Thursday, October 20, 2011

ThinkFree Mobile Office for Android OS Full Review:: An Office Suite for Phones

Even if you�re already somewhat familiar with ThinkFree Office (TFO), you might not be aware of everything it can do. The full version of TFO, sold for $9.99 on the Android Market, is the least expensive of all of the paid Microsoft Office-compatible suites for Android OS phones. Yet while this app still leaves a few things to be desired, it does give you very good value.

An Office Suite for Phones for Android

Some Android devices today come standard with either the free or demo version of TFO, although the competing QuickOffice is more commonly found. The free or �lite� version of TFO allows you to view and transfer Office documents. The demo version lets you perform document editing, too, but only for two days.

That�s where ThinkFree Office Mobile for Android 2.0 (and above) comes in. The paid app boasts full create, view and edit support for Microsoft Office files and formats which include Word, Excel and PowerPoint, versions �97 through 2010. Another nice thing is that the $9.99 version of TFO doesn�t handle Office documents alone. It will also open, edit, and save TXT and RTF files, which many other note and word processing apps for Android won't do. This is particularly convenient if you want to work with docs pulled off the Internet. Just for good measure, TFO also includes a full PDF viewer, with text reflow support. By way of comparison, competing suites cost about $15 and up.

Clean and simple UI
On first inspection, the user interface (UI) of ThinkFree Office is surprisingly clean and simple. It gives you a basic file explorer type view, with tabs for the various places where files can be located, such as the local storage of the device, your ThinkFree online account, and Google Docs.

Opening and saving documents is very intuitive. ThinkFree's online accounts are actually pretty good. A free signup at their website provides you with 1 GB of online storage space for your documents, accessible from your Android device or any computer. The storage space can only be used for documents, not regular files, but that's hardly much cause for complaint.

An Office Suite for Phones for Android


Editing tools could be more extensive
TFO�s actual editing screen is a little bit busier, but not by a lot. Most of the screen is left open for viewing the document in question, while controls for editing are in a small bar at the bottom. There are too many controls to display at once in portrait mode, so you need to scroll left and right to get at them all. That�s not bad, but I'd like to see an option to display them all on one screen.

The editing tools are fairly basic. You get the only minimum you need to perform word processing tasks: fonts, text flow, images, etc. While I haven't used the competing options like Quickoffice all that much, a comparison of the two spec sheets indicates that Quickoffice definitely offers a few advantages, including footnotes, endnotes, and support for more online storage options such as Dropbox, Box.net, and SugarSync. If those features are important to you, ThinkFree Office is probably not the way to go. However, TFO does offer a solid base of functionality that will cover the vast majority of word processing needs on a smartphone. A separate edition of TFO is available for Apple iPhones.

ThinkFree Office also comes in a version for Android 3.0, geared specifically towards the displays of larger tablets, but it is sold separately. Even if you already own the smartphone-optimized version, the tablet edition will run you another $10. Alternatively, you can merely use the "less optimized" smartphone version on your tablet.

An Office Suite for Phones for Android

Online sync needs the most work
There's room for improvement in ThinkFree Office, but nowhere more so than in how it exploits online storage options. Right now, you can have a document on your device, or create it there, and then upload it to your ThinkFree online account. You cannot, though, choose to upload it to your Google Docs account. Nor can you set a document or folder to automatically synchronize with one or both of your accounts. If you want to keep a document up-to-date both on the device and online, you need to do this manually, downloading or uploading the doc as appropriate. And if you re-upload a document from your device , TFO will not prompt you to ask whether you want to overwrite the older file. It will just automatically rename the document you're attempting to upload.

For instance, if you download "Example.doc" from your ThinkFree account, make some edits, and then reupload the doc, you'll end up with the old, non-updated "Example.doc" in your account side by side with "Example(1).doc."  If you do this again, you'll end up with "Example(2).doc,"  as well. That could get very frustrating, particularly if you need to update a doc often.

15-minute refund period (!)
There's also room for improvement in ThinkFree's policies toward buyers. With most applications purchased through the Android Market, you get a 24-hour window in which you can decide to receive a refund. This is very handy if you discover that, for whatever reason, an app won't run on your device, or it doesn't have the feature you critically need. This happened to me just the other day with a game. The game didn't like running on my device, so I had to obtain a refund.

With ThinkFree Office, however, the allowed refund period is just 15 minutes. As you might imagine, this policy could lead to a lot of cranky customers. No real reason is given for why the refund window is so short. It just is.

Conclusion
The paid version of ThinkFree Office has its share of annoyances. It�s not the most cutting-edge Microsoft Office-compatible suite for Android. If you need more options, you're probably better off with something else. Still, though, TFO is a very simple and relatively inexpensive app with excellent cross-format compatibility. I can't unreservedly recommend it,  However, I can say that it meets the needs most people have for an Office suite on Android, and furthermore, that with a few updates, TFO might grow into an excellent app.
Pros
  • Simple and easy to use
  • Strong multi-format support
  • Online integration with ThinkFree and Google Docs
Cons
  • Lacks an automatic syncrhonization option
  • Short refund window
  • Awkward online storage handling

Individual Ratings: *
Service, Warranty & Support  
Ease of Use 
Design 
Performance 
Value 

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