Review: Quickoffice Connect is a poor iCloud clone

Stick with the original Quickoffice HD app and either Dropbox or Box instead for a more reliable, cheaper alternative

Quickoffice rivals Apple's iWork suite as the best office productivity app for the iPad and iPhone, and it is unquestionably the best office app for Android devices. It makes sense to choose Quickoffice as the standard mobile office app in workplaces that have a mix of iOS and Android devices. It also makes sense that you'd want access to your documents from any device you happen to have in front of you, whether it runs iOS, Android, Mac OS X, or Windows. A cloud-savvy office app that lets you continue to work on your projects as you move from one device to another is a no-brainer.

That's the promise of Connect by Quickoffice, a marriage of the standard Quickoffice app and a cloud storage and sharing service very similar to Box. But this marriage was made in hell, and anyone joining the family will reside in an unhappy, dysfunctional home. The Quickoffice part of Connect by Quickoffice is the same Quickoffice you can get in the Apple App Store or in the Google Play market, so the flaw is not there. Instead, it's the Connect part of the Connect by Quickoffice union that contains the dysfunction.

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Connect offers a dubious value propositionWhat the free app and its annual subscription service are supposed to do is sync your documents across all your devices (like Apple's iCloud but without the restriction to iOS and OS X), so the documents can be accessed from any device at any time. You can also access your other devices from Connect by Quickoffice to transfer files between them. Thus, you can edit your documents on an iOS or Android device using the solid Quickoffice app, even if those documents are stored elsewhere. On OS X or Windows, you can access the synced copies of those files in Microsoft Office or Apple's iWork suite. All that sounds great.

But it also sounds a lot like using Box or Dropbox within Quickoffice -- which you can do with the paid version of Quickoffice that InfoWorld has long recommended. Connect by Quickoffice costs $45 per year for use on two devices (PCs and/or mobile devices) and $60 per year for use on as many as six devices. That compares to a one-time $20 fee for an iOS or Android device and no fee to enable file access on a PC or Mac via any of the standard sharing mechanisms available for those platforms. Basically, it's cheaper to buy the regular Quickoffice licenses.

The company (also named Quickoffice) justifies the annual cost by pointing out that you can share comments with others in a workgroup directly from Connect by Quickoffice, without using the Dropbox or Box app. The company also notes that such sharing requires a paid subscription to set up with Dropbox or Box. Fair enough, but at least these services' paid sharing is available beyond the Quickoffice environment.

The first flaw in Connect by Quickoffice is that it duplicates what you likely already have but makes you keep paying for it -- an unwelcome approach that Adobe has been trying to impose on Creative Suite users as well. After all, the regular Quickoffice has no annual fee, and most people need just the free Dropbox or Box service, unless they require  high-capacity storage or corporate Box management services. Plus, chances are that if you need Dropbox or Box options requiring a subscription, you'll need them whether or not you use Quickoffice.

Connect doesn't really work in iOSThe dubious value is one problem, but not the worst one for Connect by Quickoffice. The real problem is that it hardly works on iOS devices. The software rarely could connect to my Mac or Windows PC, my Android tablet, or my Dropbox or Box accounts, and the Connect by Quickoffice client on OS X and Windows could rarely connect to my iOS devices. Nor could the Android app connect to the iOS devices. This is clearly a flaw in the iOS app, as I did not experience these continuing connection issues among OS X, Windows, and Android. (The company had no explanation.)

If you use an iPad or iPhone, Connect by Quickoffice simply isn't usable.

Connect offers a user interface sure to confuseBut even if you use just Android on the mobile side, Connect by Quickoffice is problematic. The reason is its unintuitive interface, which doesn't follow the conventions of iOS, Android, OS X, or Windows. The arrangement of the devices in the app is confusing, as one of the "devices" is actually your synced workspace. The other devices are separate storage bins that you can work in, but unless you move or copy the files between these bins and the synced workspace, they remain separate. So file version proliferation is easy. Plus, if you're not in wireless range of those other devices, their files are unavailable -- you can be working on a remote copy, then lose access to it because you didn't first move it to the sync folder. It's too easy to make that mistake.

Worse, the controls to manage files are unintuitive. There are no obvious controls to move, copy, or delete files. Instead, you open a device, then its folders to reveal the file list. Next, you tap and hold on the file to get a set of buttonlike controls (they're gray on black -- barely legible due to the poor contrast), not a contextual menu as in iOS or a menu tray as in Android. When you do get the controls, it's difficult to know how to use them. For example, if you tap Copy, a slight color change indicates the tap was received, but if you go elsewhere in the app to copy the file, there's no Paste option when you tap and hold again, as you would expect in iOS or Android. Instead, you're supposed to select the new destination and tap the same obscure button again.

Yes, you can learn this through trial and error -- but why should you?

On OS X and Windows, you get pretty much the standard application window from which you can open, delete, and move files; the situation is not so bad. But they're still not like native folders.

There's no good reason for this productThe reality is that you can do almost all of what Connect by Quickoffice intends to offer by using the standard Quickoffice app with a service like Dropbox or Box, which you likely already have. The notion of a universal implementation of an iCloud-like syncing service is admirable, but this implementation misses the mark by a wide margin. The abilities to share comments and to invite other Connect users to collaborate are marginally useful -- workgroup editing is in practice a messy, unsatisfying affair, as too many cooks often spoil the broth -- but you can do that via services like Box for a wider range of documents than Connect by Quickoffice supports.

Plus, there's the ongoing price for a product you can replicate for a one-time cost. I can see why Quickoffice wants you to keep paying for using its software, but there's no reason to do so.

Connect by Quickoffice is a bad marriage, a shotgun wedding intended to turn a decent tool into an overpriced, unreliable, and poorly designed annuity service. This is one pairing you do not want in your life.

This article, "Review: Quickoffice Connect is a poor iCloud clone," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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This story, "Review: Quickoffice Connect is a poor iCloud clone" was originally published by InfoWorld .

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