I'm not ready to ditch my laptop in favor of my Treo 650. But if I had to make do with only a handheld for a day or two, DataViz's venerable Documents to Go would certainly help me get my work done. I tried out the latest release of the Premium Edition (version 8) and was pleasantly surprised at its out-of-the-box usability.
I haven't always had great luck with previous versions of the suite that I've encountered bundled on some of the Palms I've tried in recent years. I remember trying to open up a Word file in Documents to Go and not being able to read it at all - the type looked all squished. I seem to recall that DataViz sent me an update (or pointed me to one) that fixed the problem, but the experience definitely dampened my enthusiasm for trying to deal with Office files on my handheld.
But for the most part, things went much more smoothly with Documents to Go Premium 8. Using the Docs to Go desktop application, I was able to drag and drop documents from my PC to either my handheld or its expansion card (the actual transfer occurs during the next HotSync). Alternatively, Office apps received as e-mail attachments on my handheld automatically opened in the appropriate Documents to Go application - no desktop conversion was required.
Documents to Go Premium supports three Office apps: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. On the handheld they are actually called, respectively, Word to Go, Sheet to Go, and Slideshow to Go. A fourth app makes its debut in this version: PDF to Go, for viewing files in the ubiquitous Adobe format.
But none of these components appear individually in the Palm menu: Instead, you get a Documents icon that when tapped scans the device for and creates a list of supported documents. In addition to the formats the four core apps support (and these are not just the defaults - for example, Word to Go will open .rtf documents), the program serves as a viewer for the popular .bmp, .gif, and .jpg graphics formats.
If your list of documents is long (as mine was, since it included a slew of .jpg images I've captured using the Treo 650's built-in camera), you can tap one of the taskbar icons to access filtering options based on the application (any of the four to-Go apps or the graphics viewer). That should help shrink the list. When you see the document you're looking for, tap it again to open it in the appropriate application.
A capable Word
In my tests with an assortment of documents, I was most impressed with Word to Go's capable handling of Microsoft Word documents. It rendered fonts and basic formatting faithfully (except for line length, which was adjusted to fit the Treo's small screen). And when I returned the document to the desktop, it looked the way it did before I transferred it - line lengths and all.
Of course, you cannot do on a handheld what you can on a desktop. What I missed most in Word to Go was revision mode, which we use extensively here at PC World to track the many changes a manuscript goes through before it's published - even on the Web (what, you thought no one edited me?).
The edits and comments made in revision mode did appear in a document I transferred from my desktop - but they were not in color, which is one way of telling who made the changes, since each person's edits appear in a different color. There was, in fact, no way to tell what had been changed from the original, since all text looked the same.
Sheet to Go also stuck to Excel's basics: You can do simple formatting and formulas. But you can't, for example, copy a formula into an adjacent cell the way you can with Excel.
This minimalist approach is taken to its most extreme with Slideshow to Go, which basically lets you create slides with bullet points. You can't add graphics, although you can see them in slides received as e-mail attachments.
However, Slideshow is much more serviceable as an editing tool: You can add, remove, or move around bullet points; create notes; and shuffle slides. When you sync up again, the software transfers your changes back to the original presentation.
A rehearsal mode lets you time your presentation so you can gauge whether you're in the ballpark of your allotted time slot. However, you might not get great results if you use a lot of animation and other effects: Slideshow doesn't support them.
Slideshow does support Margi's Presenter-to-Go, a hardware/software product that allows you to connect a handheld to a projector and make your presentation.
PDF to Go can display PDF files, but I was disappointed by the way they looked. In some cases, hyphens broke up words, as if the copy had wrapped around a column in a previous view. I also saw text that overlapped images, making both the words and the pictures difficult to see. But these glitches aside, the application at least allowed me to view a layout larger than my handheld's screen by zooming in and out, and also moving the document around using the stylus.
How much Office do you really need?
Microsoft Office is so huge that it's absurd to even imagine it in handheld form. But sometimes you cannot get to the full-blown version - and when that happens, I find that it's nice to have even a small Office so I can whittle away at the paperwork that invariably greets me when I return to my desk.
Documents to Go comes in several different configurations. The Premium Edition I tried out goes for US$50. A $30 Standard Edition includes only Sheet to Go and Word to Go, and a $40 Professional Edition adds Slideshow to Go - but leaves out the PDF reader, spelling checker, image viewers, support for charting and password protection, plus Outlook e-mail support. You can go even further upscale with the $90 Total Office version, which adds support for all Outlook features (e.g., calendar, address book, to-do lists) and for Access.