Can Apple's new Pages replace Word?

Can Apple's new Pages replace Word?

Summary: Storing data in documentsI ordered Apple's new iWork '08 package Tuesday and it arrived two days later. I've had the prior iWork suites but found little use for them as Microsoft's Office suite - which I've used for 15 years - met my needs without a learning curve.


Storing data in documents I ordered Apple's new iWork '08 package Tuesday and it arrived two days later. I've had the prior iWork suites but found little use for them as Microsoft's Office suite - which I've used for 15 years - met my needs without a learning curve. But I've been rooting for iWork as Microsoft products improve faster with competition.

Office in my corporate life In the corporate world the ability to exchange editable spread sheets and documents is vital and the ubiquity of Office a blessing. But I'm a small business now, and I ship most documents as finished goods, not work in process.

Thus the look of my documents, presentations and spreadsheets is much more important. Even so, I found earlier versions of iWork of little use. Few of the templates were business-oriented, unless your business was garage sales. The lack of a spreadsheet didn't help.

iWork in small business life Like most people I'm not using the very latest version of Office, so perhaps some of my issues have been fixed. I'm waiting for the next Mac version of Office, which I will probably buy unless iWork does a great job of working with all the Office formats.

Apple defines the Pages mission as

Create word processing and page layout documents with visual appeal.

They have succeeded.

iWork and Pages can't compete on a feature basis with Office and Word, but it sure makes it easy to prepare well-designed, professional looking presentations, documents and spreadsheets. Pages enabled me to put together a proposal in a couple of hours that looks better than anything I would have come up with in Word in any amount of time.

I've always wondered why the world's richest software company, making Billion$ in profit from Office every year, never invested a couple of million to hire top-notch design firms to create quality templates, fonts and clip art. The newest iWork doesn't provide as much as I'd like, but what is there is well-designed and useful out of the box.

Easy graphics I've often found moving graphics into and between Office apps to be more difficult than it should be. Office apps do not support the same formats, treat the same formats differently and vary in how and what may be edited.

Positioning graphics can be non-intuitive in Word, where iWork's Pages makes it drag and drop simple with easy resizing. Placement lines pop up so you can center a graphic painlessly. You can edit images with the same tool set iPhoto offers while word processing. Nothing earth-shaking, just simple enhancements that make life simpler for non-designers.

Basic tools Apple has cherry-picked the most important word processing and layout features for Pages. There is a basic but usable Track Changes feature. You can open up a search function that is part of the Pages window that will list all the occurrences of a word in the document. You can open multiple Inspector windows - if you have the screen space - to keep track of fonts, graphics, formatting.

One of my favorite features is "Paste and Match Style" which puts the copied content into the style in your document rather than leaving it in the format of the document it you copied it from. My Word documents often end up with a mish-mash of formats as I cut and paste from various PDFs, other Word documents and web pages. The Format Painter tool has a permanent place on my Word toolbar, but fixing the problem when pasting, rather than later, makes more sense.

Not perfect by a long shot Pages doesn't have an outline mode, which I don't use much, but is very useful when I do. The "Paste and Match Style" function doesn't always work as I expect. There is no easy way to change the order of bullets - just cut and paste. And I'm hoping that Apple either adds more templates as downloads or that a 3rd-party market springs up to offer more.

Translating complex Word documents into Pages isn't 100% and neither is the reverse, but it is close. I ship most of my documents as PDFs - easy on a Mac - so I don't worry about the compatibility issues.

The Storage Bits take This is the first version of iWork that is a worthy small-business tool. Office has many more features - you can do amazing things with Excel, and Word is better for long documents even if it pales beside FrameMaker - but iWork '08 has the features that small businesses need, especially usability.

iWork '08 has another attractive feature: price. For $79 you get the complete suite. If you use a Mac in a SOHO environment, iWork '08 is definitely worth the money.

Topics: SMBs, Apple, Collaboration, Microsoft, Software

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  • Word Tip

    Great review! I'm going to try out iWork. One correction. You can paste in Word without formatting by using Paste Special - Unformatted Text. Thanks for the thoughtful comments on Pages!
  • Pages vs. Word

    Both are great products. I personally like pages better. So both are fitted to compete. However, for Pages to take over the market, we need more Apple computers on the tables. The so famous 5% of the PC market that Apple traditionally has had, does not help it.

    Mario Ruiz
    • It wouldn't hurt to release iWorks for Window either

      That could give Microsoft a run for their money.
  • Big difference in price

    Microsoft Office Small Business 2007 $449/$279
    IWorks - $79

    For a small business, IWorks works for me. I really like the new Numbers. I've always
    had trouble preparing presentations using Excel, but Numbers works with
    presentation in mind. It imports and exports to Excel and does way more than I'll
    ever need in terms of formulas.
    Prime Detailer
    • Numbers rocks too.


      Your comment on Numbers is right on. Numbers works and looks good doing it. You
      can make Excel look good - but it is a lot of work.


      R Harris
  • does pages have email merge?

    that is the key feature i'm looking for that ms word has.
    • Mail merge in Pages

      Pages supports mail merge, only from Address Book. I'm not sure what "email merge" is, though: Pages does documents that are intended to be printed (including as PDFs). If you want to send batch emails, Mail can do that using groups or you can get other email clients that do it better.
  • Can Apple's new Pages replace Word -- NO!!!!

    Billions of companies use and trust word, it will not change soon. They are also not going to lay out more money for macs. Done.
    • Oh and Open Office is out there for free -NT

    • Such a smallish message, very short to the point and WRONG:)

      My company uses both Mac's and PC's as a company "standard" we use MS Office.
      However on the Mac side we are going to iWorks cause well it's CHEAPER to do so.
      We are also adding Mac's and in the process replacing PC's because our new MacTels
      can do both and in area's where we need both why have two computers? Also look
      at the Mac sales number my friend someone has to be buying them and it is not just
      old reliable Mac owners..:P

      Pagan jim
    • Laying money for Mac is easier than you think

      You just have to look at the alternative: Vista.
  • Microsoft and competition

    I work in a medium sized business with mostly PC desktops. We're currently on Office XP. I did a quick ballpark pricing for us to "upgrade" to Office 2007... $50k. When I look around, the vast majority of our documents could have been done in Office 95, making the 50 grand even harder to justify. It's really time for some competition to show up in the office market. I know we're going to really do some close looking at Open Office.
    Joe Matuscak
    • Try Star Office instead

      Having tried OpenOffice many times I have always uninstalled and gone back to Office. But now when StarOffice is available free from Google, the picture has changed. This really is nearly fully compatible with the standard Office programs, and well worth considering.
      • Visual appeal of documents created with StarOffice/OpenOffice?

        I wonder how StarOffice/OpenOffice compare with MS Office and iWork in the "visual appeal" department that Robin mentions in the article. I'm guessing much below even MS Office....
  • Re: Numbers rocks too

    Tried out Numbers for a new spreadsheet doc last week.

    First, the multiple-tables-per-sheet feature is GREAT. No more column-width conflicts, or having to combine columns just to make the formatting work.

    Next, I created a simple lookup table and referenced it with the LOOKUP function. It couldn't have been easier to create the formula. Just clicked on the column headers in the lookup table to reference them. No need to define cell ranges, named ranges, or flipping between sheets. (When done, I just dragged the lookup table to another sheet to hide it.)

    Finally, to format it for printing, the Print View made it easy.

    I haven't been this excited about a spreadsheet program since Quattro Pro introduced tabbed sheets in the early 1990s. Open Office is nice, but basically just a clone of Excel. Numbers takes spreadsheets to a new level.