The best office apps for Android

The best office apps for Android

Microsoft finally got serious about mobile, and Android office contenders have been forced to keep up

Spreadsheet editing

There's not a heck of a lot to say about Excel -- because like Word, the app has everything you'd expect from a fully featured office utility. Using it is comparable to using Excel's desktop version, with the same foolproof compatibility and unmatched range of options and commands.

Android Office: Microsoft Excel InfoWorld

Microsoft Excel spreadsheet editing on Android smartphone (left) and tablet (right)

My only gripe with the Android app is that on smartphones, the program's main toolbar remains hidden and out of reach most of the time. Instead of being accessible on the bottom edge of the screen, as it is in Word, the toolbar in Excel appears only when you tap a special icon in the top-of-screen menu. That's similar to how Word was in 2015, when I knocked it for its (at the time) less-than-stellar UI -- which makes it seem like Microsoft got partway through its Office interface improvements, then for some reason stopped.

The app looks great on a tablet, though, with the same sort of desktop-style top-of-screen tabs I observed in Word on that format.

Presentation editing

Microsoft may not be able to keep up with Google's collaboration and casting chops, but when it comes to core presentation management, its PowerPoint Android app stands in a league of its own. PowerPoint has every tool you could want for making your presentations shine, whether you're building them from scratch on your mobile device or simply making a few tweaks on the go.

Android Office: Microsoft PowerPoint InfoWorld

Microsoft PowerPoint presentation editing on Android smartphone (left) and tablet (right)

From templates to transitions and a wealth of editing options, PowerPoint users will be right at home in Microsoft's latest Android presentation effort. And like Word, PowerPoint for Android has an interface that's equally sensible on the smartphone and tablet forms, with an always-present and expandable bottom-of-screen toolbar on phones and a permanent top-of-screen tab-based toolbar on tablets. (Thus, it's even more vexing that Excel doesn't follow the same commendable setup.)

MobiSystems OfficeSuite

While not a household name in the office app universe, MobiSystems has been the top choice on Android for many moons now -- earning the highest-ranking spot in all of our past InfoWorld analyses dating back to 2012.

But there's a difference between being the best fully featured office suite in an ecosystem where Microsoft Office doesn't exist (or doesn't yet feel finished, as was the case in 2015) and trying to achieve the same distinction when Office itself is a fully realized option. Unfortunately for MobiSystems, the latter is now the reality.

Word processing

The result: While OfficeSuite is still a perfectly decent word processor in and of itself, it feels second-rate alongside Microsoft's now-excellent effort -- like a slightly off version of the real deal with small but impactful compromises.

Android Office: OfficeSuite word processing InfoWorld

MobiSystems OfficeSuite word processing on Android smartphone (left) and tablet (right)

For instance, while standard Word documents look mostly OK in OfficeSuite, there are subtle inconsistencies -- little details like the occasional missing horizontal divider or a page break that's ever so slightly out of place. I've also had a couple of regular Word documents that flat-out wouldn't open in the app -- despite opening fine elsewhere -- which is disconcerting, to say the least.

On top of that, MobiSystems has grown increasingly aggressive with its in-app marketing. If you're using anything but the full "premium" version of OfficeSuite, you'll be bombarded with pushy upsell attempts at every twist and turn. Even with a paid subscription, the app pops up pesky messages and calls to action far too frequently.

After editing a document, for instance, OfficeSuite often prompts you to share the app with friends or rate it in the Play Store. When you go to open a local file, it routinely pops up a message suggesting you download the company's separate file manager app (which is not at all necessary for that function). It also puts alerts both into your system notifications and into an in-app messaging system pushing you to install items like a new email client the company is promoting.

Even with a paid subscription, you have to go out of your way to manually download and install MobiSystems' add-ons for basic functions like Microsoft font compatibility and in-app spell-checking. All in all, it doesn't make for a great user experience or an app that, with Microsoft's own elegant effort now in the mix, seems appropriate for professional business purposes.

Spreadsheet editing

OfficeSuite's spreadsheet editor is jam-packed with useful features and generally quite easy to use -- and if Excel itself weren't an option, it'd be my go-to recommendation for a more fully featured Android spreadsheet program. The app even connects directly to a wide range of cloud storage services (including Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, and Amazon Cloud Drive), which is a nice plus.

Android Office: OfficeSuite spreadsheet InfoWorld

 MobiSystems OfficeSuite spreadsheet editing on Android smartphone (left) and tablet (right)

Again, though, the core experience isn't up to snuff with what Microsoft delivers. With the pushy marketing prompts throughout the app, the occasional inconsistencies in file formatting and compatibility, and the convoluted steps required to have basic elements like font support in place, OfficeSuite's offering feels like an unnecessary step down for business users.

Presentation editing

You know where this one's going, right? OfficeSuite's presentation editor is fully functional and perfectly decent to use, but the same issues discussed in our previous sections keep it from being at the level of Microsoft's comparable offering. Being "the next best thing" means only so much when the program you're emulating is right above you.

Android Office: OfficeSuite presentation InfoWorld

MobiSystems OfficeSuite presentation editing on Android smartphone (left) and tablet (right)

The bottom line

Putting it all together, Google's mobile office suite is ideal for business users who have relatively basic needs and for whom collaboration, sharing, and interaction are important. (More broadly, it obviously also makes sense for anyone who's already invested in the Google ecosystem.) While Docs, Sheets, and Slides don't have the robust features or foolproof file fidelity that Microsoft's Office apps provide, they'll be powerful enough for a lot of people -- and their advantages in the aforementioned areas are not insignificant.

Microsoft's products, however, clearly create the best overall office suite for most business users -- particularly those who need all the desktop-level bells and whistles and a guarantee of flawless file fidelity. Microsoft's suite has evolved into a real powerhouse -- a jack-of-all-trades that manages to offer ample functionality without feeling overly complicated. The fact that the Android apps will be immediately familiar to users of their desktop equivalents is also a meaningful perk for any company already using Office on other platforms.

That creates a real problem for MobiSystems. For a long time, its app was the best choice for Android users who needed a fully featured mobile office solution. But with Microsoft finally getting serious about Android, it's hard to come up with a reason why anyone should choose OfficeSuite over the actual Office products anymore.

Sure, OfficeSuite is a bit less expensive -- but if you're a large or even midsized business, you probably already have a Microsoft subscription. And if you're a smaller business or an individual user who can't justify the cost, Microsoft's free tier of service may well suffice for your mobile productivity needs (as may Google's simpler and more cloud-driven equivalent).

The Android office suite showdown has basically become a two-horse race -- and at this point, it shouldn't be tough to tell whether Google's approach or Microsoft's makes the most sense for you.

Follow Us

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments