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Documents to Go Premium Review: Rough Around the Edges

In the realm of iPad productivity apps, Documents to Go by DataViz was one of the first to hit the App Store. It’s one that I have heard a lot about and more than once I’ve heard recommendations from an online friend or downloaded tech podcast. Perhaps it was because of all the positive recommendations that I found myself somewhat disappointed by what I actually got when I downloaded Documents to Go Premium Suite. While it is a functional app, Documents to Go still has a ways to go before it becomes my go-to productivity preference.

Documents to Go is a universal app, but in this review, I focused primarily on Documents to Go as an iPad productivity app. I did so because Documents to Go is one of several apps vying to be the productivity leader on the iPad, where demand for such apps is high. And in that vein, there are some things I really liked. For one thing, it has cloud support, something the premier iPad productivity offering, iWork, sorely lacks. (I have complained about that before.). Documents to Go offers cloud access to all the major providers, including  Google Docs and Dropbox.

Documents to Go offers three editors, including a documents editor, a spreadsheet editor, and a presentation editor. For each, you can either create new documents within the app or import pre-existing Office format documents. It also allows you to view PDFs and a wide range of image documents.  It wants to be your go-to app for all your document use needs.

[Yes, users of other iPhone and iPad productivity apps, it does allow PowerPoint editing. But don’t get your hopes up. You basically get to add and format text in outline mode, with almost no ability to control layout or slide design and zero image functionality.]

The interface and design of Documents to Go can best be described as utilitarian. Sternly black and white, with few fancy transitions, screen wipes, or other nods to style. It’s definitely form over function. For example, in the word processor they wisely placed the formatting tools above the keyboard, instead of at the top of the page. This makes then quicker to access while typing, like Function keys on a keyboard. A wise choice…

…for the word processor, at least. For some reason, that sensibility doesn’t carry over into the spreadsheet  and presentation editors. Seriously? I can’t bold the text in a cell while I type it? Apparently not.

This is sort of the way with Documents to Go. For every feature I liked in the program, there was another that made me scratch my head.

For example, like every Office type program I have tried on the iPad, Documents to Go strips any and all complex formatting from the document, preserving only the most basic RTF-level features (bold, italics, etc.). It is, like everything in its class, for basic editing, not for page layout or desktop publishing. But Documents to Go is also the only one that strips page layout.  It functions the same as if I had Microsoft Word in Web Layout mode. This makes sense on the small iPhone screen, but not for the larger iPad. When I compose on the iPad, I want a rough idea of page count, margins, etc. To me, it’s an obvious omission.

As a perhaps even worse example, the cloud synching isn’t total. Whenever you pull a document from the cloud, it downloads and saves it locally. Then, you have to manually re-upload it later, and it uploads it as a new file. I ended up with four versions of this review in my Dropbox account on account of this belabored system of synching, sequentially marked (1), (2), etc.  Definitely not my idea of convenient or useful, though I could see it as a useful feature if I were sharing a document with others.

I could go into details about the various apps, but my reaction to them was all the same. While there are some definite pluses to Documents to Go, it just doesn’t strike me as a very polished or user-friendly app. There are certainly other options on the iPad, especially at its rather steep $15 price tag. If you need a practical editor for on-the-go work, it’s certainly a functional app that will get the job done. But I think that Documents to Go needs a few new version updates before it really solidifies itself as a tool I’d want to use regularly. There are better options out there.

Our Score: 3/5.

Doc to Go Premium is $14.99 at the time of this review. Documents

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