Tablets are rapidly transitioning from novelty toys to business tools. While Apple's iPad may be today's workplace standard, with its maturing array of office and IT applications, Android-based slates are on the rise, boasting their own growing ecosystem of mobile work utilities.
Whether you want to transform your own Android tablet into a workhorse or support other business tablet users, the apps you choose can make or break the tablet experience. This is true particularly when it comes to productivity apps, where a significant portion of tablet-based business work resides.
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I tested five popular office suites to find the best possible productivity setup for Android tablet users. I looked at DataViz's Documents to Go, which costs $15 for the full premium version (needed for most features); Google's free Google Docs service, which is now part of the Google Drive application; Mobile Systems' $15 OfficeSuite Pro; Quickoffice's $20 Quickoffice Pro HD; and ThinkFree Mobile's $9 ThinkFree Mobile for Tablet. (Note: Prices are accurate as of this writing and may change over time.)
To assess the quality of each contender, I analyzed its handling of word processing, spreadsheet editing, and presentation management. I took into account the app's interface as it applies to the tablet form and the breadth and quality of features it offers. I also tested several stand-alone apps to find the best Android tablet tool for PDF manipulation, as most of the office suites don't natively provide that function.
Read on for the full breakdown and my recommendations for assembling the best overall office package for Android tablets.
The Best Android Tablet Word Processor
Think all word processors are created equal? Think again. Android's top tablet office suites run the gamut from magnificent to meh in their word processing capabilities -- and if you don't get the right app for your needs, expect a lot of headaches, especially when supporting business users who find your app of choice falling short of theirs.
Documents to Go
Documents to Go may be one of the biggest names in mobile document management, but when it comes to Android tablets, it's also one of the biggest disappointments. The app's interface has not been optimized for tablets or even updated to meet Google's basic Android 4.0 design standards. As a result, you're forced to use a legacy menu icon in order to access basic commands that should be presented as on-screen options. Worse yet, most commands are buried within layers of menus, making them even more arduous to access and difficult to find.
Documents to Go's word processor does offer a decent set of editing tools, including options for table insertion, comment management, and word count. It has optional Google Docs integration, too, along with its own stand-alone PC-to-cloud sync utility. But with its outdated interface, using this app on a tablet (or any Android 4.0 device) is anything but pleasant. It feels like using a program that was at the top of its game a year ago and hasn't been updated since.
Google Docs (Google Drive)
Google Docs' biggest advantage -- $0 price tag aside -- is its seamless integration with Google's cloud storage: Any files stored in Google Drive automatically show up in the app and are continuously synced with other Drive-connected devices. The app also supports live collaboration, meaning you can edit a document simultaneously with other users. The feature works flawlessly; you actually see other users' edits show up on your tablet in real time and vice versa.
The Google Docs word processing interface is clean, simple, and tablet-optimized, but it isn't exactly robust. It has basic text-formatting commands -- text color and style, alignment, indention, and bullet points -- but lacks much else in the way of options. You can't create or edit tables, for example, or perform a basic word count. At the time of my testing, the app also opened only documents that were in the proprietary Google Docs format and offered no option for converting or importing standard .doc or .docx files.
OfficeSuite Pro's word processor shows how a tablet-based productivity app should be done. The app has a classy, sleek, and easy-to-navigate interface that's fully optimized for the tablet form and built to take advantage of its ample screen space.
Basic text-formatting commands sit at the bottom of the app's word processing window, while more advanced commands live along the top of the screen. OfficeSuite Pro has options for finding and replacing text, undoing and redoing actions, inserting images, creating and editing tables, and taking word counts. On top of that, it can integrate directly with cloud storage accounts from Google Docs, Dropbox, Box, and SugarSync.
Quickoffice Pro HD
Quickoffice Pro HD has a clean and easy-to-use tablet-friendly interface. In the word processor, all commands are located along a bar at the top of the screen. Those commands include options for basic text formatting, in-document image management, and -- as of a recent update -- table creation and spell check, the latter of which is a unique feature among mobile office applications. The app lacks a word count function, though, which may be a problem for some users.
Quickoffice is no slouch in cloud storage support: The app can integrate with accounts from a huge array of cloud-based services, including Google Docs, Dropbox, Box, Evernote, Catch, and SugarSync.
ThinkFree Mobile for Tablet
ThinkFree features an attractive tablet-optimized interface that's a pleasure to use. Basic text formatting commands sit along the top of the word processing window, while more advanced options reside in a second bar above that.
ThinkFree's word processor supports table management and image insertion but lacks support for advanced features like word count, comments, and footnotes. The app integrates with ThinkFree's own cloud storage service -- you're given 1GB of free space when you buy the program -- but provides no option for utilizing accounts from any other cloud storage providers.
If you're a devoted Docs user who doesn't need advanced word processing capabilities, the Google Docs app might do the trick -- particularly if you're interested in real-time Docs-based collaboration. For most users, though, OfficeSuite Pro will provide the best experience for word processing on an Android tablet. Its only notable flaw is the lack of an integrated spell-check feature, but with nearly every virtual keyboard now providing on-the-fly autocorrect and autosuggest functionality, that void is not difficult to fill. Quickoffice Pro HD is a good choice as well, but lacks nice-to-haves, like word count; additionally, a less polished interface -- combined with its higher price tag--keep it squarely in second place.
Next page: Our pick for the best Android spreadsheet editor