Free to use Word Processors for Android

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I still remember the days where term ‘wordprocessor’ was used to indicate an over glorified typewriter. I used WordStar on a Apple II, so I know how far this has been going on.

Over a decade ago, I told someone that office tools needed to be moved into the cloud so that you don’t have to pay those expensive licenses to Microsoft for use of their office Suite. This was before Google and just around the time of the decline of Netscape.

Today, with Google Docs, we can do this, all free of course with your Google account but we have all know now that this works best on paper . So when Google decided to buy out QuickOffice and gave it for free to Android users, everyone rejoiced.

The only users who didn’t were those who had paid for QuickOffice before it went the freeware route.

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QuickOffice Versus Polaris Office Versus Kingsoft Office

Cloud based office tools like Office365 and Google Docs need you to be online to use. This is fine if you are working form a desktop. When you are offline, you’re better off with a mobile app that does just this.

There are three office programs which I am familiar with, there are more but I don’t usually go for them as I need a spell check feature. Having been schooled into the British system, I have to revert to American spelling when I write online and this is where the spelling gets choked up. I don’t do presentations nor do I like doing it on a tablet or mobile device. The problem is the workflow. To add and edit, add, save and create files on mobile devices is a slow process.

On my Android Tablets, you should be able to find about three different type of Office tools. Namely, Quickoffice, Polaris Office and Kingsoft Office. I had to test drive the word processors before deciding which best suited me.

Truth be told, I was never a fan of Polaris Office, a Korean developed office suite that has very basic features. It works almost like a basic word processors with very basic functions. I didn’t test drive the spreadsheet as that is something I don’t really use either. Google owned QuickIOffice offers one of the poorest workflow performance so far. I don’t mind the minimalist approach to its design and UX, but it is almost like using an electric typewriter.

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QuickOffice document formatting can be found on the top right hand corner and that’s all you are getting!

Polaris is way better than QuickOffice I am afraid. For one, it will open any word file format. QuickOffice has given me errors and problems on opening files in both .docx and .doc. But the limitations of the office suite is probably one big caveat. How Infraware has gotten away with it so far boils down to its Korean roots. Polaris is given free with every Samsung Android device. So if they made a dollar on every Samsung device sold, they would be millionaires.

QuickOffice supports a document spell check and has a ‘check as you type’ feature to correct words and spelling. You can choose to go and resolve the spelling as you type or do it at the end of the document when you are done. Words and suggestions for spelling is supported with a dictionary and it relatively intuitive. Aside from this, both Polaris and QuickOffice don’t seem to fall very far from the same tree.

Behold the King!

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China founded Kingsoft rules the roost when it comes to Office tools. They are way better than some of the PAID Office Apps and will totally kick Microsoft Office365 into hyperspace. And yes, Kingsoft Office is FREE.

Now its feature rich UI design is a welcome change from the minimalist type word processors like QuickOffice and Polaris Office but it comes at a price. It is heavy on RAM usage and there are issues such as lag, sudden crashes and a less than stellar spell check function.

There is no ‘check as you type’ feature and the word suggestions are poor. It could not point out the correct spelling for spelling error syntax like “dont” for “don’t”. This Neanderthal intelligence is probably the one that irks me the most.

Conclusion?

Apparently there is no clear winner. All of them suffer from some handicap and at times, I wish the developers would pay more attention to the user experience (UX) and not the user interface (UI).

The biggest losers are Microsoft, which until this day refuses to put up a challenger in the hope that people will buy into their Windows RT platform just to access the Office Suite. Microsoft has one app on Android called OneNote which is more for note taking just like EverNote. All three provide some support for Cloud based storage, which I  abhor since there will be a time where data lines become inaccessible with no way to retrieve your files when you most need it.

There is much hope on Kingsoft, which for some reason has put out a desktop PC version of their Office suite. They seem to be pouring in loads of money to develop a very ambitious and free office suite. So let’s keep our fingers cross and hope that they will get it right in the next upgrade.

Lastly, I do not think I would write an entire book using a mobile wordprocessing app for one reason—user experience. Typing is far more rewarding on a physical keyboard than an onscreen version. The tactile feel is just right for you to keep your fingers moving. With a touch screen keyboard it’s just not the same. I still dream of using the IBM Keyboard that was made with a buckling spring. Fortunately it is still manufactured by Unicom but only for the PC and Mac.

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