I love competition. The king of office suites, Mac or PC, is Microsoft’s Office. Why? No viable competition.
On the Mac, Apple provides some real competition with an easy-to-use trio—the iWork ‘08 suite.
I wonder if Microsoft delayed the release of Office for the Mac until the end of the year just to see what Apple would do with iLife?
What did Apple do? They made iWork ‘08 look a lot like the value proposition of Microsoft’s Office for the Mac. Word processing, presentation, spreadsheet.
It’s like getting an easy-to-use version of Office for $80. And ease of use isn’t the half of it. iWork is all grown up and living large without Enzyte.
Hot on the heels of today’s introduction of a new iLife to go with the new iMacs is iWork. I headed to the Ala Moana Apple Store right at 9:30 when they opened. No iLife ‘08 in stock, but fresh boxes of iWork ‘08 were available and I got what I needed.
Normally, I’d go with the Family Pack of iWork for $99, which would cover my Macs and my kid’s Macs. Funny thing—kids don’t use spreadsheets, or presentation, and only write with email or text messaging.
So, daddy the Software Nazi says, “No iWork for you!”
What’s new in iWork? Let me start with pages as that’s what I use the most. Pages of previous years was not Microsoft Word. It was good for what it did—attractively designed page layouts and documents, but it wasn’t Word.
The new Pages has a split personality. Finally, it’s a word processor that’s worthy of use for those of us who use Word. Think “two modes.”
If “distraction free” writing is all the rage these days, then the bleeding edge rage folks will love word processing in Pages. It’s about time.
Once installed, Pages presents an instructional splash page complete with Video Tutorials, and the basic sections for Pages—writing and layout modes, the new contextual format bar, new graphics tools, the extra templates, list formatting (much needed, and difficult to master even in Word).
A favorite new feature in Pages is Change Tracking. This is a feature borrowed from Word and may help Apple sell a few million copies of iWork into the small business world. I hate list formatting. Pages makes it easy.
You’ll love the Change Bubbles which highlight who did what to the document. Yes, it’s integrated into AddressBook, so you can easily put the blame on whoever messed up your document.
The Pages templates have two categories to start—Word Processing and Page Layout, each with a few dozen templates to match.
One feature that popped up right away is the “mouse over” effect to reveal the Pages header. No more digging around the menus.
Page Layout isn’t Adobe InDesign, but it’s credible for those who need quick and not-so-dirty page layouts for less sophisticated documents. Pages even opens Microsoft Office Word 2007 documents in the Office Open XML format.
Apple is touting the compatibility with Microsoft Office all over the place. Export gives you the option to save a document as a PDF, and RTF, plain text, and a Microsoft Word file.
It’s PowerPoint vs. Keynote in the 21st century. Microsoft’s venerable presentation package may have a few more features, but that doesn’t mean much if they’re hidden.
Keynote has added a few of its own. More text and transition effects that are actually easier to use.
Animation may be the future of applications on the Mac, but Keynote gets a head start with a feature called Action Builds. Drop in a graphic on a presentation screen, then set it up so the graphic moves across a path that you determine. Try that in PowerPoint.
Voice over recording is also new in Keynote, perhaps obviating the need for a separate application such as ProfCast. Record your presentation real time and save as a video with audio narration.
You’ll find more themes in Keynote (you can never have enough). There’s more graphics tools, too, borrowing from Pages.
Output is enhanced, too—not only can you save Keynote documents as QuickTime movies, PowerPoint, you can also save them to upload to YouTube. Apple is hot on any new trend, right?
I’ve long since given up on PowerPoint, though I probably would have upgraded my Office Suite to the latest version—had it shipped already, as promised. Now? I’m not so sure I need Office anymore.
The Excel in Numbers
The long awaited spreadsheet for iWork is here. It’s not quite Microsoft Excel, but it may just be all that most of us really need anyway.
The first launch of Numbers does the same as Pages, and presents a tutorial splash page with basic features and a Video Tutorial button.
As it does with Pages, Numbers opens with templates and various categories—Budget, Checklist, Event Planner, Mortgage, Financials, Invoice, Expense Report, Gradebook, ROI, and more.
A spreadsheet is a spreadsheet is a spreadsheet. If you’ve used one, you’ve used them all, more or less. Numbers, though, takes a decidedly different view of numbers, with the emphasis on “view” not features you don’t use.
Unlike Excel, spreadsheet “sheets” are listed in a column to the left, with various point-and-click styles located below but in the same column.
Numbers takes a drawing canvas approach to layout. Everything on the spreadsheet can be moved around, included tables of spreadsheet rows and columns (similar to the old AppleWorks). You can even drop in photos and other graphics, included text commenting.
There are more than 150 different spreadsheet functions in Numbers. I remember about two dozen from Excel, so is it safe to assume that Numbers offers enough compatible features for most of us? Enough to ditch Excel? Perhaps.
While I like the GUI layout, the ease-of-use, and the heavy display of graphics (I’m an Eye Candy kinda guy), my favorite feature is the spreadsheet in a table.
A Numbers table has a separate grid of rows and columns, and each can be formatted fully independently. Changing the size and format of the table has no effect on other tables within the spreadsheet. That’s ultra cool.
Again, Apple touts compatibility as a feature—compatible with the rest of the world, Microsoft Office, including OFX. Numbers even imports old AppleWorks documents.
Over all, iWork ‘08 is a lot more eye candy, but under the classy glassy veneer is a boat load of new features and new ways to view, use, and produce words, documents, graphics, presentations, and numbers.
There’s much to like here. Enough to stop using Microsoft Office? In the future, we’ll do a comparison of the two suites to determine if Microsoft can be put out to pasture, and determine if iWork can work in the office.