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We've seen what Apple could dish up when it came to word processing, and we've seen the competitors bring occasionally impressive functionality to this realm. We've even seen word processing on the iPhone, which, while not glamorous or particularly easy, is still nice. Spreadsheets were likewise a solid contender for data crunching even if there were some major shortcomings in the apps which sought to dethrone Numbers from its rightful place.
The third and final installment is at last at hand. Presentations, the scourge of corporate meetings.
It's almost as if DocsToGo realized the near impossibility of its task -- how to create a universal app that also manages flexibility and creativity -- threw up their hands and gave up. Sure, you can open PowerPoint files, save them, share them, etc., but creation? Creation is an ugly process that gives no pleasure and delivers no beauty.
There is exactly one style of slide, plain white. A single line separates the title from the bullets below. Your font selection: zero; colors: zero; sizes: two.
The Omnipresent Notes and the "Presentation"
You edit the slides in what's called "Outline View." What is this? A glorified text editing screen, helpfully numbered. The results are exactly what you'd expect: an ugly process delivering an ugly end result. The ever-present Notes tab can't be gotten rid of, though it can be minimized.
This Is How You Create Slides
Can you add images? No. You did not read that wrong. There is absolutely no way to add an image to a software that lives and dies by its imagery, by its visual impact. You get boring, plain bullets, and that's all.
Not Very Much for Controls
But surely, you ask, that's only on the iPhone where tough UI decisions have to be made. No friends, we're afraid not. No advantage is taken of the iPad's larger screen or greater processing capabilities. It's a perfect duplicate from the iPhone, just bigger, which actually makes it uglier. And a far greater disappointment.
Look At All This Wasted Space
DocsToGo also lacks any ability to show your presentations on an external monitor or to play the slides in any meaningful way. And to be quite honest, that doesn't come as any great surprise.
Quickoffice at least earns their five dollars in the upgrade to the iPad version here. The iPhone version simply doesn't offer PowerPoint creation as a possibility. You can view presentations if you add them from outside, but you can't do anything but look at them. That and pass them along to somewhere else.
You Can Look and Share But That's All
On the iPad, creation gets way meatier than on DocsToGo. In landscape, the left hand side of the screen has a navigable thumbnail area (this moves to the bottom in portrait). This is a nice mirroring of how PowerPoint itself works. Tap and hold a thumbnail to move a slide around. Tap the + sign to add a slide, which all show up as blanks.
Lots of Nice Control Here
To add content, tap the butterfly up in the right hand corner. You can insert shapes, text boxes, and even photos. While Quickoffice claims you can add photos from "Photo Albums" which we took to mean your camera roll, we never found out how that worked. If you think ahead and upload pictures to your iPad through iTunes, those become accessible, but we found no other way to get pictures into our presentation.
If You Prepare Ahead, Your Pictures Will Be Waiting For You
Images can be resized, positioned, rotated, and deleted, and text boxes can be placed anywhere and expanded or shrunk as needed. You can even arrange these like layers, pushing one element behind another. Yet this still felt underpowered, minor controls over our content. And unlike its Word and Excel brethren, PowerPoint presentations can only be created in Quickoffice using the earlier PPT format, rather than PPTX.
The iPad-Viewable Controls for When You're Showing Your Presentation on the Big Screen
As a nice feature, Quickoffice lets you plug your iPad into a much larger monitor to show off your presentation the way it was meant to be seen -- on a nice big screen. Controls to advance were easy to use and there was even the laser pointer feature where you could draw viewers' attention to specific places on your slides. That's a cool feature even our next app couldn't boast about.
Like Quickoffice, Keynote was an iPad only, but what Apple brought to the table here is nothing short of amazing. They really managed to hit each of their mobile apps square on the head. Keynote makes its own format (KEY) but was perfectly capable of opening and editing PPT and PPTX files. Export allowed us PPT, KEY, and PDF, losing PPTX.
This Message Can Get Annoying, But It's Keynote's Only Real Flaw
Sure, you may experience some font issues transferring files from the desktop to the iPad, but that's about it. Keynote, like the other iWork mobile apps, makes a good effort to find a comparable font. Images were editable, resizable, and best of all, animatable. Wanna slap a slow dissolve on your graphic? Sure, you can do that, to the tune of 15 specific animations. If you have more than one image you want animated, you can even set the order they appear.
This Is Why You Make Presentations: The Effects
Keynote opens a new presentation by letting you select a blank slide or one of the pre-made styles already installed. Tap the + here and you are presented the differing layouts of your new slide with eight styles. Just as with their other iWork apps, the control buttons allow you great flexibility over what you do with your objects including adding borders, shadowing, adjusting opacity, etc.
Pre-Made Layouts Take The Work Out Of Things For You
Then there are transitions. The true sign of someone who knows their way around a presentation is the inclusion of some transition animation from one slide to the next. Keynote gives you 24 choices of transition and even allows you to set the trigger and the speed of the transition. The true sign of a presentation master is a tasteful simplicity in their transition and animation choices. You'll know it when you see it.
Transitions Are The Bomb
Plug your iPad into an external monitor and you can deliver your presentation on the big screen while controlling the delivery speed. You can even select a view that lets you see your notes, which we find very helpful. From every angle, Keynote is just a fantastic presentation app.
This one isn't even close. It's a cricket being disposed of by a Howitzer. Save being bundled into a package you maybe bought for some other reason and so got for free, there isn't one single measure by which DocsToGo or Quickoffice presentations win. Heck, there isn't even one measure by which the other apps can consider themselves competitive.
Taken as a whole, mobile iWork is pricey ($30), but if you really intend to create all three kinds of documents, it's money well spent. Apple's apps are polished, hugely functional, and deliver amazing results. And if you don't find yourself doing a lot of spreadsheets, don't buy Numbers. Likewise for Pages or Keynote. Apart from cost, the only other drawback is each app tops out over 50MB a piece, a concern if you're pressed for space.
Often with apps, though, there's the mindset that a multipurpose app is an adequate substitute. That isn't even close to being true here. If you're on a tight budget, find a way to buy the Apple apps you need. If you insist on spending your money on something underpowered, DocsToGo offers a $10 version that leaves out presentations. That's a wiser purchase, since the $7 upgrade for PowerPoint never justifies the cost. While Quickoffice sets you back $15 on the iPad and $10 for the iPhone, it is a far better purchase than DocsToGo, but never comes anywhere close to the iWork suite. Sure, both alternate office apps boast a lighter footprint, but that's because they just tiptoe around what you want.