The invitation from the good guys at Apple to use iWork on iCloud (beta!) dropped into my email box this week. As someone who spends most of their time (if not all, some weeks) in Microsoft Office/Office 365 I thought I’d give it a whirl.
The typical document writing needs of a Project Manager/Business Analyst were tackled first. iWork offers “pages” as its word processing offering. “Word processing” may sound somewhat anachronistic when “pages” is described as being able to “create beautiful documents” but in the main my documents are not beautiful – they are functional. A logo here, some bullet points there, an image here and there if necessary, is a far as I’d go in terms of beautiful documents.
Well first impressions are good. The ubiquitous “choose a template” option appears whenever I create a new document. Why is there always an assumption that I want to use a template? Most of the time I start with a blank page, or re-open a favourite document that I know I like the format of and use that. As its the first time I’ve used “pages” the option to re-open an existing document is not there so I go back to the blank template. I’m guessing in the future there will be the option to ignore template selection.
So away I go typing some stuff. I wont bore you with the details…..
One of the great plays Apple is going for is the write once, appear everywhere, benefit of being “all in” with Apple. I’m writing the piece on the Mac and it will be available on the iPhone, iPad and online via iCloud. So far so very “cloud” – nothing radical here. However what Apple do really good is there user experience for touch devices. Things like line/paragraph spacing, font type/size selection, indentation, etc. all use familiar metaphors from all iOS devices – such as sliders. I think a lot of these would be great for people proof reading or editing documents, written by others, whilst on the go.
The option to “go for” Microsoft is of course there – one of the first options presented is the option to upload MS Word documents. I tried the most “beautiful” document I could find and after a few minutes of chugging it rendered something that was 80% of the original. Perhaps “pages” beauty is in the eye of the beholder?
Whilst the “pages” solution is by no means feature complete it is very workable as a day-to-day word processor. I don’t think the features will ever match that of a leading word processor – such as MS Word – but then again it probably shouldn’t. In my opinion MS Word has too many features 90% of which are never used. The key features that are currently missing in “pages” (or at least I couldn’t find them) are the tools for managing long documents – view in outline mode for example (I do write one or two loooooong documents) and a means of inserting hyperlinks (it is very rare I write a document that doesn’t point to something on the web or corporate intranet).
To be honest, word processing is still all about the words. What makes your favourite word processor is familiarity, ease of access and speed of output. I know a number of keyboard shortcuts in MS Word that I learnt about 20 years ago and still use today – this allows me to crunch through a lot of (formatted) words quickly. Would I switch to “pages”? Not for heavy duty document production. Maybe for blog posts…. This whole posting was drafted on “pages” first so it would work in that sphere (and an app that links, say, WordPress to “pages” might be useful).
Next time I’ll take a look at either “numbers” (aka Spreadsheet) – should I need to crunch through some data – or “keynote” (aka Presentations) (a great buzzword by the way) should I need to present some news…..
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