Sure, you can email that file you were working on to yourself, but that's a clunky solution for the technologically unsophisticated. Nowadays, one of the best ways to be productive is by storing your documents in the cloud. This affords you the freedom of using multiple devices without having to worry about whether the version you're working on is current. But the number of mobile devices with productivity suites is steadily growing -- you can add tablets to that mix, in addition to smartphones -- and so are the number of cloud services you can choose from.
Connect by QuickOffice recognizes this problem of fragmentation, and aims to provide an elegant solution. It's both an app and a cloud service that lets you collaborate, share and sync important documents across all your mobile devices and your favorite third-party cloud services, including Box, Dropbox, SugarSync, Google Drive and even smaller apps like Evernote.
But how well does it really work? Here at CTIA 2012, the QuickOffice team was on the ground showing off Connect, and set us up with a pro account to let us try it out. Here's what you need to know about getting started with the service, and whether or not it's a tool you should consider using.Setup with Connect by QuickOffice
Getting set up is pretty simple. We started by downloading the app onto our iPhone, logged in using our provided credentials, and were greeted by a dashboard-like interface with several categories: My Folders, Devices and Online Services.
We started by adding our online services to our account. We tapped on the plus sign opposite the label, and chose from a list of services Connect supports. Among them were Google Docs (QuickOffice says that they'll update this to Google Drive soon), Dropbox, SkyDrive, Evernote, SugarSync, Basecamp, Catch, Springpad, Box, Huddle, Egnyte and WebDAV.
Afterward, we set up Connect on our laptop. We tapped on the plus sign across Devices and selected Mac. The app then sent instructions to our email, with the appropriate download link for our computer. We installed the app, and could log in from our computer as well.
Connect also has a web portal so you can access your files from absolutely anywhere. After the program was installed into our laptop, we launched the web component of Connect by clicking on the icon on our Mac's top right nav bar and selecting "Open Connect by QuickOffice" from the drop down list.
Once we added in all the services we wanted, it turned into the matter of getting the files we wanted onto the service. Luckily, this was pretty easy to figure out as well. Using the web dashboard, we accessed our main folders on our computer, which Connect automatically detected. Then we clicked on the tiny sync button to the left of the label to add it to our Connect Folders.
Once synced, we could immediately access our files regardless of what device we were using.Creating and Editing Documents
We didn't have to look hard to figure out how to create a new document from our mobile device. Connect by QuickOffice puts these icons front and center, in a permanent nav bar across the bottom of the app. We could tap on any of these to create a Word, Excel, PowerPoint document or a new folder.
You do have to select the folder you'd like to create the file in before Connect lets you do anything. We quickly created a simple text file and uploaded it into one of our active Connect Folders, and watched it magically appear on our desktop.
Connect by QuickOffice provides a range of options for sharing a document once you've finalized your edits. On our iPhone, we tapped on the arrow beside the file name, which took us into the next screen with a handy menu of functions: Publish File, Add Comments, File Versions, File Activity and File Settings. We tapped on Publish File to share it.
The app then let us choose whether we wanted to email it to a collaborator, or upload the document onto various services like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Slideshare, etc.Searching Documents
One of the best features within Connect is the ability to search across all your cloud services and devices to locate the file you need (once you're all set up with the app, of course). We simply tapped on the upper left-hand button to access the main Connect icons, then tapped on Search. We typed out "test file," the document we had created earlier on the app, and selected the device/cloud service where we wanted Connect to look. After a few seconds, the app pulled up the file we needed.
Connect by QuickOffice works as advertised, which was very impressive. The wealth of options within the app demonstrates the thought and care that went into developing it, and it works well across all our devices. We can imagine working intensively on a laptop, hopping into the same document for quick edits while we're on the go with our iPhone and then maybe lounging on our couch back home with our iPad to make some final tweaks.
Connect also earns plus points for putting setup and sharing options right at our fingertips. We were complete first-timers with the app, yet creating files and dipping into and out of them on our different devices was incredibly easy to get the hang of.
Our only quibbles with the app are some responsiveness issues and connectivity difficulties. There were times when we weren't sure whether our taps registered on our touch screen, and another time, the web dashboard would not load our folders from our laptop and prompted us to check whether our computer was online (it was). But these hiccups sorted themselves out after refreshing the app.Verdict
Connect by QuickOffice is an undeniably good package, and is an answer to a problem that not many people have thought about how to address yet. In that sense, the app is very forward-looking. We couldn't help but be impressed by the range of functions included in the service, from accessing your files across all your cloud accounts and mobile devices, to editing, sharing, searching, and syncing them.
On the other hand, we were fortunate enough to try the app for free, an opportunity not many others would be able to get. In fact, there are several tiers to the service. The Basic, free account lets you view documents, get cloud access and five sharable folders, sync up to two devices -- but cuts you off after a 5,000 file sync capacity. Connect Premium, for $44.99 a year will let you view and edit documents, execute aggregated search, get unlimited folder sharing, use remote access and sync up to four devices with a 125,000 file sync capacity. And finally, Connect Professional -- the tier we tested -- is $69.99 a year and lets you view and edit documents, execute aggregated search, get unlimited folder sharing and sync up to six devices (with a 250,000 file sync capacity). It also gives you a bunch of extra features including file versioning and remote access.
If you're the kind of person who uses a lot of mobile devices and cloud services and can't be bothered to worry about whether your active file is the latest version, Connect by QuickOffice is worth a look. It's a powerful tool that can simplify a complicated workflow, aggregating multiple services into one hub. The only problem is picking out the tier that will best for you.