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Programs not what they claim to be

A while back, I participated in the beta test for a popular Palm software application that has made it’s way over to the Symbian platform, specifically the P800 and P900 smartphones, and other Symbian UIQ devices. That software was QuickOffice Premium, from a company that has several different operating names, but their website says iGo.

I was initially excited to be part of the test, mainly because of some complimentary software my own company was developing for Symbian UIQ (hint: text input software). I was a “good” beta tester, or at least I thought I was. I dunno how many testers they had, but basically there were only three or four guys who were regularly submitting usability and bug reports via their Yahoo Groups enviro, and I was on of them.

Soon, I got kind of upset at the company behind this product. Suggestions that the serious beta testers made were acknowledged, but not incorporated. Conventions I expected from a “word processing app” were not included in the program, and when I made those suggestions, they were again acknowledged, but not incorporated.

I’m not being catty about this – they were genuine things that one would expect from a PDA word processing app… Like a “select all” option on the pull down edit menu (right up to the current build, QuickWord for UIQ still doesn’t have this option). I don’t know of any word processing app that doesn’t have an option for selecting all text, but now I do know one.

There were many usability problems. I test usability issues in software and websites all the time, so I pointed out some glaring errors in the usability of their program during the beta test. Again, these usability quirks were sometimes acknowledged, then ignored in the rush to release the product.

Here’s another minor irk I had with the folks behind QuickOffice Premium. Once the beta test was over, they didn’t offer anything to the beta testers. No free copy of the software, no discount on the software, no nothing. That lacks a bit of class, especially since several testers really put in several hours fully testing the product and posting multiple test reports. To drop these users a $40 program for what was probably five or more hours of work would have been a decent thing to do, but they didn’t do it.

All of that pales in comparison to the biggest problem with the app. iGo claims that QuickOffice is a Microsoft Word compatible word processor and Excel compatible spreadsheet program. I don’t use Excel, so I can’t speak on that, but QuickOffice Premium for the Symbian UIQ and Sony Ericsson P800 is NOT MS Word compatible in any real sense. It may read MS Word documents, but it saves documents as html files which are NOT compatible with the .doc format, and when you go back to your desktop to open them, don’t even bother – the formatting is all in html, and all your normal MS word features, like bullets and styles are munged.

The program will also munge up any eBooks you might have on your P800 phone if you open them. It “recognizes’ the palm .pdb format (eBooks saved as pdb format are typically plain html that’s been compressed inside a database file), and if you edit an eBook, it automatically resaves it. That would be fine, except the next time you try to open the eBook in Mobipocket or similar, it is broken – the file will not open.

I was hoping that, some five months after the product was released, they would have either addressed this issue by releasing a new version that saved in the native .doc format or at the very least in a .rtf format, but they haven’t. I even hoped that by now they would have fixed some of the usability issues and added conventions, like the “select all” option, or putting “save” and “save as” on the file menu (they ain’t there), but no joy on those things either.

So why do I bring this up? Because I feel the company is misleading people with this piece of $40 software (which our company paid, because iGo didn’t offer their beta testers any freebies). And on their website, they claim, “QuickOffice Premier for UIQ provides the only available Microsoft Office file editing solution for the Symbian UIQ platform smartphones.”

Disregarding the fact that QuickOffice is not a true MS Office compatible program, I’ve also got this to say to that quote above:

Not for long… 🙂

Soon, a native .rtf editor (much closer to MS Word’s .doc format, and the native format used on the Mac) for the Symbian platform. Full .rtf support, not some kinda mikeymouse html file saved as a .doc file. Features you’d expect, like a spelling checker (not found on QuickOffice) and conventions you’d expect from a word processing app. If you’ve ever used the excellent Pocket Artist from Conduits and thought, “wow, this program is very similar to PhotoShop in its menus and functions”, this new word processing app will be like that, but mimicking MS Word. Maybe even some alternative text input applets included as well. It will rock.

Watch out QuickOffice – it’s gonna come soon.



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