Microsoft Office Mobile: Hands-On With the Productivity Suite

Microsoft's release of Windows Phone 7 brings updated Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote Mobile, to your fingertips. The touchscreen-friendly revamp of Office Mobile is radically different from the previous version. And files are supposed to resemble their appearance on the desktop more closely.

Shrinking Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote to fit in the palm of your hand is no easy feat. Microsoft does a decent, though not spectacular, job of placing basic editing features on the hand. You swipe and slide through the screens (which feature large, legible fonts), tapping on the touchscreen keyboard to type.

Office Mobile comes preinstalled on Windows Phone 7 phones. I tested the tools on an HTC Surround for AT&T. If you have a Windows Phone 6.5 device, you can download an Office Mobile upgrade from the Windows Marketplace

Look, Feel, and Features

Documents appear in their fullly formatted glory, shrunken down. That means you see charts, graphics, bullet points, numbered lists, slideshow transitions, and animation. Word text flows for optimal viewing as you turn the phone sideways.

From the Office Hub, you can hold down the name of a file and get options to send or delete it, or to view the properites. I'm not sure, though, why OneNote notebooks can appear as a Tile while Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files show up in a text list.

The Office Hub displays, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files. Hold your finger down one the name of one, and options appear to send via e-mail or to delete it.

New XML support means that you can open DOCX and other such "X" files, introduced in Office 2007, on the handset seamlessly. PowerPoint Mobile lets you read, not edit, PPT, PPS, PPSX, and PPSM files. Longtime users dealing with various document types will enjoy not needing to deal with an add-on.

A major annoyance is the lack of cut-and-paste functionality, although Microsoft says that's coming in 2011. Most people are likely to use a phone to make quick tweaks to documents, so you'd naturally want to be able to copy, say, a remark from your boss's e-mail straight into a meeting agenda in Word. For now, at least, when you type words or names that you use frequently on the phone, predictive text makes suggestions you can autofill.

Another irritant (at least from a reviewer's perspective) is that you can't save a screenshot image of what appears on the phone's display.

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Within the small Office Mobile interfaces, Microsoft's navigation highlights include an outline pane and hyplerlinked tables of contents within documents. The outline pane selects key points drawing from the headings of documents and slides. That's helpful if you're wrangling with a long file.

Rather than syncing files from the desktop or the cloud to the handset, you have to manually download them from an e-mail account or Windows Live via a mobile browser. Luckily, Office Mobile 7 supports XML-based files.
If that doesn't help you find the key point on page 52 of your white paper, from the app bar in Word and Excel, you can tap Find, the magnifying- glass icon, to look up keywords.

Comments on Office documents will automatically get the identity of the person registered as the phone's owner. You should be careful if, in some rare case, you use a friend's or coworker's phone to make changes to a document that you then send around.

Syncing and Sending

You can sync files whether you're an individual with a free Windows Live SkyDrive account--which offers up to 25GB of storage--or a member of a big company that leans on SharePoint for collaboration. Users of SharePoint, which I did not test, can manage stored files and import My Site links. SkyDrive users, however, get a dismally limited version of syncing for the phone: It syncs only OneNote notebooks.

To get started with SkyDrive on the phone, you first register the phone with a Windows Live ID. Other than that, you'll have to dig to find any mention of the free service. There's too much emphasis on SharePoint, which the majority of individuals and small businesses don't use.

From Windows Live on mobile Internet Explorer, I was able to download content saved to the free SkyDrive service. SharePoint users get more-seamless syncing options.
When ready to sync OneNote via SkyDrive, you visit Office on the phone, go to OneNote, select All, then touch the Refresh icon. I would never have found that without the Microsoft product guide.

But because I couldn't sync Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files among my desktop, the Web, and the phone using SkyDrive, I resorted to e-mailing them to myself.

Opening a 36-page Word document attched in Hotmail on the handset took several minutes, but only a few seconds for a 10-page file. Word Mobile rendered formatting, fonts, and images beautifully.

Next page: Word and Excel

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