(In Part 2 of this series we looked at Apple's entry into the productivity software world. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are fantastic tools for getting beautiful work done on your iPad. But what if Apple's solution seems a little disconnected from YOUR world? What if you use Google Docs and you can't seem to get your documents into and out of your iPad so you can edit them on the fly? Buck up, friends. This is your answer…)
Editing In the Cloud with iWork Alternatives
It's time to face reality, friends. Apple isn't exactly known for its open-minded approach to computing. Where Apple is concerned, it's either Apple's way or it's no way. (Considering that my Apple stock is sky high compared to when I bought it and Microsoft's is stuck in 1st gear, I guess I shouldn't complain too much.)
You want to use that beautiful Mac Operating System, OS/X?
Buy a Mac.
You want to edit your movies with that gorgeously simplistic software called iMovie?
Buy a Mac.
(Well, now there's iMovie on the iPad, but let's not quibble.)
You want to store your documents in "The Cloud" so you can download them, edit them, and the re-upload them no matter where you are in the world?
Apple doesn't exactly make cloud computing easy unless you are using THEIR cloud service, "iCloud." As far as the rest of the Box.net, Dropbox, Sugarsync, Google Docs, and Huddle world can go pound sand.
I guess you could say that's not completely true, because at least Apple supports WebDAV, but how many non-geeks even know what WebDAV is? For that matter, how many GEEKS can tell you what the WebDAV acronym stands for?
(It stands for "Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning" but let's not get sidetracked.)
"So Who You Gonna Call?"
If we had ghosts to deal with, that would be easy. I'd call Bill Murray.
But in The Cloud – and on the iPad – you only have so many decent choices.
Some people love Documents to Go.
Bleh. (I've never been a huge fan of Docs to Go. They had the lead and then they squandered it. Their user interface is the lousiest of the bunch and they still haven't figured out how to fix it. Does the fact that the only testimonials they post on their web site are dated 2009 give you a clue?)
Or you could try Office2HD.
Or you could try QuickOffice Pro HD.
Or you could try just about any other iPad office software suite that isn't Apple's own iWork.
Don't get me wrong. I LOVE Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. As I said last time, I use them frequently for the kind of design-heavy projects that include charts, graphs, and embedded graphics. It's just easier to do layout and design in Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.
Do you want to know what I use most, though, when it comes to working on the typical work files I deal with every day?
Just about anything but iWork. Even though iWork is the BEST, most elegantly designed, most pleasurable to use suite of office software on the iPad, hands down, I often find myself using an inferior tool because the inferior tool actually plays nicer in the sandbox with "The Cloud."
One of the first packages I spent money on after buying my first iPad was a little thing called "Office2HD." It promised full-featured editing on a par with the iWork suite PLUS the added joy of extensive support for Cloud-based servers and storage.
For the longest time, Office2HD was my go-to suite of software. It was FANTASTIC. I could download a Google Docs spreadsheet or word processing document and go to town. I edited to my heart's content and then simply hit the save button to let Office2HD automatically sync the doc back up with my Google Docs account. Last year, when I was in crisis mode, writing press releases and community relations communications with my partner in crime, I used my iPad extensively at the local Moe's (a Burrito joint in town with free WiFi) and Office2HD was my go-to tool of choice.
Then I hit a wall.
Office2HD, for as great as it was at syncing documents to and from Google Docs (and Box.net, and Dropbox, etc.), was actually pretty crummy at retaining table and graphic formatting in a word processing document.
Crummy is actually being kind.
It stank on ice.
If I did anything more with a Google Doc than basic formatting – bullets, number lists, that kind of stuff – Office2HD would do a royal hack-job on my material.
So I started looking elsewhere. I needed another tool that would get me close to the editing and layout fidelity of the Apple iWork suite but that would play nice with any of my many Cloud-based servers.
Documents to Go was a strong contender, but the user interface was horrible. Every time you wanted to do something as simple as adding bold highlighting to a line of text you had to bring up a menu, scroll through it, and then pray your finger would hit the right menu item.
Thank You, QuickOffice Pro HD!
That's when I stumbled upon my new, editor of choice. QuickOffice Pro HD.
(I guess everyone needs to use HD to differentiate their iPad software from their poor, little, non-HD iPhone software. Here's the funny part. The iPhone 4 and 4S actually more qualifies as an "HD Format" device owing to its shape and the way Apple amped-up the pixel density… But I'm getting side-tracked, aren't I?)
QuickOffice Pro HD not only includes extensive support for Cloud storage syncing, it also comes pretty darned close to using the iPad's point-and-touch method of navigation as well as Apple's own iWork software. It's not perfect, but close.
What QuickOffice Pro HD does better than Office2HD is retain the layout and design of your documents as close as you can get on an iPad to the way you built them on a PC or Mac.
Bullet lists? Check.
Number lists? Check.
Inserted Graphics? Check.
Word, Excel, and PowerPoint support? Check. Sort-of. Where QuickOffice stumbles is that it has yet to fully embrace Microsoft's Office 2007 and 2010 file formats. Oh well. It can't be all peaches and cream, can it?
So Which Office Apps Do I Still Carry on my iPad?
Ironically, I don't use just one. I carry and use ALL of them.
I have iWork for the times when I don't care about getting things into or out of the cloud and I just want to make pretty documents.
I have Office2HD for the times when I want to move things back and forth between my iPad and Google Docs but the formatting is, "Eh, who cares?"
I have QuickOffice Pro HD for the times when I want to move things back and forth between my iPad and the Cloud, I want the formatting to be "pretty close" to what I wanted, and I don't mind dealing with QuickOffice Pro HD's occasionally glitchiness when it comes to uploading and syncing to Cloud servers.
But if I had to pick one set… If I had to live with just one package…
It would be QuickOffice Pro HD. It's not as elegant as iWork, it's not as seamlessly Cloud-friendly as Office2HD, but I know my docs will come out looking pretty solid when I'm done with them.
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