Windows Phone: What you can—and can’t—do with office mobile

With its Office 2010 family of products, Microsoft has advanced its best-selling office productivity solutions beyond the PC desktop with web-based Office Web Apps as well as a new generation of its Office Mobile, which runs on Windows Phone.
Originally dubbed Pocket Office (as in, “Is that an Office in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”), Microsoft’s mobile version of Office debuted a decade ago as part of the Pocket PC platform. Originally, it consisted of Pocket Outlook, Pocket Word, and Pocket Excel, and over the years PowerPoint and OneNote applications were added as well. Eventually, the Pocket moniker was dropped in lieu of the more professional sounding name Office Mobile.

As you might imagine, given the constrained environs of a typical Windows Phone screen, Office Mobile doesn’t provide much competition for the PC-based versions of Office, or even the Office Web Apps for that matter. But it wasn’t designed for that purpose. Instead, Microsoft sees Office Mobile as a companion for the Office user on the go, and it’s best, I think, to understand this fact and what that means when it comes time to actually use Office Mobile on Windows Phone.
What You Can Do
Office Mobile is a great way to view Office documents—and from now on, unless I specify Word documents explicitly, I’m referring to Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and OneNote notes here as well—even rich Office documents, on the go. If all you’re looking for is a document reader, Office Mobile is a fantastic solution, and it’s compatible with even the very latest document formats used by the PC applications in Office 2010. Office Mobile is also a decent solution for editing Office documents, even rich Office documents, on the go. One of the issues with this functionality is that Office Mobile cannot accurately display some of the more complex document layouts supported by modern Office application versions. But as you’ll see in a bit, you can generally work around these issues, and it does a great job of retaining underlying formatting even when these elements aren’t accurately rendered onscreen. If what you need to do is read a document and make light edits, Office Mobile works quite well. Office Mobile is a great solution for synchronizing Office documents between your phone and your work-based SharePoint document repositories. It also respects and understands enterprise-oriented Information Rights Management (IRM) technology, which is used to secure documents, electronically, from prying eyes. If you are a OneNote user—and it’s very clear that Microsoft intends to make you one—or just someone who likes to take notes frequently, OneNote Mobile for Windows Phone is a first-class note-taking solution.
What You Can’t Do
So that’s what Office Mobile can do for you. What about its limitations? Office Mobile is somewhat lacking for those that wish to access SkyDrive-based Office documents and completely lacking if you want to sync them between the Web and your phone. If you want to create new Word or Excel documents, Office Mobile is a decent solution that lacks only the more complex formatting options that are available on the Web and on the PC. However, if you save these documents externally to the phone, you can later edit them again in Windows or on the Web and add complex new formatting easily enough. If you want to create new PowerPoint presentations on the go, you’re out of luck: You cannot create a new presentation with PowerPoint Mobile. (That said, you could of course create basic, empty presentations and save them to the device as templates for future presentations. It does support Save As.)

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