Mobile editing app adds few new features

One of the best features of PDA phones is their ability to handle not just e-mail but also the attachments that invariably come with it. While Windows Mobile users almost always get Mobile Office to view and edit documents, Palm users have had to look for third-party tools. For years, DataViz Documents To Go has been the utility of choice for editing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files (and viewing PDFs) on Palms. I looked at the most recent release, Documents To Go Premium Edition 9, and while the software is as impressive as always, it adds only a few new features -- which might make justifying an upgrade tough.

Like the older editions of the program, the new US$50 (AUD$63, as of 12/13/06) suite can open any standard Microsoft Office file (it does not yet support Office 2007 files, but DataViz says it plans to add the feature soon after the new Office is officially released); through its simple interface you can perform most common editing functions. The Palm screen closely re-creates the looks of the original document (fonts, pictures, and all), while a stripped-down menu system rides along the bottom of the screen.

Editing documents in Word is no more difficult than typing an e-mail, but the portable version of Excel takes some time to master. In Word you can do everything from checking spelling to creating bulleted lists to formatting paragraph spacing and indentation -- and, new in version 9, you can edit comments, text boxes, and even footnotes. In Excel you can format and rearrange cells, and create charts from scratch, but you could always do that. The only new Excel feature in version 9 is the addition of one more chart type.

Documents To Go's latest version of PowerPoint has been upgraded to handle files natively (as it handles Word and Excel files); older editions of the program required conversion to a different file format, which could cause some formatting loss, a huge problem in presentation files. Otherwise, it's functionally the same as prior versions.

While Documents To Go is extremely capable, it is still defined by what it can't do. Unfortunately, the suite still does not support Word's widely used Track Changes. Though you can view comments and footnotes, you can't create new ones. And the software can have problems with large files: Flipping pages on a lengthy PDF can take up to a minute, and big PowerPoint files open exceedingly slowly.

Nonetheless, Palm users without Documents To Go will want to download this useful application suite. Those people with prior versions of the software (which is preinstalled on Palm-based Treos) may balk at paying the $30 upgrade price just so they can read a few footnotes.

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Christopher Null

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