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Hands-on: Documents To Go's iPhone Exchange

Quite a few users had trouble getting Documents To Go to support attachments from Microsoft Exchange. We took it on a spin, and have some opinions.

Docs To Go with Exchange
If you've set up an Exchange in-box, you can view attachments.
CNET/Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt

Documents To Go is such an excellent business tool for viewing and editing documents on other mobile platforms, we were excited to see it emerge in the iTunes App Store earlier this week. We talked about the more basic version of Documents To Go for iPhone (and iPod Touch; $4.99) here, which lets you create and edit Microsoft Word apps, and additionally displays Excel, PowerPoint, PDFs, and iWork files.

Quite a few users, however, had trouble with the more advanced version, Documents To Go with Exchange Attachments. This version essentially adds an in-app Exchange in-box that asks you to set up a Microsoft Exchange account in order to view the supported attachments. Many comments in the publisher's iTunes app page echoed users' frustrations at getting it set up, and hours spent trying to connect it just to have it fail. I decided to try it out.

Although I had already added a Microsoft Exchange in-box to the iPhone, Documents To Go required that I repeat the process. Making your way around domain and server names can be tricky, and it's easy to mistype a strong password. After a minute or two, the app successfully created a second Exchange in-box that had a few parameters, like how far back it should scan for attachments. I stuck with the 2-week default and in another minute or two, the application presented a list of e-mail messages flagged with attachments.

Opening one took some more time--Documents To Go, it appears, resyncs the first time you tap the floating attachment. You shouldn't have to wait the next time you revisit the attachment, except for the few seconds it takes to render the document you open. The viewer rendered spreadsheets and PDFs with its characteristic crispness, and scrolled without lags.

Docs To Go Exchange attachment
Click in your Docs To Go in-box to open a synced attachment. CNET/Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt

At this early stage, the secondary features are a little weak. You can view attachments from your in-box, out-box, and drafts. You can also locally save the attachment, but apart from Word documents, you won't yet be able to edit. Still, the faithful rendering makes Documents To Go's viewer a truer experience than that built into the iPhone.

Is it worth the extra time it takes to set up a new mailbox, sync it, and open the attachment? If you're a business user who's often on the road, probably. It helps to feel comfortable with your Exchange settings, or to be in contact with someone from the office (like an IT admin) who does. That "probably" shifts into a "definitely" if you're willing to give DataViz some leeway while it builds creation and editing tools for Excel, PowerPoint, and PDFs into future iterations (attachment support for other Webmail clients would also be welcome.) These versions give Documents To Go a toehold, but are not nearly as strong as we would hope or expect, given the tiered applications' performance on other mobile platforms. Business users, stay tuned.