Waiting for Office for iPad? hopTo fills the tablet productivity void just fine

by Doug Drinkwater

November 18 2013

California-based hopTo is gunning straight for Apple iWork, Google Drive and CloudOn with a new mobile app that promises to seriously improve your tablet productivity. (Rating: 4 out of 5 stars)

Beady-eyed readers will notice that hopTo is not exactly a new app – we covered what was previously a dedicated thin client application for accessing files on the iPad back in December last year.

However, the company last week updated the app to version 2.0 (free, iTunes) and the changes put it in contention with the likes of CloudOn, Quickoffice and – potentially Microsoft Office should it ever come to Apple’s platform.

TabTimes caught up with hopTo president and CEO Eldad Eilam to get his thoughts on the transition and he said that the move made sense both for the company and the market itself.

“It’s obvious [that] people are trying to replace laptops with tablets…it’s a form factor thing. But there are still a lot of components missing”, said Eliam who cited weak collaboration, poor Office compatibility and a lack of multi-tasking for the reasons behind the slow move away from laptops to tablets .

Eliam adds that a there are a lot of products in this area but boldly proclaimed that “none get it right”. He was unwilling to draw parallels between his app and those from other rivals, however.

 “Apple’s iWork is a fantastic product but [it's] not interested in collaboration or for collaboration with Office on your PC. It’s not a direct competitor because [they] don’t care much for Office compatibility.

“Google is the same thing although it (Google Drive) is a great product on its own. And CloudOn is in the same place [as us] but it’s more Windows-centric so we’re quite distanced from them."

(Worth reading: Edit Microsoft Office documents on your iPad with HopTo & New hopTo for iPad claims more intuitive approach to remote desktop access)

Sleek Office app that is geared up for touchscreens

TabTimes went hands-on with hopTo on two occasions, first getting a rundown with Eliam before testing the app out for ourselves.

What I found was a productivity app that throws off the shackles of Microsoft Office to really embrace the touchscreen era. Yes, the app does support Office files (it runs the software suite on the back-end) but the user interface is as such that it is designed for simple touch control. 

As a result, it is easy to use from the get-go. A short tutorial guides you on how to use the app and after that you can hook the application up to cloud storage sources like Dropbox, Box and Google Drive in a matter of seconds. Even better still, you can tap into content on your PC by installing the hopTo PC File Connector app (Mac support is coming in future).

Having connected to all your appropriate sources, hopTo presents all your content in an easily-digestible menu which breaks documents down into 'Recent Files', 'My Docs' and 'My Cloud'.

Accessing these files is easy enough; you can long press on a file for menu options or tap once to edit, and when inside a document you'll note an array of handy touch controls.

For example, you can quickly adjust the text size by running your fingers over the slider bar, tap twice to add images directly from Google or the Camera Roll, or do a full content search across all your storage solutions.

The bottom toolbar is split into three simple options for text formatting, paragraph and insert (for photos and adding tables – there is also an option to track changes), while the top shows open tabs, back and forward buttons and a home button.

Content is saved as you go along but one especially neat feature is that saved copies go back as edited to the original source. Alternatively, you can favorite items for quick access or share outside the app in a simple one-click process.

This is not to say that hopTo is immune from criticism. Documents sometimes took long to load and you can only create and edit Microsoft Office and Excel files via the cloud (it is therefore only possible in this current version to only view PowerPoint files). There's little here too for people looking to work together although Eliam told us that collaboration is on the company's product roadmap.

Despite this, the company publicly says that hopTo is “an Office experience but fine-tuned for the tablet” as well as “productivity without boundaries”. At this stage, it would be hard to disagree.

(Stay on top of the latest iPad news, reviews and trends by subscribing to the free TabTimes for iPadnewsletter)

Doug Drinkwater is the International Editor of TabTimes and is based in London, England.
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