to find the perfect Office app for your needs, so we hope this info helps you make your choice and get the most bang for your app bucks.

Matthew digs up tasty bytes about Windows, Virtualization, and the cloud, and serves them up for all to enjoy!

  • Published 11/17/10

Comments (17)

  1. Hatryst

    I’d add an iPad to the list, and then I’d say “Pages, Keynote, and Numbers” ;)
    (Well, these 3 apps are also available for the iPhone/iPod Touch as well, right?)
    If you’re going for paid apps, why not opt those which are already made by Apple, made for Apple !

  2. Matthew Guay

    @Hatryst – If they make them for iPod Touch, I’m getting them on day one :)

  3. Hatryst

    That’s what i didn’t know !
    (Well, i didn’t think deep. Obviously if these apps WERE available, you’d have reviewed them here !)

  4. Rich

    Good timing, Google Docs is rolling out mobile editing as we speak.
    http://www.tuaw.com/2010/11/17/now-edit-your-google-docs-on-your-ios-device/

  5. Jennifer Baker

    I use Document 2 Free. When I began my search for an ‘Office’ app I was intimidated by the prices and the negative customer reviews some apps had. I decided to wait until the smoke cleared and see who won before I made a purchase. I installed Documents 2 Free to keep me going in the mean time and I am not disappointed. It syncs withmy googledocs without a problem and it is very easy for me to use. I would suggest that if you would LIKE, but don’t actually NEED a document editor give it a try (it’s FREE!).

  6. David

    Docs 2 go for me. Tried others but this does more than I need for a ph app. The price is worth the convenience.

  7. Hilal

    I Prefer Quick office, :D

  8. ken

    I have both DocsToGo and Quickoffice on my iPhone.
    DocsToGo is definitely the best.
    It’s the only one that properly shows review/track changes in Word, so if you use that feature then its worth the extra money.
    It isn’t actually that much money for what you get compared with the cost of the desktop versions of MS Office.
    Combine DocsToGo with Goodreader (which allow you to see and make comments on PDF’s) and you have the best combination to allow you to read, review and alter work docs on an iphone.

  9. mickblu

    A great review overall, spoiled by the occasional lapse in correct English usage. Here are a couple of examples:

    It can edit advanced documents fairly good,
    The default Mail app works quite good for email on the go.

    Doesn’t anyone proofread these articles? I realize you are busy and pressed for time, but this is such a poor use of the English language, particularly in an article about word processors! Today’s word processors have not only spell checkers, but grammar checkers (I tested it) suggest replacing “good” with “well” which would be what I would have done instinctively…

  10. The Geek

    @mickblu

    Would you like to be our honorary (unpaid) proof reader?

  11. Pottsy

    LOL @The Geek. I thinks that’s a great idea. Surely you cannot refuse @mickblu! Because you need to correct these articles so we can understand The Geek and what he is talking about becasue the spelling and grammar is sooo bad (oops sorry @mickblu sooo is incorrect, there should only be one o followin the s). Would you like to correct the user replies also? hahaha.

    mickblu = FAIL!

  12. Adrian

    @Pottsy – You’re saying ‘someone = fail’ because they find poor grammar annoying? How old are you, five?

    The fact that the mistakes haven’t been corrected because the author is so stubborn is really putting me off reading future articles.

  13. WSchloss

    As usual your coverage is very incomplete and fails to cover basic functionality that would be important for most average users. E.g. which products support password protection, even just for file viewing? As of a year ago I know Quickoffice was the only one, though that functionality worked poorly. Since?

  14. Xbuccaneer

    I rarely comment, usually don’t have enough time. That said, I found this review helpful in my immediate desire to find out which Office App gives the best bang for the buck. I think I’m going with Docs 2 Go standard for now. If I want basic PowerPoint creation and editing in the future, I can upgrade in the app for another $7 or $8. Does anyone know how is compares to Quickoffice as far as file sharing? Are they equivalent?

    I’m writing this on my iPhone 4 and the spellchecking on this device leaves something to be desired (everytime I type “me”, it replaces it with “mr”, is my iPhone trying to insult me). MICKBLU does have a point though POTTSY. Although I was not bothered by the casual grammar. I was a bit perplexed by some typos, including at least one, very obviously misspelled word. I’ve made the same mistake in blog articles I’ve written before and usually corrected them before anyone ever read the post. For me, when you are dealing with media that includes the written word, sometimes you have to double and triple check a piece, just to maintain one’s professionalism. It takes some extra time and effort but it pays off quite well in the end. There is a fast & almost foolproof human technique, if anyone is interested. As we know spelling and grammar checkers only go so far, work so well. They and we are not perfect but when both used, acceptable results are attainable.

    That brings me to my next question, do these Office Apps have additional, better than my iPhone’s, spell checkers?

    Thanks for the general review Geek, I think it’s enough for me to make an educated decision tonight when I spend most of the iTunes gift card I received for Christmas on a long awaited iOS Office App.

  15. Matthew Guay

    @Xbuccaneer – I’m so glad this article was helpful for you! That’s why we write these articles, and it’s encouraging to see it was helpful! As for your questions:

    - The office apps all seem to use the built-in spell-check. For me it works fine, but of course everyone’s milege will vary. The biggest problem I have on iOS devices is that when I type “maguay” (my Twitter and email name) it autocorrects to “maguey” oddly enough. It’s supposed to learn your preferences over time, though, and it does seem to not try to change that as often now.

    - Docs 2 Go works great for file sharing, and really neither app has an advantage or disadvantage there. You can email documents or save them to online storage (Google Docs, Dropbox, etc.) from either app. Docs 2 Go does work better for sharing in one respect … since it works better with Word format, you’ll have better success when others view your files from other programs.

    - One other advantage of Docs 2 Go … if you ever get an iPad, it’ll work on it fully natively, too. Though if you get an iPad, I’d really suggest trying out the iWork apps. Apple really needs to make them for iPhone/iPod Touch, too!

    Hope you enjoy your new Office app!

  16. Matthew Guay

    @Hatryst – I recently got an iPad, and I have been blown away by Pages. I haven’t tried the other iWork apps yet, but will soon. At any rate, Pages is really great, and honestly is one of the nicest word processor programs I’ve used on any platform. Amazing!

  17. Celesta

    I have an iPod touch that is only used for streaming. I use Outlook (2007) all the time. I love the calendar- the way one can categorize and also search events, I frequently use the contacts. I would love to have someway to do Outlook on my iPod. I would carry my iPod with me and put dentist appointments, meetings, etc. in in and- once in a while- plug it into my laptop (Windows 7) and have it download new stuff onto my computer. Also, it would be nice to be able to write emails and work on Word and Excel documents. Eventually, I would like to be able to show Powerpoint presentations using my iPod and a Cinemin. Does anyone know of an app that does all of that? If not, I could get more than one but my first need is for something to manage my calendar and contacts.

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