Word Processing on Smartphone or Tablet

Category: Mobile

When you walk away from your home or office computer, you don't have to say goodbye to your documents or spreadsheets. There are plenty of apps for iPhone, iPad and Android users that let you do word processing and other Office-y tasks on your smartphone or tablet. Here's my roundup of the best options for editing your documents while on the go with a mobile device...

Mobile Word Processing for iPhone and Android

Trading a laptop for a smaller tablet or smartphone has its downsides, and one of them is writing. I do my serious scribing on a full-size QWERTY keyboard because it’s fast and comfortable. But when I'm on the move I want my computing device small and lightweight. That means some compromising on word processing capabilities and comfort. Here are some mobile word processing apps that will get the job done with minimal pain...

All Apple iOS devices (iPhone or iPad) come with Notes, a simple text editor that can be used to jot down a grocery list or write a novel; there is no arbitrary limit on document size, but formatting options are sparse. Apple users can spend $9.99 on Pages, a mobile app that is a stripped-down version of its desktop ancestor. It’s more powerful and flexible than Notes, and includes many more fonts. Both Notes and Pages will sync your work to a desktop device if you use iCloud.

Mobile Word Processing

iA Writer for iPad ($4.99) provides a nice blank canvas on which to write a masterpiece with either the on-screen keyboard or a Bluetooth detached keyboard. Dropbox integration is supported as well as iCloud. There is a Mac OS X version for desktop users.

Textilus ($5.99) is a full-blown word processor for iOS. You get a lot more fonts (some think, “too many”), bold, underline, italic styles, full search-and-replace, and more. It’s compatible with MS Word, Open Office, and Scrivener documents.

Cross-Platform Mobile Word Processing Apps

The free Google Drive app is Google's cross platform offering for word processing and cloud-based storage. It works on Android, iOS, Windows or Mac devices. The mobile version includes Google Docs, a basic word processor that lets you enter your prose, then doctor it up with fonts, bolding, italics and colors. You can cut, copy, paste, undo, redo; create tables and lists; and perform search & replace operations. Similarly, Google Sheets is available for working with spreadsheets.

And there are no worries about losing your work just because you forgot to save. Your work is automatically saved as you type, swipe, or talk. On my Android gadgets, the swipe method of typing lets me quickly "draw" each word by tracing the letters with my finger. But I prefer to use Android's excellent speech-to-text feature, which lets me speak instead of type. I find this much faster, and it eliminates the hassle of a cramped on-screen or bluetooth keyboard.

Why did I mention "cross platform"? Here's why... Because Docs and Sheets store your files in your Google Drive online storage, you can start editing a document on your smartphone or tablet, then jump over to your laptop or desktop, and pick it up from there, with all the comforts of your favorite keyboard, and a more feature-rich version of Docs or Sheets. Even cooler, if you have the document open on both your mobile and desktop screens, you can watch it being updated on one screen while you type or talk on the other.

Microsoft released a mobile version of Office for Android at the end of July, 2013. Like the iPhone version released earlier (Microsoft likes Apple better than Google?) this one is tied to Office 365, the subscription cloud service. Officially, it’s known as Office Mobile for Office 365 Subscribers, which almost read like a license agreement instead of a product name.

Office 365 subscribers are authorized to install Office Mobile on up to five devices, any mixture of Android and iOS. Office Mobile for Office 365, like its counterpart for Windows Phone, is optimized for displaying and editing documents in Word and Excel. It’s not neglecting the other Office components but they are not as well executed in the mobile environment as these two business staples.

More Word Processing Apps for Android

For only $4.99, Office Suite Professional 7 does practically all that Microsoft Office does, relying on cloud storage services such as MS Skydrive, Dropbox and others. The makers claim that it's the most popular mobile office suite, installed on over 120 million devices. You can create, edit, print and share files in Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats.

The free Amoeba text editor for Android costs nothing and delivers a basic text editor with more than one font choice. You can edit multiple documents at once and swipe left or right to switch between them. Amoeba can save files locally on your device's internal or SD card storage.

Mobile word processing can be simple or complex. I still look on it as a last resort when I can’t get to a laptop or desktop environment. That’s probably why prices of mobile word processing apps are typically less than five bucks and even free.

What's your goto app for mobile word processing? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Word Processing on Smartphone or Tablet"

Posted by:

Mac and Cheese
18 Dec 2013

I like Quickoffice, a free app from Google, available for download at the Google Play Store. I believe it came preinstalled on my Motorola Razr.

Quickoffice offers Quickword (for Word-like word processing), Quicksheet (for Excel-like spreadsheets), Quickpoint (for PowerPoint-like presentations), and QuickPDF (to view Portable Document Format files).

It has a good online user manual.

Posted by:

18 Dec 2013

Kingsoft (http://www.kingsoftstore.com/kingsoft-office-android)says it is the number one FREE app for Android. It will produce, read, and edit the 3 big MS Office products -- Word, Excel, Power Point. Built in spell-checker, microphone input, etc. It will also read pdf. Many other tools. It claims 12 million Android downloads and has versions for iOS, Windows, and Linux also.

