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Software Review: Quickoffice v4 for S60, Part 1 Print E-mail
Written by SymbianOne   
Tuesday, 30 January 2007
The latest version of Quickoffice brings a host of new features to office document editing to S60 3rd Edition devices. In this first part of a 2 part review Richard Bloor looks at the new Quickoffice interface and Quickword.

Quickoffice was the first third party Microsoft Office document package to be released for Symbian smartphones. Since then it has gained at least two competitors. Quickoffice undoubtedly hopes that its latest release of Quickoffice for S60 will keep it at the head of the pack. The new version offers improvements in all of the three document editors, a new interface and Quickmanager.

In this first of a two part review the focus is on the Quickoffice main interface and Quickword.

The Quickoffice v4 Interface

Rather than jumping the user straight into a list of available documents in their device's memory, Quickoffice now opens to an options browser. From this browser the user can open the phone or expansion card memory, as well as access a recent documents list and the Quickmanager feature.

Selecting either of the memory locations opens a folder browser. This browser is navigated in the same way as the standard S60 folder browser, a click opens a folder and back returns up the folder tree.

Curiously, to move between memory locations (phone or card) it is necessary to go back to the main browser, select the memory location and open it. If each of the file browser views had been included in the tab list, navigation could have been much faster. This oddity is accentuated by the permanent availability of the Quickmanager tab. Presumably Quickmanager is on a tab so the user is reminded of its existence; as they are unlikely to be using it daily.

This new browser interface has advantages over its predecessor. It allows documents to be browsed by their folder locations, which makes finding a document easier when there are many of them on a device. It is also a more familiar storage and browsing paradigm, mimicking a PC. Conversely it could be somewhat less convenient for those with few documents, as more navigation may be needed to locate them.

There is no find feature, unlike the older UIQ version of Quickoffice. However, if a documents location is forgotten, the S60 file manager can to be used to search for it by file name. When a document is found this way it can be opened directly into Quickoffice.

From the Quickoffice file browser existing files can be opened or new ones created. Now any of the supported document types can be created from scratch, previously only new Quickword and Quicksheet file could be created. Other options allow new folders to be created, the display filtered to specific files types (Quickword, Quicksheet or Quickpoint) and the sort order selected. There is an option to jump back to the main options browser, the Navigate option, along with new copy and move functions, as well as the ability to send a document.

Given that any Quickoffice user will be familiar with the folder structure on a PC and use it to catalog their documents, the new interface makes a lot of sense. A find feature and tabs for each memory location would have been a helpful addition, but a useful range of new features have been added.

Quickword v4

Undoubtedly the most used part of the Quickoffice suite will be Quickword. Each version of Quickword has added incremental improvements in document display and editing, this new version continues that development with improved formatting, image, and table support.

When a document is opened there is a new tips feature, which displays for the duration of the open operation. A useful addition to help users learn more about the product and make the, albeit short, wait time productive.

Quickword now has two document views, a reading view that wraps text to fit the display screen width and a new page layout version that displays text as it would be seen on the printed page.

Both views can be zoomed. Rather than employing a zoom percentage or other "level" selector, the zoom option changes to a zooming mode. In this mode the left and right cursor keys zoom the display in and out. Then, once the desired level of zoom has been found, it is "accepted" with the left softkey. While this is a more useful way of selecting a zoom level, it is not entirely intuitive as there is no on-screen indicator of how to zoom.

This "function change" paradigm is now employed extensively in all three applications. Initially it is disconcerting, as selecting a function appears to do nothing. There is however an indication in the status bar, but it is not always obvious. But once this mode change is understood, and it does not take long, it offer significantly improved usability. In the case of the zoom function it eliminates the long cycle of select "Options", press down, select "Zoom", select zoom "Out" (or "In") needed on the previous version to find the right magnification.

One of the most visual changes in Quickword is the handling of images. Images are now displayed and can be added to a document. In the reading layout images are always displayed so they fit the width of the screen, regardless of the zoom level. In the page layout view the images are displayed at their set size and zoomed with the text.

When inserting an image into a document a simple list is used to select the desired item. This list's first option allows a graphic to be downloaded from the Web, below which is a list of images on the device.

This simple browser may be quite functional on an Eseries device, where the number of images may be limited. However, it is not convenient on an Nseries device where there could be literally hundreds of images available. While a full browser selection might be an improvement, the simple browser does follow the image browsing methodology employed in the S60 image gallery. This also creates another issue, as the images listed are only from "standard" image locations. This meant that screenshots captured on a S60 device could not be inserted into a document without first moving them out of their screenshots directory. It also appears that only jpeg images can be inserted.

