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Review: Documents To Go

by Lex
July 24, 2009



One of the largest complaints amongst working professionals with the need to have mobile access to Microsoft Office files was the lack of editing capabilities and options for file viewing that came with the standard iPhone applications. The basic functions included on the iPhone, as installed straight from Apple, only allow for the viewing of Microsoft Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PDF. With the advent of third party applications like Documents To Go, however, comes access to these essential functions and a greater variety of file recognition that's useful whether you're a traveling businessman or an on-the-go student. Reading and editing office-essential files is finally for the iPhone on this mobile suite from Documents To Go, but it's still not yet a 100% complete yet. Read on to find out the benefits as well as the wish list of features for this application!


Documents To Go includes the ability to allow viewing of all the essential Microsoft Office documents such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; as well as PDF, iWork, webpage, and image files. The program uses the standard in built iPhone viewer for this function by allowing the user to select a file from specified folders created by this program. Full screen viewing is available and includes the standard pinch-zooming functions and rotatable landscape views. Editing is capable for Word files including a full section of toolbars identical to the ones seen on the desktop program. Features like character formatting, alignment, outline, tables, embedded graphics, and hyperlinks are all available on a convenient scrolling toolbar found above the keyboard. It also incorporates the newest iPhone 3.0 OS features like cut and paste, as well as landscape typing. The purchase of this app also includes a bundled Documents To Go desktop application for download onto Mac or PC. This accessory application allows the user to create folders for syncing to the iPhone by depositing the desired transfer files and simply hitting sync once the iPhone is connected to the computer. Users that purchase the Microsoft Exchange version will also have the ability to attach any document that they've created, edited, or synced to an Exchange email and send it directly with this application.


The Good:

img_0046 This application is a step towards filling in the missing link that has prevented many working professionals from adopting the iPhone for offcial business use. The ability to conveniently view and edit the mostly commonly used document formats on a mobile platform has been essential to professional industries as companies become more and more focused on mobility and efficiency of information access on the go. The large spectrum of file formats that this application can view without using Mail puts the user at an advantage by minimizing the need for additional applications to fill those roles. All the users files that are compatible on the iPhone will be viewable through the Documents To Go application. DataViz also does well in keeping the application up to date by including compatibility for the newest Microsoft Office 2008 and iWorks 2009 file formats. img_00481 Word documents (both .doc and .docx) can be edited while keeping the original formatting through the use of the iPhone's built in keyboard. The newest iPhone 3.0 features incorporated into this application is notably apparent through it's editing capabilities and does well to enhance the application and bring it up to desktop quality. Editing can be done conveniently in either portrait or landscape mode and auto-correction is standard with the predictive text entry that comes with the iPhone. The larger keyboard real estate is definitely convenient for entering full sentences and typing paragraphs worth of words. The predictive text minimizes typing errors as well as speeds up text entry for common words. Cut and Paste is also now an option in the newest update of this application and is priceless for the rearrangement of paragraphs and sentences that is commonly needed in editing proposals or drafts. The complete toolbar that is available in editing Word documents truly puts this application in a level that was only previously found on desktop programs. The toolbar allows the user to have full access in creating a complete document to its fullest specifications from scratch and extends the usefulness of this application beyond a simple viewing and editing tool, but as a full word processing program. It will be useful even to students as a mobile format for completing assignments and has a handy word count display for there's a need to keep within strict length restrictions. The ability to sync straight from the desktop is ingenious when it comes to busy users that need to stay organized. This eliminates the need to constantly email files you'd want to view to yourself in order to read them. All of the necessary files are stored on the phone itself and new files can be added or old ones replaced through a easily managed desktop app. The user simply needs to select the files they'd want to sync and deposit it in the Documents To Go folder from their desktop or even incorporate whole files of preexisting data for transfer. This keeps the user up to date on their newest documents and allows for quick and convenient access for transferring bulk quantities of files. Microsoft Exchange has become a stable amongst businesses and corporations as a standard e-mail server, and the ability to attach documents for this system is essential to corporate users. Apple had updated the iPhone OS to introduce support for Microsoft Exchange servers in the e-mail function as a form of expanding the iPhone to the business consumer market and the ability to attach documents and files using Documents To Go has finally rounded out the set of features essential to any business phone. The application allows the download of attachments from Exchange e-mail directly into the phone for viewing and editing. These files, and any others already saved on the phone, can then be sent for forwarded as attachments for download by the recipient, making it convenient to have actual drafts of the documents available rather than making memos for corrections.

The Bad:

One feature that had a noticeable glitch was in the viewing functions of the application. The application was able to open all the documents fine except at times when a file was converted to a newer or older format, such as switching between .doc and .docx for the same file. This has sometimes caused an error in viewing. The headers, footers and page numbers are also lost when viewing Word documents and that can be an essential part of many drafts. img_00471 On the editing side, the biggest disappointment is the lack of spreadsheet editing capabilities. Currently there is only the option of viewing them using iPhone's build-in view without having its own spreadsheet program. DataViz, however, is currently offering a special promotion to users that purchase the application now that includes a free update in the future for this function when they release it. This can be troublesome for professionals that need to have the ability to adjust numbers and tables for on the go. img_00492 Another issue that many users might find noticeably lacking is the missing spell-checker function for Word editing that most have come to rely on in standard desktop programs. The only protection against mistypes is the standard predictive text entry on the iPhone. This can be cumbersome to typing speed and accuracy as most users that opt to type really fast would generally turn this feature off as it often cause mistypes from spelling a word or making grammatical changes the user did not intend. The lack of a spell-checker, however, discourages this as the user will have no visual indication of a mis-spelled word and will have to go over each word individually to check for errors, thereby neutralizing any time they may have saved from turning the predictive text off. The keyboard also has a tendency to lag a bit when typing at a moderate pace beyond simple pecking that could cause discomfort for some users. The actual input is still accurate but the visual changes from the typing lags behind and for some, it can be confusing or frustrating if they are reliant upon seeing the confirmations of input during typing. The Microsoft Exchange function requires the duplication of an existing email when loading the attachment for download and editing. This creates a bit of inefficiency as only the attachment itself is necessary. This is caused by the program using a separate database than the built-in Mail feature on the phone and requires an extra copy to be downloaded, taking away storage space. It also only downloads mail with attachments and skips the rest making it impossible to use this application to replace using Mail for Exchange e-mails. There are also times when the Exchange function has shown lag or unresponsiveness, but DataViz is working on the solutions and has released updates for the technical problems.


Documents To Go is a good step by DataViz to introduce the long sought ability for the iPhone to view and edit Office documents. The incorporation of Microsoft Exchange functions puts it a step of it's competitors but there are still kinks to work out and improvements to be made. The standard $4.99 version might actually find more favor currently as writers and students would find the Word processing useful and would be less hindered by the lack of Excel editing and issues with Exchange attachments. The version with Exchange will be a better value once it fixes all the bugs and includes a complete spreadsheet program, as corporate professionals are unlikely to settle for anything less. At $9.99 the Documents To Go with Exchange Attachments has a very good Word processor and editor but is probably too much for the regular non-business user and not corporation-worthy yet for the professional user. [gallery link="file" columns="4"]

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