All play and no work makes your smartphone or tablet an expensive toy. But with the help of a wide selection of professional-grade mobile apps from the Android Market, your Android device can get down to business. In this tutorial, we'll show you how to manage files on your device, and we'll highlight some of the best tools and apps for viewing, creating, and editing business documents on the go.
Transferring Files to Your Android Device
You have several ways to move files onto, off of, and around your Android phone or tablet. The most basic method is to connect the device to your PC through a USB cable. Once your computer has recognized the device, you can click through its storage, explore and create folders, drag files around on the drive, or copy items between the device and your PC's hard drive.
You can also install a wireless file transfer utility such as WebSharing File/Media Sync, available for $2.99 in the Android Market. The WebSharing app allows you to securely access an Android device's storage from your PC over a Wi-Fi network. It provides a Web-based graphical interface to browse the device and do everything you could do with a physical connection.
If you don't mind using a middle-man, you can utilize cloud-based services like Dropbox or SugarSync to transfer files, too. Both services offer free accounts with generous storage allotments (2GB with Dropbox, 5GB with SugarSync) and options to upgrade if you need additional space. Both services also offer dedicated Android apps that allow you to easily copy files to and from your cloud-based storage.
SugarSync provides an additional useful function: It lets you set up automated syncing of files between your phone or tablet and the cloud (and then from there onto your PC, if you wish). This gives you a painless way to keep the files on your device -- be they photos, Word documents, or any other important data--backed up and synced up for your safety and convenience.
With many tablets running Android 3.1 or higher, you have one more option: You can plug USB devices like digital cameras into the tablet itself and copy files directly onto the device. Your tablet's Gallery app will launch automatically when a compatible camera is connected. Some tablets, such as the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, allow you to connect and access USB storage drives as well.
Android File Management
All right, so you have your data on your phone or tablet. Now you just need a reliable tool to help you explore the files.
An excellent tool for accessing and managing data is Astro File Manager (free with ads, or $3.99 for an ad-free "pro" edition). This simple yet robust utility gives you a Windows-style view of all the folders, files, and documents on your phone. Whether it's a word-processor document, a photo, or a music file, you can get quick in-menu previews of a file's contents, or tap the item to launch the file in your preferred application.
In Astro's menu bar, you'll find options that let you move, copy, rename, or delete files. Tap the Multi option, and you can select multiple files or folders to work with. Astro can even zip and unzip files--a function that frequently comes in handy when working away from the office.
For tablet users, File Manager HD is another good option; its functionality is similar to Astro's, and it's optimized to take full advantage of the additional space on the tablet display.
View, Create, and Edit Documents
For basic document viewing and manipulation, Google's free Google Docs app is often enough to get the job done. The Google Docs app lets you create, view, and edit word processing and spreadsheet documents stored within your cloud-based Google Docs account. The interface is incredibly limited, however, so if you need to do anything more than reading or unformatted text input, you'll want a more robust solution.
If you want to do more-involved work from your phone, DataViz Documents To Go is even more robust and reliable for serious business files on Android than it is on the BlackBerry and other mobile platforms. This $20 app suite lets you view and edit existing Office documents as well as create new documents right on your phone. It can also edit charts, a feature that is well beyond the capabilities of most other mobile apps.
The best full-featured solution we've tested is Documents To Go, by Dataviz. The main app is available free, but for full editing functionality, grab the $14.99 "Full Version" upgrade. It gives you a powerful productivity suite, complete with options for text formatting, word count, comment insertion, and table creation. You also get a desktop-like spreadsheet editor and PowerPoint presentation tool.
Documents to Go even boasts native Google Docs integration, so if you want to store or sync your files in the cloud, you can do that right from the app as well.