The Business Class iPhone - DocumentsToGo with Microsoft Exchange

There is something that PC and Mac users share. It doesn't necessarily apply to every Mac geek, but from my experience, every person that buys a new computer want's Microsoft Office installed wether it is a Mac or a PC.

Since the iPhone and iPod Touch are available for users of both platforms, it was necessary to have a solution for them. The iPhone OS Mail has the ability to read, but not edit, Office documents and PDF files. DataViz, who develops for other mobile phone platforms and seems to me the industry standard, released back in June their iPhone DocumentsToGo [iTunes Link].

The same way PC and Mac users alike want to create and edit .doc and .xml documents, there is not built-in solution for the iPhone. Documents ToGo brings the possibility of creating and editing Office files to the iPhone. 

Updated: Version 3.3 makes this app Universal, supporting iPad screen sharing, document compatibility with built-in apps like Mail and the possibility to backup with iTunes, SugarSync and MobileMe. The icon has changed its design too, probably to work nicely on the iPad's larger screen.


Before you start the user will need to install a desktop application to synchronize files with the iPhone. In my case, the Mac version is simple and straight forward and I got it working with no pain. It also allows you to include a link to the Sync folder in your Finder menu, so that's handy as well. 


DocsToGo has a short launch time. Opening the app took me something like two seconds on an iPhone 3GS and I was able to access my big  MB folder immediately. The app waits until you open one file to start loading it and there is where you can see some loading time. 

The main screen is structured in a  handy way. Firstly, it offers you to choose the location of your files. Local files for the ones not synchronized with your desktop, and Desktop files for the ones that are. This is helpful to know what you have to back up and track latest changes. In the Exchange version of the app, you'll get a section called "Attachments" that allows you to see the attachments in your Exchange account thanks to Active Sync. This is a deal breaker for the Business iPhone user. The capacity to see Exchange attachments in a nice and simple view, with the option to edit them a tap away, really makes this a powerful tool. 


On a different category in the main view, you can see the four latest used files, with the date and time on display. Alternatively, you can choose to create a MS Word and MS Excel documents or an email with attachments. 


The opening a file, DocsToGo will render it sharply and will display it without margins, where the text fits the whole width of the screen. This behaviour is the same in landscape mode. This view/edit mode has a top and bottom toolbars full of goodies. In the top it will bring a keyboard for you to enter data. On the bottom, you get a slidable bar with eleven editing commands. The button on the lower right corner makes the app controls disappear to see a full view of the page. This is handy for reading and making annotations. 


Every editing button contains more options, giving the user the the possibility to format text, cut copy and paste, Find and replace words and redo/undo, just to give you an idea. There is no text explaining what every command does, which will require the user to memorize every function. The most usual ones are fairly easy to identify, but perhaps on the first use you might want to try what everything does to get familiar with the position of the most used features. 


The interface could be a bit cluttered at times, but I can see that they have tried to squeeze as many options as possible without having to dig through submenus. Loading, saving, changing view and page have all nice flip and slide animations, which brings a little pinch of fun in this business app. 


During my testing I synched and edited constantly big Word documents (made on purpose for the test) and used complex files of 4MB and some big PDF files, being the largest 7,6MB. Although being initially reluctant to use a suite solution in my iPhone, I used the opportunity to use it to read some doc files from work, and it did the job. I could edit and send changes to the appropriate person by email from my iPhone.


It is not surprise that this is a popular app. It has never leaved the top 10 in the productivity category since it's debut. As a Mac user I use everyday Pages and PDF documents, and DocsToGo support their latest formats as well. It has a huge appeal and it fixes most of the problems that business users have with the iPhone. DataViz is a seasoned app and retails it's iPhone app at almost desktop version price. With their current track and updates brought to DocsToGo, I can recommend with confidence the Exchange version for business users and the normal one for home users.