Microsoft Office Mobile: Hands-On With the Productivity Suite

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With Exchange, your Outlook e-mail inbox matches the one on your desktop at the office. Beefed up Exchange Server support lets IT administrators can set up one phone for multiple Exchange server accounts. (I wasn't able to test this by the time of posting, but I'm hoping to follow up in another story that explains how.)

You can set up POP3 and IMAP e-mail, and directly from third parties such as Google and Yahoo just by entering a user name and password.

Office Mobile is great for perusing long documents, thanks to the Outline icon.
Because setting up my Gmail account did seem to be that painless, I happily e-mailed a number of documents from the phone, purportedly from my Gmail account to my work e-mail. When I checked later, however, none of the items I thought I'd e-mailed appeared in my Sent folder in Gmail or in my work inbox. Since I never saw an error message, I hadn't suspected a problem.

After setting up the account again, though, Gmail worked.

How Useful?

Being able to open, edit, comment on, and send around Microsoft files is extremely useful if you work on the road. The files look lovely when you open them. I just wish that the process of finding files you haven't yet saved after an interruption was more elegant.

It didn't take long to add Gmail and Hotmail accounts, even if the first attempt didn't work.
Despite the usefulness of viewing Office files with Office Mobile, size matters when it comes to in-depth editing. Whether running around town or en route to far-off points, I'd rather navigate and edit heavy-duty work documents on a screen as least as large as that of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, if not the iPad. That said, Microsoft has clearly worked hard to make Office as practical as possible on a tiny screen.

However, I found it odd that Windows Phone 7 emphasizes two of the least popular Office products: SharePoint and OneNote. Sure, they're solid tools, but I want Word, PowerPoint, and Excel first and foremost. I don't really need to sync OneNote notes from my phone to a predetermined-by-Microsoft location within SkyDrive. On the other hand, if you're a OneNote fanboy, you'll love Office Mobile (anyone?).

Oops. Starting a new Excel spreadsheet, I typed in the wrong location. Too bad there's no cut-and-paste feature yet.
In my dreams, SkyDrive would be a prominent, central feature on the phone. It would seamlessly sync content the way so many other free services, like SugarSync, do at no cost. I hope that Microsoft will offer full-fledged syncing eventually.

As Windows Phone 7 lacks the banquet of third-party apps available for Android and iOS phones, Microsoft must be betting that Office Mobile will reel in users who rely on Office apps. That makes sense if your far-flung clients and colleagues constantly share work in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Heavy Excel users, particularly, will find more data-crunching options here than in other mobile apps.

For the majority of consumers, though, Office Mobile doesn't offer a compelling enough take-it-with-you set of tools to justify choosing a Microsoft phone over others. For anywhere-access to my work, I'd rather deal with Google Docs, despite its limited mobile editing for Android and iPad, than have to grapple with SkyDrive or e-mailing files on a Windows phone.

There's no live support available for Office Mobile if you're stuck, as is all too standard with software lately, but the online resources are thorough.

In Video: Windows Phone 7 Impresses on the Samsung Focus and HTC Surround

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