Mobile Microsoft Office And The Need For PCs

Microsoft-Word

I finally got around to trying out the newly updated iOS version of Microsoft Word where editing documents no longer requires a subscription, and whoa. It might bring me a baby step closer to being able to do real work on a tablet or phone, but I’m still don’t think I’ll ever be rid of a PC for that purpose.

The end of the PC is a major subject I don’t really agree with. While almost all my media consumption has shifted to mobile devices, there are two general tasks that draw me back to PCs: file editing and file management. The former is becoming better and better on mobiles, but is still far more comfortable on PCs, while the latter is still almost impossible on iOS.

Going through the typical process by which I might be typing this blog post, I can get the main work of typing and editing the post done on a mobile. The WordPress app let’s you drop in images too, but I actually do a touch of editing on all the images I bring in. Most of the time it’s just a crop and resize, the latter of which is a frustratingly rare feature both in PC and mobile software. Sometimes I go further and make images transparent by editing out layers, and I honestly don’t know if there’es any mobile software that does this. And if you’ve seen my custom game box arts, those pretty much require the full might of Photoshop, or at least a robust PC app that handles layers and transformation.

Regarding text editing I’m pretty impressed with iOS Word. Apple’s own Pages app has been enough to get the job done, but mobile Word puts some more things within reach and feels much more comfortable to someone who’s accustomed to PC Word. Its “Insert” tab in particular makes a huge difference. Basically, I can do anything on this app I’d normally do when using Word on a PC. Also, the cut and paste keys you get on the iPhone 6 Plus horizontal keyboard are a godsend. I’m just wondering why they aren’t also on the iPad keyboard from what I’ve seen.

File management is where the software limitations really come in, especially if you’re used to just handling things on a hard drive. Mobile file management has actually taken some pretty good leaps forward… if you like managing everything on clouds. iOS Word in particular has really good Dropbox integration now. I can just look at everything I have on Dropbox from within the app and immediately open the files in Word. Doing this with Dropbox, iCoud, Google Drive, or Office 360 is pretty common in apps now.

I have very little on my cloud accounts though, and all the work I have on my computers probably wouldn’t fit cleanly onto my mobiles. The “home” for all my work is still wherever the hard drive is. Most importantly, iOS has no real file management system on the level of Windows Explorer (I have no idea if Android has one). There are some apps that are pretty good at general file management — I suggest iZip, but the process of getting to those files and then choosing what to open them with is still slower on a mobile than a PC. Maybe clouds are where companies want everything to go but I’m still not extremely trusting of them from a security standpoint.

Oh, and there’s multitasking — a pretty big problem I almost forgot to mention. Mobile Windows let’s you snap between apps, but when working I need real windowed apps and a taskbar. I need browser tabs that don’t reload every time I select them. Right now I’m on a PC constantly switching back and forth between wordpress and Soundcloud tabs. I need to be able to do that smoothly.

If you’ve been screaming “get a Surface or ultrabook!” at the screen while reading this post, I have one major problem with those things: Interface. Actually, interface is probably the third general problem I have with productivity and mobile devices. Basically, I need a keyboard AND mouse if I’m going to do work.

I’ve tried hooking a keyboard up to my iOS devices and while it works for typing, I really don’t like the keyboard-touchscreen combination. It just isn’t comfortable. I think Steve Jobs spoke out against it, answering questions as to why Apple doesn’t put touch screens on its Macs, and I completely agree with Apple’s reasoning. If I’m using a keyboard, I also need a mouse or trackpad, and I haven’t seen iOS do this yet. They already let you emulate iOS software on Macs with that interface right? As an aside, it would be interesting if iOS games had keyboard controls as an option.

A smaller (not really) problem I have with Surfaces and Ultrabooks is the mobile side of Microsoft’s OS simply doesn’t have all the software I normally use on iOS. For me to really use something like that it would have to be an Ultrabook with either Android or iOS. I hear ASUS has something like that which essentially dual boots between Windows and Android which sounds kind of crude. A smoother execution of the idea would essentially have to be some kind of Mac/iOS ultrabook or something with a desktop version of Android (if Google ever made one).

I don’t doubt that most people are going to move towards tablets, phones, and phablets. Most people don’t really need 90 percent of the functionality computers provide. I also like to go with another one of Jobs’ suggestions however: that in the future PCs will be seen the way trucks are today — not everyone will own one, but some people will still need them for certain heavy-duty tasks.

BULLETS:

  • Looks like it’s safe to grab that Valkyria Chronicles PC port. http://t.co/8Er5rgYuyj I knew SEGA wouldn’t let me down.
  • So the Xbox 360 and PS3 are still like $200 in Black Friday deals? That’s crazy.
  • You back Ghost Song now, you get the beta. http://t.co/YPQrHtL99f
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