Features & Use
Test device: Samsung Galaxy Tab / Android Version: 2.2 / Root: Yes / Modifications (CPU changes, etc.): OCLF Lag-Fix
App details: Usable as of: Android 2.0 / Required authorizations: Notwork communications, memory, system-tools, your personal information, calls, your location.
I’ve tested and reviewed a lot of games for you lately and think it’s high time an app that helps with productivity be featured. ThinkFree Office Mobile has been installed on my Galaxy Tab for a while and I’ve had ample time to test it. As is the case with all office applications ThinkFree Office Mobile raises the question of which file format should be used for documents.
• Microsoft Office Format has held its ground and is used by a lot of companies and business. Problem: If you don’t have Microsoft Office or Windows on your PC you won’t be able to benefit from everything this system has to offer. Furthermore, MS Office is closed source which makes implementing it more difficult.
• Then there’s OpenOffice (LibreOffice) Format. This format is supported by a wide range of office programs, it is open source, and it’s a common standard. MS Office supports this format and what’s more OpenOffice and programs of the like can be used free of charge. It allows you to open and edit MS Office documents as well as save them in the MS Office format. Problem: free office programs can have compatability issues with MS Office files which results in arbitrary formation or loss of functionality. All in all this option isn’t exactly the cat’s whiskers.
• PDF: Portable Document Format is also an industry standard. Formation problems don’t arise and every system supports the format. MS Office and OpenOffice can save docs as PDFs. If you’re sending a document (which isn’t to be edited) and you’re not sure which program the receiver is using PDF is a great option. Problem: PDF documents can’t be changed, edited, worked on, etc.
Summing up I think it’s safe to say there’s no perfect, completely hassle free option, and that’s been the situation for years. So what’s ThinkFree Office Mobile up to? This office application let’s you open up, work on, and save MS Office documents as well as view PDFs. Free office formats are not included—I recommend OpenOffice Document Reader to make up for it and have to say that I think it’s a shame that free formats aren’t included. That’s one strike against the app—but what else does ThinkFree Office Mobile have to offer?
Quite a lot it would seem, though not without a few limitations. Allow me to elaborate in detail in the hope that a detailed description will let you make an informed decision whether you feel the app is worth investing in. I’ve opened up docs on my PC and ThinkFree Office Mobile in order to compare both performances.
I was pleasantly surprised by the excellent online connection. Register for free on ThinkFree Online and receive 1 GB web memory, but keep in mind that this only really makes sense if you plan to use ThinkFree Office Mobile for Android. You can upload docs from your computer to the homepage; these docs can then be accessed using your Android device. You can also view the uploaded docs on the homepage and change save them as PDF. And if that isn’t enough: you can even create documents! Yup, that’s right: You can compose and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents on the ThinkFree homepage (only with the browser). Java has to be installed on your PC in order for this to work (if it isn’t you will receive a notification), and loading the web-interface may take some time, depending on the connection speed. The advantage is that you can access and work on the docs from any computer. Microsoft provides a very similar service: if you have a Hotmail / Windows Live Account it’s also possible to create, edit, and save office documents (again, only via the browser).
Using ThinkFree Online feels like using a real office application even though it is “only” a browser window. Sure, the app doesn’t come with all the functions a real office app might have, but to be honest I didn’t actually miss any of the missing functions. What the app delivers are the most important functions and that’s perfectly sufficient for “normal” docs. The user interface bears a striking resemblance to MS Office 2003 which will make finding your way around the app easy. Documents can also be saved to your computer (as well as online, of course).
You will find four categories when you start up ThinkFree Office Mobile: a “Home” that comes with brief instructions, “Last Documents”, “My Files”, and “Online” (docs that have been saved online). Let’s take a look at “Online”. Press on the menu button and the following fnctions will pop up:
• New Folder
• Log off (from online server)
• Presettings: Download folder, text coding, and a few other bits and bobs
Again, internet connection is genius. As soon as you create a folder it shows up in the browser (look for it in “My Office”). So how do you add things to folders? You can either go via your PC (simply upload) or directly via the Android app—which leads as to the next category: “My Files”. This basic file browser shows the contents of your device’s memory as well as the SD card. Navigate to the folder you’re after, open the context menu with long click, select “Upload”. All that remains to be done is select the folder to which you which to upload—piece of cake. An upload status is displayed in the browser—perfect! What wasn’t quite perfect were the network issues I kept experiencing: uploads were interrupted or aborted (documents that had been uploaded until the abort remained in the upload folder), and it also happened that I couldn’t create a folder. In m case these difficulties are definitely linked to ThinkFree Office Mobile rather than the Galaxy Tab and I found them to really annoying, especially when you don’t experience said difficulties within the app itself.
Read up on controls and how to create docs under Screen & Controls.
A quick word about the display: as is the case with all mobile office apps the ThinkFree Office Mobile mantra is: the simpler the document the better the display will be. Complex formats are like to get jumbled up and appear very differently than they would on the PC. Generally the do remain readable, however. I don’t like that ThinkFree Office Mobile saves all docs in the new MS Office format. There’s an official plugin available for Office 2003 which lets you read and edit the new formats (link), but a lot of users haven’t downloaded it.
Screen & Controls
Let’s move on to what’s involved when creating documents, starting with a Word Document. In order to create a new doc click on the “My Documents” tab, select the file you’re after, and click on “New”. Control elements are located in the upper bars. Click on one of them and a small drop down menu will appear.
Word documents come with the following controls elements:
• Text: Font size, bold, italic, superior, inferior, color, focusing
• Image: Insert a picture from the gallery or take a new one using the camera. There’s also The “Scribble Pad” option which lets you make a fast sketch and insert it into the text—awesome!
• Arrow: Select mode, all/word/sentence/paragraph
• Clipboard: Copy, cut, paste
• Keyboard: Displays keyboard
The text formatting is just as you’d expect from an office application. There aren’t any advanced options to pick from, but ThinkFree Office Mobile isn’t meant to be a full fledged program designed for PC use.
One thing that struck me as being as a bit of a nuisance is that graphics which have been inserted can’t be moved around. You choose where you want to appear, but won’t be able to alter their positioning afterwards. It is possible to determine their size (in pixels), however.
Speed & Stability
ThinkFree Office Mobile runs really well on the Galaxy Tab. It starts up fast, controls are easy and smooth, and it doesn’t crash. The larger the document to the longer the loading period will be and controls may lag somewhat. Online connection issues arise from time to time.
According to the description ThinkFree Office Mobile is available at 30% for a short time, i.e. US$21.99 / EUR11. Seems costly but all in all the app is worth it.