Palm Pair Handles Office Applications

Puts documents, spreadsheets in users' hands.

Two recently released applications—Cutting Edge Software Inc.s QuickOffice 5.0 and DataViz Inc.s Documents To Go Professional Edition—can significantly extend the functionality of Palm OS-based devices by enabling users to view and edit word processing documents and spreadsheets, including those created in Microsoft Corp.s Word and Excel.

Both applications, however, require that these documents and spreadsheets first be converted to a Palm-friendly format on the users desktop machine and transferred to the Palm device via Palm Inc.s HotSync Manager software. As a result, neither the $40 QuickOffice nor the $50 Documents To Go is much help with files received as e-mail attachments or from a memory expansion card.

In contrast, the Pocket Word and Pocket Excel applications that ship with Pocket PC-based devices enable users to access and edit Word and Excel files both in their full-size formats and in smaller, Pocket versions.

Because they are Palm applications, however, QuickOffice and Documents To Go benefit from a much larger installed base of input devices than do Pocket PC-based handhelds. One effect of this is that QuickOffice and Documents To Go users have several third-party text-input hardware options, such as LandWare Inc.s Go Type keyboard. Without an external keyboard, anything but the briefest data-entry task is a chore on most handhelds.

QuickOffice 5.0, which shipped this month, works with any Palm OS-based device running Palm OS Version 3 or later. The desktop component runs on Windows 9x, Windows NT or Windows 2000, and it converts Excel 5.0, 95, 97 and 2000 spreadsheets and Word 97 and 2000 document files.

On the Palm device, QuickOffice consists of three applications—QuickSheet, QuickChart and QuickWord—all of which function as their names suggest. QuickWord is an updated version of Cutting Edges SmartDoc text-editing software.

Documents To Go Professional 3.0, which shipped in October, also runs on Palm OS-based devices that run Palm OS 3 or later and supports most Word and Excel formats. In addition, Documents To Go supports Corel Corp.s WordPerfect and Quattro Pro and Lotus Development Corp.s WordPro and 1-2-3, as well as TXT and Palm DOC formats.

DataViz offers versions of Documents To Go Professional for both Windows PCs and Macintoshes. Documents To Go Professional updates the previous version of Documents To Go, which was restricted to file viewing.

Squeeze Play

QuickOffice and Documents To Go each converts files into compressed versions more appropriate for the resource-limited Palm devices on which the applications run.

In one of eWeek Labs tests, a 70.5KB Excel spreadsheet shrank to 19.5KB with QuickOffice and to 19KB with Documents To Go. This compares favorably with the 25KB size of the Pocket Excel version of the same file.

As with the smaller Pocket versions of Word and Excel used by Pocket PC devices, the Palm-converted files produced by the desktop components of QuickOffice and Documents To Go lose some features in the translation to the smaller devices.

Images, macros and all but basic text formatting were stripped out of the Word documents that we tested with Documents To Gos Word To Go component, but it could handle much more than QuickOffices QuickWord component, which was unable to render multiple fonts or even basic text formatting such as bold and italic.

We were more impressed with each applications handling of spreadsheets. The programs maintained multiple sheets and most embedded formulas.

QuickOffice even enabled us to work with five chart types—line, pie, scatter, bar and stock charts—based on a spreadsheets data. This is an advantage over the Documents To Go software, which lacks a charting feature.

The QuickOffice desktop components include add-ins for Word and Excel, which allowed us to create Palm versions of word processing and spreadsheet documents from the interfaces of those applications.

Documents To Go adds entries for itself in the Windows "Send To" right-click dialog box, which enabled us to quickly select files for conversion from Windows Explorer or from within a folder. Both applications allow users to drag the file they wish to convert to the window of the conversion applications desktop component.