QuickOffice bundled in Android

Periodically I explore the pre-installed apps included as part of the 'Google Experience'. In 4.3 I noticed something I didn't recall seeing before: QuickOffice as a preloaded app which means that it cannot be uninstalled without modifying the system image, only disabled. Curious, I dug a little deeper.

Google acquired QuickOffice in June 2012 and the last I heard was that it was being offered to Google Apps business users. The inclusion of it as part of the standard Android install had me wondering if they were rolling this out on a wider scale. The short answer appears to be not exactly.

I looked for the obvious: any launcher icons to manually run the app... nothing there. OK, so perhaps it's intended to be embedded and only launched via intents from other apps... bingo. In GMail, I tried to open a spreadsheet attachment and saw QuickOffice launch, immediately flash a dialog and disappear, returning me to GMail. Then I took a look at the document being open and it was an .xlsx file. Thinking that perhaps QuickOffice only supported legacy .xls files, I converted the file and tried again. This time QuickOffice opened the file and remained open. This also works from Google Drive. It appears that the version of QuickOffice included is only for document viewing and possibly printing, but not editing which doesn't appear to be possible with the bundled version. At the very least, editing is not enabled by default. I would guess that editing functionality is limited to Google Apps for Business subscribers which seems to be a reasonable limitation.

Before getting too excited about this development it should be noted that when Android 4.2 (and probably earlier releases) initially rolled out, there was a different app called 'Document Viewer' which could open both .xlsx and .xls files. So the net result is that the new approach provides fewer, or at least different, capabilities than the old one. Having experienced similar issues related to changing media codecs in several releases between Android 2.x-4.x (not always improvements: there are media files that used to be able to open that no longer can via the default apps/codecs), this arbitrarily shifting 'core' feature set is rather frustrating. As a result, I find myself replacing several of the Google apps to get a consistent feature set that I can rely on.

Update: after updating my first gen Nexus 7, it appears that whether you have Document Viewer, QuickOffice, or possibly something else is device specific. I now have 3 devices running 4.3: the first gen Nexus 7 has Document Viewer preinstalled, the second gen has QuickOffice, and the Nexus 4 has QuickOffice. As a result, I've changed the title of this post since the inclusion of QuickOffice appears device, rather than version, specific.

A final note related to Google's preloading of apps: this is being done with more and more apps (for example, recent app additions like Google Keep are now preloaded, as are various foreign language keyboards, and Google Play apps for books, magazines etc.) Being able to disable them is helpful, but many users would probably be better served if Google would make more of these bundled apps optional downloads from the Google Play store. As the portfolio of preloaded apps grows, the less likely a given user is to want or need a particular, nonessential app. If this doesn't happen, Google runs the risk of having some of it's own apps being viewed in the same light as much of the preloaded carrier and device manufacturer software.

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