Priced at US$79, iWork is Apple's successor to the venerable AppleWorks productivity suite. The Apple iWork productivity suite, available on January 29, 2005 through the Apple Store and resellers, bundles two Mac apps, most notably Keynote 2, the updated version of Apple's presentation application, and Pages, an entirely new application for creating styled text documents. Apple CEO Steve Jobs calls Pages "a word processor with an incredible sense of style," thanks to a number of prebuilt (and Apple-designed) templates that offer various layouts, from family newsletters to small-business ad brochures. These come prefilled with dummy text, so you can add your own words and images later, as well as resize and move the images in real time.
Keynote 2 comes with several new themes and the ability to animate text and create interactive slide shows. It also adds the ability to export a presentation in flash or QuickTime formats, improved compatibility with Apple's AppleWorks productivity suite and Microsoft's PowerPoint, and a presenter mode for addressing large groups.
For Keynote 2, compatibility with market leader PowerPoint is vital, and time will tell how well this version's improvement works. Of the two iWork apps, Keynote remains the easier to use, thanks to automatic guides and layouts. It also produces prettier and more interactive results than Pages. The Presenter mode, in which you can preview and manage a presentation running on a projector, is a welcome addition.
Think of Pages as an Adobe PageMaker/Microsoft Word hybrid: the way it makes creating an attractive document with integrated graphics, including graphs (Pages comes with a powerful and intuitive graph creation tool), is absurdly simple. Pages should be a boon to those who can't afford to, or don't want to, learn QuarkXpress or Adobe InDesign just to make a professional-quality newsletter. Thanks to Mac OS X's powerful rendering capabilities, Pages lets you flow text around any graphic by simply dragging the graphic in place. Pages can also export documents to PDF, HTML, and Microsoft Word format.
The first version of Keynote didn't always export to and import from industry leader PowerPoint, and we're guessing that some conflicts will remain in version 2. Keynote 2 also faces an uphill battle against Microsoft's market-dominating Mac product.
Power word processor users will find Pages' feature set limited, despite excellent font handling and support for footnotes. We doubt anyone would want to write a book or even a long academic paper in Pages, given its emphasis on style. And perhaps worse, its compatibility with Microsoft Word is limited; Pages documents exported to Word show layout disfigurement, though the text survives. Also certain popular features, such as Word's Track Changes, aren't supported.
Apple's new iWork software is less than a full productivity suite but more than an application. It's not the Microsoft Office killer that some prerelease rumours suggested. As a package, iWork is certainly worth the price if you want to create sparkling newsletters, brochures, and office presentations. But if you don't make presentations and you're already a master at making attractive documents with text and graphics, you may not need iWork. Apple may find that ease of use and more attractive output may not be enough to entice switchers from Microsoft.