I have also used Polaris which is free and does a lot of the same.

Posted by:

18 Dec 2013

I started using Kingsoft this summer and have really enjoyed it. Polaris is OK, but seems stilted when you move a document to your desktop. I have tried a few other free versions; but have not stepped up to any paid apps as of yet.

Posted by:

Joseph Fischer
18 Dec 2013

Great overview!

When choosing an app, check if it works offline, or if it requires an Internet connection. For example, some speech to text applications require an Internet connection to work, or to work well.

If you have important work or school files, make sure you can make local backups in formats you can read with other programs. It has happened that companies upgrade their apps and users find they suddenly can't access their old files. Also, make sure you have local backups of files you are storing in the Cloud.

A big advantage of a real keyboard is ease of moving around the screen. Virtual keyboards usually don't have arrow keys or special keys.

Posted by:

Art Sulenski
18 Dec 2013

I bought a Sero7 Pro tablet and ordered a case that also included a nice small USB keyboard. I now have a nice small laptop which fits nicely into my planner. Quickoffice gives me a nice portable Most of my needs when out and about plus I have an awesome e-reader and games to play whenever.

Posted by:

18 Dec 2013

What about Microsoft Access?

Posted by:

Dan Valleskey
18 Dec 2013

Closely related to the software- you mention bluetooth keyboards. I regularly use a plain old wired keyboard, with a little backwards USB/ mini plug I found on Amazon on my Android. Of course, you can not charge the battery at the same time you use the keyboard. But it works well.

Posted by:

Bill K.
18 Dec 2013

I also use Kingsoft for Android on my phone and tablet. So far, I have not run into any issues reading or writing to Word or Excel; however, my Word docs are fairly standard, and my Excel spreadsheets do not use any of the advanced Excel features. I have not tried reading in, or creating, a PowerPoint presentation.

Posted by:

19 Dec 2013

Not truly mobile word processing, but before I retired and I had to work forma remote location I used GoToMyPC.com (I think it's called)which had to be paid for to access our office computer and used all the programs on a work station there. I have since discovered logmein.com which has a free version and a pay for version. Both work very well. As a an alternative
I have used open office and sky drive in my laptop to do word processing and later transfer to a PC - office or home.

Posted by:

Mike Collins
19 Dec 2013

I recently bought an Ipad mini retina which comes with Pages as a free download. With a Bluetooth keyboard word processing is much easier than on my Windows laptop with Word. I can also email the Pages documents to my work PC as Word documents.

Posted by:

19 Dec 2013

There is a free app for iOS called HopTo. You can access all your files from your PC or from Goodgle Drive or Dropbox. You can edit Microsoft Office documents but not open document format like for LibreOffice (maybe later they do it)

Posted by:

19 Dec 2013

bob, regarding your comment
"(Microsoft likes Apple better than Google?)"
[was it tongue-in-cheek?], let's be reminded that MS is part of apple's board of directors when gates decided to help maintain the company back in the days when MS was being tried for possible anti-trust law fraud compensation to the feds.
btw, i'm surprised you didn't add in this article the access to MO the nokia windows phones, like the lumia 521, have, unless you were planning to comment on them all by themselves.
God bless!

Posted by:

19 Dec 2013

On my iPad I use Smart Office 2. It is a free app and you have a word processor and a spreadsheet which are compatible with Microsoft Word and Excel

Posted by:

Louis Paul Toscano
20 Dec 2013

I just go into GMail and email the text to me, syncing it to my home computers, having lost a document in Notepad on my hemorrhoid phone.

Posted by:

Bruce Fraser
21 Dec 2013

Your comments are accurate... but you overlook one HUGE factor: I cannot imagine writing more than a short paragraph on the on-screen keyboard of a phone or tablet. For serious work, I depend on a real keyboard. I use an Office program alright, but only to read, and perhaps do slight editing.

Posted by:

Lady Adellandra
31 Dec 2013

I've come across this article many times before, the first leading to my "experimenting" with different office-type apps for my Kindle Fire HD (previous generation). I bought QuickOffice Pro for it and recently learned I could take from my cloud drives: Box, Google Drive, SugarSync, SkyDrive and DropBox and work on them with the Bluetooth Keyboard. I could also save from one to the other.

Those I "experimented" with beforehand were Kingsoft Office and the office suite that came with it. I've also tried Polaris (for a buck via Amazon), wasn't really enthused about either one. Now that I found out from your commenter: Daniel, you can use a microphone with it, I'll try that feature out as well. I'm losing my typing abilities to severe carpal tunnel, so that feature is a perk for me.

For short notes that cross-platform, I use EverNote. You can save any file on there by drag-n-drop and open it on anything that has a similar program installed.

On another note, I've enjoyed and look forward to your newsletters as they've been an excellent source of information.

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