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Mobile Office Apps – I Have One Simple Request

Mobile Only: Week 5

Spell check – is it too much to ask?! Seriously. I don’t feel like its a big request but perhaps it is. OK, so I admit it, I am a terrible speller. As far as I am concerned, the best feature in the history of computing is the red squiggly line underneath misspelled words in Microsoft Word. At work and at home I have a Bluetooth keyboard I pair with my phone. I switch off the on-screen keyboard by using a null keyboard (yes, there is an app for that, though this is a failure unto itself that should instead be handled by a context aware operating system – but I digress). But when I switch off the on-screen keyboard I lose the predictive text capabilities which provide correctly spelled words. There is a gap between use-case and capabilities.

The absence of a complete spell-check scenario is partly due to the fact that on-screen keyboards offer predictive text. However, that is a narrow view on how users interact and create content; it only considers the moment of entry. If errors slip by then it is a challenge to identify later.  In an enterprise setting spelling and grammar are vital to presentation and professionalism. They need to be examined in the whole context of a document. I think the absence of spell check also stems from a subtle bias that exists, whereby people think that mobile devices are great content consumers but terrible content creators. I am here to tell you that this isn’t true. I create content left, right, and center on my smartphone and twice on Tuesdays. In order for mobility to be mainstream in the enterprise, content creation has to be taken as a serious use-case.

I have been asked several times recently as to how I assemble these, and other, posts. What do I prefer for an office productivity suite? There are quite a few options for Android and I have been taking them through the paces. I’ve tried the lot of them; Documents To Go, Quickoffice Pro, Google Docs, OfficeSuite 5 Pro, Oliveoffice Pro, Kingsoft Office, Polaris Office, well…you get the idea, hoping that one of them would have spell check functionality. Sadly, none of them do, and while they all have their quirks and advantages, 3 of them seem to stand above the crowd; Kingsoft Office , Quickoffice, and OfficeSuite 5.

If you want a great, free office productivity app then Kingsoft Office is for you. While Kingsoft only allows you to edit and view Word and Excel files, it has a great user interface, and many of the features of the Pro versions. The other two apps, Quickoffice and OfficeSuite 5 offer PowerPoint functionality in addition to Word and Excel. Though Quickoffice has garnered a lot of attention in the press, I find that OfficeSuite 5 Pro has it bested in several areas from a content creation perspective.

To start with, OfficeSuite 5 has thought of, and implemented, use-cases that work with a physical mouse/keyboard scenario. With OfficeSuite 5 I am able to select text the same way I would on a PC, by clicking and holding the left mouse button while dragging over the desired text. This blows away standard Android text selection which all the other apps rely on. OfficeSuite 5 also also has menu + key functions built in. For example menu + c for copy, menu + v for paste, menu + s for save, etc. This is important because the middle scroll wheel of a mouse, when clicked, is the same as clicking the menu button on the phone. The result of these extra features makes a statistically significant improvement in efficiency. These features are critical in a content creation scenario due to the mouse’s exactness and the speed of using a keyboard. OfficeSuite 5 also has an autosave and recover feature that has already saved me some heartache on several occasions. Lastly, OfficeSuite 5 has a word count feature that is conspicuously missing from Quickoffice. It is such a simple feature – why would you leave it out?

Both Quickoffice and OfficeSuite 5 are integrated with cloud file-shares such as Box, Dropbox, and Google Docs. This makes the sharing of docs with colleagues and clients simple. This also allows these products to be part of a larger ecosystem from a workflow and management perspective. However, in using the cloud file-shares, I have noticed and witness strange behaviour when the docs created on my smartphone are opened in Microsoft Word on other’s PCs. Hopefully these minor issues will be resolved in short order.

When it comes to spell check for productivity apps I feel like Dr. Evil in Austin Powers “You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads!” Am I really asking for too much?The sad, but true, workaround is that I actually have a spell check app. This is a complete fail. My spell check app, another fantastic case of “there’s an app for that” is also a fantastic example of how mobility is not quite ready for the enterprise; not ready for prime-time. The spell check app is not integrated with anything. It provides great functionality but I have to manually copy and paste the text over to office suites. In the end I, like Dr. Evil, am forced to exasperatedly ask “What do we have?”  Mutated sea-bass being the reply.  Would love to hear if you have any ideas on spell check – post a comment and let me know!

Benjamin Robbins is currently a Principal at Palador, a firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobility, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter. Mr. Robbins resides in Seattle and blogs regularly at http://www.remotelymobileblog.com

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