The sizing rules for inserted images are not entirely clear. Smaller images seemed be inserted at their native size, however some large photos where inserted and sized significantly above their native size. It would have been useful if large images were scaled to the page width.

Image handling is a significant advance in Quickword functionality and, once its limitations are understood, it is an invaluable tool for document editing.

Control of document formatting includes both font and paragraph formatting. Basic formatting options can be accessed directly from the menu, while more detailed control of font style, fonts and paragraphs is undertaken in a tabbed dialog. This is part of an overall change in Quickoffice; moving from long convoluted menu selections to shorter menus and dialogs. New formatting options include superscript and subscript.

One surprise with this new version is the absence of formatting by style. Available on earlier versions of Quickoffice for UIQ, this feature allowed font and paragraph formatting to use the styles stored in the document. Quickoffice Inc. says it omitted this feature from the S60 version of Quickoffice because S60 users were less likely to use styles. As many Word users do not appreciate the features offered by styles and tend to format text and paragraphs uniquely, there is some justification for this decision. However, for users familiar with styles, they are a smartphone friendly way to format documents; eliminating the need to alter several format characteristics to achieve a particular effect. If there is sufficient user demand this feature could makes its way into the next version of Quickword for S60.

Table handling in Quickword has been completely re-engineered. Earlier versions stacked a table's columns one above another, in a single column. While an imaginative approach to allow for small smartphone screens, which worked well for small tables, it could be quite confusing when dealing with complex tables. Now Quickword presents the table in it original format in both layouts.

In the reading layout the full table is accessed by scrolling left or right, to move the hidden sections of the table into view.

This new table handling works well and makes reading tables much easier. It also handles complex table features such as merged cells (as shown above) and tables embedded within tables.

In addition to this improved table display, Quickword now offered the ability to create tables from scratch, add and delete rows and delete tables. New tables are added by specifying the number of rows and columns they will contain. Once the table has been created new rows can be added but, as there is no option for adding or removing columns, care needs to be taken to get the column count right.

Tables are created with equal width columns, such that the table fitted across the page width. These column widths cannot be altered in Quickword.

Tests also suggested that the feature to insert rows works well, even with complex table formats, including merger cells.

While table editing does not provide the depth of functionality found on desktop software, it is more than sufficient for entering tabular information into a document and adding information to existing tables.

There are several other improvements, such as the inclusion of a search direction option in Find and Replace, an undo feature, and copy and paste via the clipboard.

Despite the progress made with Quickword v4 there are still many document features which are unavailable. In most cases Quickword works around these very well. For example, in document using fields for cross references or calculations Quickword provided no indication that fields are present. However, if the text in a field is altered it does not affect the underlying field content. This could be a mixed blessing; on the one hand field integrity is retained, but on the other any change that is made to indicate an error in the field is lost when the field is updated.

There is also an annoying performance issue for users of Bluetooth technology keyboards. When editing a document, the longer the editing session the slower the response of Quickword, to the point where it is possible to be typing several words ahead of the displayed text. This issue seemed to be related to the length of text entered, not the length or size of the document being edited. Saving the document seems to "clear" the problem. This makes the creation of documents from scratch a little frustrating, but it is a small price to pay for the convenience and flexibility offered by an S60 device and Bluetooth keyboard.

While the functionality of Quickword has advanced significantly, there are still missing feature that might frustrate some users. Footnotes, endnote and comments all result in the display of a boxlike character and the content of these items is hidden, in both reading and page layout views. (The omission of comments is all the more frustrating given that they are supported in Quickpoint.) Tracked changes are shown, but all the additions and deletions are displayed, making a document with any significant number of alterations hard, it not impossible, to read. However, Quickword appears to preserves all these hidden features during document editing, so they are still available when the document is subsequently viewed and edited on a PC.

Quickword v4 is a significant improvement over it predecessor. The improved formatting options, display and editing of pictures, and the formatting and editing of tables adds greatly to the products usability. The roundtrip preservation of document content and formatting, as well as handling of unsupported features, is very robust. Quickword will however fall a little short for those organizations and user who employ templates with predefined styles, make significant use of footnotes and change tracking for document reviews. But, for most day to day use it should serve its user well, given that heavy editing is not likely to be the norm on most smartphones.


In the next part of this review Richard Bloor looks at Quicksheet v4, Quickpoint v4 and Quickmanager v4, read it here.

Availability

For those without Quickoffice on their device, Quickoffice v4 for S60 3rd Edition costs $US 49.99. Upgrade pricing for purchasers of the earlier version of Quickoffice or users of devices with that include Quickoffice is available. Quickmanager will provide upgrade pricing, which should be around $US 20.

For more information see www.quickoffice.com

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 06 February 2007 )
 


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