iWork may be free with your new iPhone, but these alternatives are way better

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This week, Apple announced that new iPhone and iPad owners will get to download the iWorks office suite – Pages, Numbers, and Keynote – for free. But if you already own an iPad or iPhone, and don’t plan on pre-ordering the next iPhone right now, you’re still going to have to cough up $10 for each of them in the App Store.

Free is always good, but it doesn’t always mean great. Just because these apps come straight from Apple doesn’t mean they’re the best. Off hand, we can name three office suites that are a lot better. Below are some iWork killers and why we like them more than Apple’s product.

QuickOffice, iPhone and iPad (Free)

QuickOffice ProUpdate 9/20: A few days ago Google made two big changes with QuickOffice. the first was to make the iPhone and iPad versions the same instead of splitting them into regular and HD. The company also eliminated the price, making the suite free. 

QuickOffice is a favorite among many mobile users for its clean, intuitive design and how well it handles Microsoft Office document formatting without messing it up – a trick Pages has not yet learned. The app is also able to pull and sync files from several popular services: Google Drive, Box.net, MobileMe, Huddle, and SugarSync. iWork apps only sync to iCloud. The new version should have support for Track Changes and Comments.

QuickOffice’s biggest drawback is that it won’t read, edit, or let you save as RTF, a common file format. It only works with MS Office and text files. 

Documents To Go Premium, iPhone and iPad ($17)

Documents To Go Premium DocsToGo is a venerable office suite that’s been around since the days of the Palm Pilot. The iOS version works on both iPhone and iPad, and offers several features not found in iWorks. The suite can view RTF and PDF files, though it can only create, save, and edit Microsoft Office files. Users can pull files from and sync to Google Drive, Dropbox, Box.net, SugarSync, and iCloud in the newest version. Plus, the app supports syncing files with your computer.

DTG prides itself on keeping formatting intact, so the way a file looks on your iDevice screen should match how it looks on your computer. If your workflow includes more presentations than text documents, Documents To Go isn’t great. It’s not fantastic at creating slides from scratch and isn’t as good as Keynote for editing them, either. Document and spreadsheet editing is far better with this app.

Polaris Office, iPhone and iPad ($13)

Polaris OfficeWe’re rarely impressed with Polaris on Android, but it turns out it’s a capable office suite for iOS. The speedy performance and intuitive interface are big pros as is the ability to view PDF files and edit/save Office files. Currently, the app can pull and sync files from Google Docs, Dropbox, and Box.net with more services on the way. It’s possible to view changes and comments but not to accept, reject, or add new ones. We also don’t like that there’s no RTF support. The price includes word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation and the app works on both iPhone and iPad.

Bonus: Textilus Word Processor, iPad ($6)

Textilus Word ProcessorWe included this word processing app for those of you looking for an app that can both view and edit RTF files. There doesn’t seem to be any other iOS app that can do this, which is odd since RTF is meant to be a universal format and alternative to the proprietary Microsoft Word formats. With Textilus you can open RTF files from email or cloud services for editing and save new files as RTF, RTFD, PDF, TXT, PNG, HTML and Markdown. The app syncs with iCloud, Dropbox, Evernote, and Scrivener. The biggest drawback of Textilus is that it’s only for iPad and not for iPhone.

Are there any mobile office suites you like that we didn’t list? Tell us in the comments.

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