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App Review: QuickOfficeHD
by Jonathan I Ezor#IM on Monday, Sep 12, 2011

The ability to edit Microsoft Office documents on our webOS devices has been promised to us "soon" literally since the original Palm Pre announcement at CES in January 2009. Later, the read-only version of DataViz' Doc Open bundled with earlier webOS devices included a splash screen telling users that that DataViz did "plan to release Documents to Go for webOS," but that plan was apparently derailed by disputes with Palm and ultimately cancelled when DataViz was purchased by RIM. HP (which had purchased Palm) then struck a deal with QuickOffice to bring its reading and editing suite to webOS, and the Pre 2, Veer and TouchPad launched with that app in read-only form, with editing again promised for the near future. When HP cancelled webOS hardware and put the future of webOS overall at risk in mid-August, QuickOffice had still not released the editing version of its webOS application, and users worried that it never would. Happily, QuickOffice finally came throguh on the 2+ year promise by Palm and HP when the free upgrade for editing (called QuickOfficeHD) came to the webOS 3.x TouchPad (though not webOS 2.x phones) on August 29th. We have now had a chance to try it out, and the verdict is mixed.

First, the good parts: it's here, and it does work, allowing editing of Microsoft Word documents and Excel spreadsheets (both the previous and 2007 file types are supported). PowerPoint presentations may be viewed, but not (yet?) edited, on the TouchPad (QuickOfficeHD continues to use the bundled Adobe Reader to display PDF files.) The application automatically searches the TouchPad's local storage for compatible files, and optionally integrates cloud-based storage accounts such as Google Docs, Box.net and Dropbox for both retrieval and saving (assuming a WiFi connection is available). Documents can be created, opened, edited and saved back and forth between Microsoft Office on a PC and QuickOfficeHD on the TouchPad, and with Dropbox integration, this process can be almost seamless.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of challenges and outright problems as well. Formatting options are limited; in Word, the user can select justification; bold, italic and underlining of text; numbered or bullet lists; and three fonts. That's it. While QuickOfficeHD will not undo additional formatting options present in the document, it may not display them properly either. For example, superscripted footnote numbers in text show as nonsense characters, and the footnotes themselves are not visible or editable. Worse, QuickOfficeHD can sometimes alter formatting in a way that cannot be undone; after a bullet list, we found that it caused subsequent paragraphs to have hanging indents, which we could only fix once the document was opened in Microsoft Word, since indenting options are not offered within the application. QuickOfficeHD does not support webOS' built in spelling check and other Text Assist features, and for some reason, the delete key on Bluetooth keyboards will not repeat within a QuickOfficeHD document, although it does elsewhere within webOS.

Some of QuickOfficeHD's failings are not its fault: Palm eliminated keyboard shortcuts for cut, copy, paste and the all-important undo in the full rewrite of webOS for 3.x, and absence of undo and difficult managing clipboard selection and pasting are particularly felt within the editing environment of QuickOfficeHD. Unfortunately, QuickOffice did not take it upon itself to add those features into its application, or other useful shortcuts (such as quick movements to the top and bottom of documents).

While the above issues are annoyances, there are flat-out bugs in the application that make its use much less pleasant. At times, the cursor gets stuck at the bottom of the screen, and one cannot see the text being typed or edited there. The biggest and perhaps fatal flaw in QuickOfficeHD, though, is that it locks up without notice, either during a save or sometimes just while deleting or otherwise changing text. When this happens, the only option seems to be to close and reopen the document, losing any unsaved text in the process. This review was begun within QuickOfficeHD, but whole sections needed to be retyped in Microsoft Word after they disappeared during freezes. Given that Derek was able to write his entire huge review of the TouchPad within the Memos app, the situation was all the more troubling.

Ultimately, QuickOfficeHD's ability to use both local (offline) and cloud storage and its full Microsoft Word and Excel compatibility make it a somewhat better choice for many TouchPad owners than cloud-based options like Google Docs or text editors. Unfortunately, its quirks, missing features and some serious bugs severely limit its overall utility. While we are grateful QuickOffice finished and released this version, we hope that it will continue to repair and improve the application, even while we wait on news of the future of webOS hardware.