5 office suites for Android phones

With these five apps, you can take your work with you on your smartphone. But how useful are the apps?

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ThinkFree Office Mobile

Hancom

Price: $9.99

Other versions: ThinkFree Mobile for Tablet: Tablet version ($9.99). ThinkFree Office Mobile Viewer: Document viewing only (free).

Hancom provided me with a beta of the next version (4.1) of its ThinkFree Office Mobile suite, which, as of this writing, was set to be released in early November. Unlike the other suites in this roundup, this one is available only for Android smartphones.

ThinkFree Office Mobile

ThinkFree Office Mobile

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The app has a couple of advantages over some of its competitors. ThinkFree Mobile can not only access files in your Google Docs account, but Hancom ups the ante by also giving you a free 2GB of cloud storage.

ThinkFree Mobile's standout feature is the way it handles the creation of images. It has a drawing tool, which lets you sketch freehand. You can adjust line width, line color and background fill colors. Your drawings can be pasted into your text document, spreadsheet or presentation slide. This tool also comes with 64 shapes, such as arrows, circles, polygons and icons like as crescents, hearts and stars.

Like Quickoffice Pro and Smart Office, ThinkFree lets you take a photo with your smartphone's camera, but it's the only suite in this roundup that lets you use it in all three of its main apps -- you can insert the image into a text document, spreadsheet or presentation slide. This feature, along with the drawing tool, makes ThinkFree's presentation maker the most versatile among all those I reviewed.

Another useful feature: A keyboard icon sits at the lower right of the screen of the word processor, spreadsheet and presentation apps; this icon pulls up your Android phone's virtual keyboard (or, when you are using the spreadsheet app, a numeric keypad).

ThinkFree's word processor compares very favorably with OfficeSuite Pro's in terms of features, and it is the only one in this roundup that supports columns. Although it has this nice extra, I preferred using the OfficeSuite Pro word processor because of that suite's toolbar and how it is placed above the on-screen keyboard. ThinkFree's toolbar is set along the top of the screen, so it is not as easy to quickly access with your thumbs. (Instead, your inclination may be to use your index finger.)

Like Smart Office, ThinkFree's spreadsheet program sets the tabs of sheets toward the top of the screen. A toolbar similar to the word processor's is set over the tabs and has buttons for adjusting font, inserting an image, adjusting cell properties and sorting data. It's a minimal set of basic spreadsheet features; this app's UI relies more on the on-screen numeric keypad for entering formulae and numbers into the cells.

Like Quickoffice Pro and Smart Office, version 4.1 beta of ThinkFree successfully loaded all the test Microsoft Office documents -- showing pictures in the Word documents, charts in the Excel spreadsheets and graphics in the PowerPoint slides.

ThinkFree has the best, most intuitive cut-and-paste process among all the suites in this roundup: You double-tap a word or graphic object to highlight it, and a decently-sized mini-menu pops open that lists Copy, Cut, Delete, Select all, and so forth. In other words, everything is done by directly tapping on the text or object in question, without having to go to the Menu button or on-screen toolbars.

The bottom line

ThinkFree Office Mobile 4.1 offers a strong feature set and a well-designed user interface. It's an especially strong choice if you plan to use your Android smartphone to put together presentation slide shows.

Conclusions

If your primary need for an office-on-the-go suite is text editing, check out OfficeSuite Pro. Its word processing app has lots of formatting features and is the easiest to use due to the way its toolbar is placed above the on-screen keyboard for thumb-friendly access.

Smart Office has a beautiful graphical UI, including its page-flipping feature. And its method for moving text and images in your document is great. It's a good choice if you mainly need to view your office documents.

However, for the best all-around compatibility with Microsoft Office files, especially if you intend to create and edit presentations, look to ThinkFree Mobile. Costing just $9.99, it's one of the cheapest suites in this roundup, and it also has the best cut/copy-and-paste interface.

After all, you should expect a challenge when playing a game on your smartphone, not while trying to edit your office work on it.

Howard Wen reports for several technology publications. His website can be found at www.howardwen.com.

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