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Hands-on: Polaris Office is a free Office alternative, but read the fine print

Mark Hachman | March 9, 2016
Perhaps you've seen Polaris Office on Android or iOS. Now it moves onto the PC.

Polaris Office is also cloud-enabled: Documents can automatically be saved to a variety of cloud services, including Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and more. (Only the Dropbox and Google Drive options were available at press time.) That’s really helpful, given that the free version of the software allows you to create and edit apps on a PC or Mac as well as up to two smartphones. (About that Mac version: It’s coming in the second half of 2016, Lee said.)

Polaris also offers its own cloud service, called My Polaris Drive, which appears to go hand-in-glove with the pricing restrictions—you should be able store up to 60MB for free.

Terms of Service concerns

Trusting your data to a cloud service should always give you pause, however, and I uncovered some details in the Polaris Office terms of service that may concern you, specifically Article 9.

Clause 3, for example, notes that Polaris may restrict the use of some functions if and when you exceed the storage limit. “If the member’s stored content exceeds the new limit for 30 days, the Company shall delete all the content for that member, including content stored in free storage,” it adds, after pledging to notify you before this occurs. 

And then there’s Article 9, clause 7: “Users who have been inactive for more than six (6) months become inactive users. If such a user stays inactive for another six (6) months, that user’s content in the storage will be deleted. “

According to Lee, those clauses are a legacy of the app’s development as part of Infraware, and will not carry over to the new Polaris Office. Until the company removes the clauses, however, they’re still legally valid. 

Article 16 also notes that the company may serve you ads as part of the app itself. Article 18 claims that the data the company collects is “only for the purposes of improving the client performance, service, or providing services or technologies suitable to the use environment of the users.” That data includes your name, password, IP address, and Google and Facebook passwords, if you provide them.

It works just fine, if you know what you’re doing

Fortunately, many of the reasons to consider not using Polaris Office are confined to business and licensing issues, not the apps themselves. Don’t consider this a formal review just yet. However, many of the test documents I uploaded to the Polaris cloud rendered just fine using its Polaris Office app. 

Polaris has saved some of its more advanced features for its premium customers, but there’s more in the pipeline. The suite includes the ability to open and annotate PDFs, provided you’re willing to pay a bit more. You can share documents right now, via a handy shortcut in the menu bar. In the second half, Polaris promises, Polaris will improve that to include real-time co-editing and handwriting recognition, and even Android Wear and Apple Watch support. In 2017, Polaris says that optical character recognition and handwriting editing are on the roadmap. Beyond that, the Polaris team appears to have a Zoho-style attack plan: group discussions, knowledge sharing, and other features are planned. 


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