AMITIAE - Sunday 8 September 2013

Office Tasks on iOS: Documents to Go at Version 5

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

One of the arguments that has been made for sticking with Windows on the PC platform is the ubiquity of Microsoft's Office. "Must have. . ." is often used, although the only persons I have come across who "must", seem to be lawyers and engineers who collaborate on documents, although many are now also finding Google could be useful for such teamwork.

I am not entirely convinced about this need for Office, especially as I have not used this for years. Need? No. Another contradiction concerning standardisation that the lawyers claim, comes when I examine reports from my students. They work on their writing at home then have the files printed at one of the services available to them on or near the campus. The services use Windows installations. Invariably most of the reports have spacing problems. The printer removes spaces rendering some sentences almost unreadable. Spellings are also problematic, although that may be due to original input.

I do not have that problem and my documents, created in Apple's own Text Edit, saved as RTF (Rich text) or in the .DOC format - simple as they are - are printed out by the secretary on a (non-Mac compatible) Sanyo printer, with no errors, other than those I put in. Occasionally, I will use the OS X function of Printing to a PDF (Portable Document Format). Likewise that causes no problems.

I mention Text Edit as this is part of the Mac's original installation and has a number of features that will (or should) satisfy most users. Most, however, run to Word even for a simple one page note. I work at an even more basic level as I type most of my work in TextWrangler, which produces unformatted ASCII characters then either add HTML code to that page, or copy and paste into another application (TextEdit, Pages) if I want formatted text.

There is now another platform that many work on: iOS. Some still want the ability to read or create sophisticated documents and other file types. While Apple has its iWork applications - Pages, Numbers and Keynote - for OS X and iOS (and soon for iCloud too), these may not satisfy every need. Different file types may need careful handling.

There are of course many other apps available. For example I will sometimes use WriteRoom which has several advantages in that it can open DOC and RTF files (not PDF). I usually write in TXT (plain text) and the files are synchronised using DropBox, so are available on my Macs, iPhone and iPad. This app has just been updated to version 3.2.7 adding improved security for DropBox.

Spreadsheets are different; as are presentations. I tend to use Keynote for the latter and these synchronise via iCloud so I also have these on all my devices. Years ago, long before the iPhone, I used a Palm device. As students sometimes want to ask me questions when I am away from the office, it was useful to be able to display files when they asked me, for example, about their marks.

Docs to Go Docs to Go Docs to Go

At that time, I used an application called Documents to Go and when it was made available for the iPhone I bought it immediately. Not only can a user read the document types, including PDF; Word and Excel files can be created using the app as well. This became even more useful when the iPad arrived. The app was updated and now displays full screen on that device. As much as I enjoy the iPhone, close-up work is easier on the larger screen of the iPad.

Docs to Go - iPad

The developers of the application, DataViz, have now released an update bringing Documents to Go to version 5 (currently 5.0.1) and there is a spiffy new icon with the latest iteration. Among the improvements are improved displays with better toolbar functions. There is also improved display of PowerPoint presentations.

While I have the Standard Office version, support for iCloud and other such services is only available in the Premium version ($7.99 upgrade). I had been syncing my documents via iTunes, but now use the free desktop app (versions for Mac and Windows) that is available on the Developer Website.

Docs to Go - Desktop

The current price for the standard Documents to Go iOS app is $9.99 while the Premium version, which allows viewing and creation of all Office types (including PowerPoint), is $16.99. There is also a free BES version of the app, but this only works for organisations that have Blackberry Enterprise Software installed.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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