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Software Review: Quickoffice v4 for S60, Part 2 Print E-mail
Written by SymbianOne   
Tuesday, 06 February 2007
In the second part of our review of Quickoffice v4 Richard Bloor looks at Quicksheet, Quickpoint, and Quickmanager; before drawing some overall conclusions about Quickoffice.

Quicksheet v4

Quicksheet has received an update to its menu structure, gained new functions, and received under the hood updates to its expression and formula support.

The most obvious change is the menu structure. It follows the same philosophy behind the changes seen in Quickword v4, a reduction of menu levels and the use of dialogs for feature selection. There has also been a reorganization of the features, most significant of which is that cells and ranges can be formatted without first having to go into edit mode.

Formatting has also been improved with a far wider range of date, time and number formats available, as well as support for text wrapping in cells.

Quicksheet has expanded support for Excel functions and improved its handling of more complex formulas. The additional functions fill in gaps throughout the range, with support for ADDRESS, FIND, STDEVA, ISNA and around 30 others. The formula support adds handling for features such as implicit intersection, named cells and array constants. This new formula support can make quite a difference to complex spreadsheets, where changes in cells within the scope of such formulas could cause errors throughout a sheet.

Editing has also been improved with the ability to add cells, ranges of cells (in rows or columns) and rows and columns. Rows and columns can also be deleted.

A deficiency with Quicksheet remains the lack of support for graphs. However, the biggest problem with Quicksheet is nothing to do with the range of features supported in Quicksheet; it is a limitation of the devices it runs on. Even with a QVGA screen, on a device such as the Nokia E61 or Nokia N93, the scope for viewing large spreadsheets is limited. While not a new feature, the ability to freeze panes can help significantly with this problem. However, the convenience of being able to view and edit spreadsheets on an S60 device outweighs the problems created by the small viewing area.

The improvements to Quicksheet are the least glamorous of all the changes in Quickoffice v4. They are however significant. The improved menu structure makes Quicksheet easier to use than its predecessor. The new editing capabilities mean that changes to sheets can go beyond correcting formulas and adding data in existing, unused rows or columns. The new function and formula support means that more complex spreadsheets can be viewed and changed. Essentially Quicksheet provides the features needed to view and update spreadsheets on the move, without over burdening the user with less frequently used features.

Quickpoint v4

Of the three components of Quickoffice, Quickpoint has progressed the most in this new version. Editing of slide content is very much improved, with the ability to edit and add several object types within a presentation.

The basic interface to Quickpoint remains the same, with a tab for the slide view, an outline view and a slide's notes. The order of the tabs seems some what strange, navigating from the slide, through the deck outline to the slides notes, but this is soon forgotten.

Quickpoint shares the same zooming mechanism with the other two applications in each of its views. However, when editing the content of a textbox or note zooming reverts to a "zoom in", "zoom out" style, which seems very laborious, compared the new mechanism.

In the slide view all the individual elements on the slide can now be selected and edited to some extent.

The editing features vary from object to object. For text elements the content can be edited and formatted (with largely the same format options offered in Quickword) and the container resized, moved, rotated, flipped, and reordered in the object sequence. The content of comments can be changed and as can their position. While the content of images cannot be altered, they can be resized, moved, rotated, flipped, and reordered in the object sequence. For all remaining objects the editing is limited to deleting the item.

In addition to altering the content of existing slides it is possible to insert new ones. This feature now has the option to base the new slide on one of a number of slide templates.

It is then possible to add textboxes, images, tables and comments to the new slide. The image browser is the same as seen in Quickword, with the same limitations discussed earlier applying. Tables are also added in a similar fashion to Quickword, by specifying the number of rows and columns. However, unlike Quickword, once created a Quickpoint table cannot be extended with additional rows. The table container and each cell within a table are separate objects.

Each table cell can have text added and formatting applied.

While it is relatively easy to populate a table, formatting is a little more hit and miss, as there is no column and row dimension control - cells are evenly distributed over the available table height and width. A resize function allows a table to be expanded or contracted either horizontally or vertically, as well as "evenly" to maintain the table's aspect ration. The control of this resizing is very fine and large size changes can takes some time.

The slide view also supports a new feature to review comments. Once selected this options allows the comments to be navigated with the up and down cursor keys. While the display of the comments content is almost unreadable, because it is so small and unaffected by the zoom level, it is possible to open the comment and view the detail. However, it is not possible to edit the comment during the review process; this can only be done by returning to the slide and editing them there.

The outline view is largely self explanatory offering a view of the slide titles and, when expanded, the outline text within them.

The content of titles and outline text can be edited within the outline view. Slides can also be inserted and deleted slides, and reorder by moving them up or down the outline list. Navigation to the next or previous slide is also provided, as well as a new feature allowing navigation to a specific slide.

