Quickoffice Mobilizes Files

Suite brings native formats to Palm OS devices.

With their long battery life, most Palm OS handhelds dont need to return to their cradles for a charge as frequently as do their Microsoft Corp. Pocket PC operating-system-based brethren.

However, Palm OS handhelds have depended more heavily than Pocket PC-based systems on their desktop docking stations for other needs, such as document conversion. Cutting Edge Software Inc.s Quickoffice Premier 7.0 helps even the score.

Version 7.0 of Quickoffice Premier, which shipped last month, is the first suite eWEEK Labs is aware of that allows Palm OS users to access and edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files in their native formats.

The main rival to Quickoffice in this space, DataViz Inc.s Documents to Go, is supposed to gain this capability this summer.

In tests, we could receive and send commonly used document types by memory card, e-mail or IR (infrared) beaming—all without the need for intervening desktop or server-based conversion software. Although we ran into snags while sending files around, particularly via e-mail, Quickoffice made the Palm OS devices we tested significantly more independent, and the software is worth evaluation.

Quickoffice Premier 7.0 costs $50 and supports any device using Palm OS 3.5 and above, including Palm OS 5 handhelds from Palm Inc. and Sony Corp. The Quickoffice desktop component runs on Windows 95 and later. The software can be purchased online from Quickoffice. com and PalmGear.com. A free 15-day trial version is also available.

We tested Quickoffice Premier on Palm Tungsten W and Tungsten T devices. Performance when opening native Microsoft Office documents was pretty good with both devices, but, as expected, the ARM-processor-powered Tungsten T running Palm OS was faster overall.

The software is a particularly good addition for the Tungsten W—that units integrated wireless e-mail capabilities make sending and receiving documents a natural fit. However, we couldnt e-mail a document directly from Quickoffice in anything other than SnapperMail, a $35 application that ships with Quickoffice in a 21-day trial version.

Palm OS VersaMail, enabled us to send and receive attachments but not directly from Quickoffice—when we tried to do so, our Tungsten W needed a soft reset. Further, SnapperMail supports only Post Office Protocol mail—wed like to see support for IMAP as well.

The independence that Quickoffice brings to Palm OS devices requires some sacrifices. Native PowerPoint documents are limited to outline and slide notes text only. To see slides, we had to convert the PowerPoint files using the Quickoffice desktop component. Also, documents opened and edited in Quickoffice must part with some of their formatting and functions.

After wed edited a Word document formatted in eWeeks standard story template, the document lost its template-defined margins. Edited Word documents could be passed along via e-mail or memory card swapping in Words .doc format, but Word documents we beamed around via IR were transferred in HTML.

We could open Excel documents but couldnt save them in this format. Instead, Quickoffice gave us the choice of exporting Excel documents in Quickoffices spreadsheet format, comma-separated values format or HTML.

We were also disappointed to find that Quickoffice could not open password-protected Word documents.

Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be contacted at jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com.