Review: Top Six Features of Microsoft Office Mobile 2010

Though the death of the Kin is grabbing headlines this week and Microsoft's mobile strategy is in the cross-hairs of industry analysts, Redmond's legacy of Windows Mobile 6.5 phones is still very much alive.

Microsoft's Office 2010 business productivity suite hit retail shelves and online stores to much fanfare recently, following last month's launch of its pint-sized counterpart, Office Mobile 2010. If you have a Windows Mobile phone, you may be wondering if Office Mobile 2010 is worth the upgrade.

As it turns out, the upgrade to Office Mobile 2010 is free provided you have a Windows Mobile 6.5 phone with the prior version of Office Mobile (6.1/2007) installed. If so, you can upgrade to Office Mobile 2010 via the Windows Mobile Marketplace. If your Windows Mobile 6.5 phone didn't come with Office, Office Mobile 2010 will set you back $30, and it isn't available at all for devices with earlier versions of Windows Mobile.

Although Office Mobile 2010 doesn't introduce anything revolutionary, there are some new and improved features that may or may not justify the upgrade depending on the type of phone you have and what other Microsoft products are in use at your company. Here are six things to keep in mind when considering an upgrade to Office Mobile 2010:

1. Better support for touch screens

When the previous version of Office Mobile came out several years ago, it entered a world where having a touch-enabled Windows Mobile device pretty much meant tapping around a fairly conventional UI with a stylus. By contrast, Office Mobile 2010 is a bit more touch-friendly by taking better advantage of the large screens and gesture-based controls that are customary on many modern Windows Mobile 6.5 devices (such as T-Mobile's HTC HD2). This means the ability to flick to access menus (or scroll through documents) and pinch to zoom in and out of documents.

2. Integration with PowerPoint

This is arguably one of the most compelling new features of the entire suite, at least if you're the type that frequently gives presentations. With PowerPoint Mobile 2010 you can use your phone to remotely control a slide show on a desktop or laptop PC running either PowerPoint 2007 or 2010. PowerPoint Mobile 2010 can also function as secondary display upon which you can view your presentation notes. (This feature requires you to pair your phone and PC via Bluetooth and that you install Microsoft's Presentation Companion on the PC.)

3. Improved document display

Anyone that's opened a document on a mobile device -- especially one with complex formatting or embedded charts, tables, or graphics-- knows it won't look anything like it does on a full-size PC. But thanks to its Text Reflow technology, Office Mobile 2010 does a better job of displaying documents within the confines of the phone's small screen. Better yet, it does so without modifying the file's underlying format, so you can edit and save documents without worrying about unpredictable (and unpleasant) results when you eventually open the file again on PC. (If an edit will mess up a document's formatting saving a file you'll be warned and have the option to save it as a new document so the original stays intact.)

4. Remote access to Office files

If you're company is running Microsoft's SharePoint 2010 collaboration software (or planning to), then SharePoint Workspace Mobile 2010 is a worthwhile application to have. It lets mobile workers connect to company sites and browse Office document libraries to view and edit files. Changes made can be saved directly back to the SharePoint server, or to a local copy of the file that's synced to the server.

5. No new Outlook (sort of)

If you're wondering about Outlook Mobile 2010-- it's already the default email client on all Windows Mobile 6.5 phones, so you have it whether or not you download Office Mobile 2010. Among its new features is a conversation view (similar to Gmail's) that groups related messages into a single thread, though it isn't available with garden-variety POP or IMAP accounts--it only works with Exchange 2010 mailboxes. If you have a Windows Mobile 6.0 or 6.1 device, you can update your Outlook Mobile here.

6. No touch, no point

We told you early on how Office Mobile 2010 was optimized for touch input, but as it turns out, pretty much all of the new and improved features (including the ones listed here) are exclusive to touch screen phones. So, while you can still upgrade to Office Mobile 2010 on a non-touch-enabled WM 6.5 phone (and it's still free) there's not much reason to-- we installed it on a T-Mobile Dash 3G and found that little had changed other than the design of the individual Office program icons. (One benefit you do get, however, is the ability to create new files, not just edit existing ones.)

Joseph Moran is a longtime technology writer and co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7 from Friends of ED.


Microsoft, Windows Mobile, Windows Mobile software, Microsoft Office Mobile, Windows Mobile 6.5