There is now a find and replace function, which is only available in the outline view. This has the same features as the Quickword search plus the addition of a "find whole words" option. This addition in Quickpoint alone seems odd; it would have been as, if not more, useful in Quickword. Finding is also limited to the heading and outline text, so text in textboxes that matches the search string is not found.

The notes view is the simplest of the Quickpoint views. It now offers the ability to edit notes, its only unique function. When editing a note, the same format options offered in Quickword can be used for notes text, in addition to which there is an indent/unindent option.

The one feature conspicuous in its absence from Quickpoint is the ability to run the presentation using a product such as iGo Duo Pro or similar multimedia presentation products. This feature is available on the previous UIQ version of Quickpoint and seems an unfortunate omission.

Quickpoint is vastly improved in this version. The editing support, the ability to add images and tables, as well as edit notes makes it a much more practical tool than the previous version. It rounds out the Quickoffice suite making the "leave your laptop behind" claim a lot more justifiable.

Quickmanager v4

Quickoffice is an optional component within the S60 platform. As a result it is likely to appear on many S60 devices. However, it may appear simply as a viewer and even when the full version is provided, as the users phone ages, newer version will become available. Quickmanager allows Quickoffice users to update and upgrade the version of Quickoffice shipped with their phone or one they have purchased and installed themselves. In addition, it provides a small marketplace for complementary applications and services, as well as a downloader for free offers and content.

Opening Quickmanager offers a browsing interface with access to the three "stores": updates and upgrades, Quickoffice products and offers and promotions.

Opening any of the stores for the first time gives a prompt asking if the store should be refreshed. If accepted the next prompt asks for a network connection to be selected. This connection can be via any available connection to the Internet, be it the mobile network or a WiFi connection. Once the refresh has completed the content of the store is displayed. In the example below this was the store offered for updates and upgrades to the built in version of Quickoffice on a Nokia N93.

Selecting a product opens a description, which includes cost information. Licensing is available for both perpetual licenses and time limited (one month) licenses. If the user decides to go ahead, the price is redisplayed before the software download is started. (Note that the preview price is no longer available.)

Once the download is complete the user is asked for payment details.

Finally the user is asked to enter their name and contact email address before the application is installed.

The process works well and certainly delivered the upgraded version for Quickoffice to a Nokia N93 quickly and efficiently. There is a small fault in the upgrade and update section of the store, which continues to offer the option to update to the editing version of Quickoffice v4, although it is the one already installed. (Quickoffice Inc. have a server change planned to fix this problem.)

At the time of writing there were four commercial products (the Quickweather, Quickclock, and QuickID application as well as the Quickfax service) on offer in Quickmanager. In addition, there were two free Sudoku games and a set of sample file available.

The one concern with Quickmanager was that it provided no assurance as to the security of the credit card details either in transmission over the internet or in storage once received by Quickoffice Inc.. This could be a disincentive to some users. (However, Quickoffice Inc, has informed us that the credit card data is transmitted over an encrypted HTTPS link.)

A Note on Upgrading

While undertaking this review a problem with software upgrading was encountered. Trying to load the new Quickoffice onto SymbianOne's Nokia N93 failed using an installation package downloaded over the Web. However, the upgrade provided via Quickmanager installed with out any problems. According to Quickoffice some phones with Quickoffice preinstalled can have this problem. It would seem advisable therefore to use Quickmanager where possible to upgrade (which also guarantees the upgrade price.)

The competition

Quickoffice currently has one competitor on S60 3rd Edition, OfficeSuite from Mobile Systems Inc. A broad comparison between these two products is that Quickoffice offered breadth of office document support, with a useful depth of feature in each of its three supported document types. OfficeSuite by contrast has narrower support (it does not support presentations) but does have some greater depth in the features supported in documents and spreadsheets (it support graphs in spreadsheets for example).

Of the two Quickoffice looks like the preferred choice because it allows a user to work usefully with all the types of Microsoft Office documents.

Conclusion

Quickoffice has improved significantly with this new S60 version release. The worst aspect of the upgrade is a slightly uneven implementation of new features. The support for comments in Quickpoint might have been much more useful in Quickword. These oddities aside, Quickoffice has done an excellent job with v4. All the products are easier to use than their predecessors. The menus are shorter and more easily navigated. The use of dialogs for features such as formatting or table insertion, offers commonality between functions in the different applications, which enhances usability further. The new features mean that documents, spreadsheets, and presentation can be usefully edited away from a PC. While most user will not be ditching their laptops altogether, Quickoffice v4 for S60 certainly means there will be many more occasion when the laptop stays in the office.


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

 


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