Apple has taken great strides of late to show that its iPad and iPhone devices are more than consumption devices. To aid in this effort, the company has released a massive update to iWork for iOS. Free for new iOS device owners, iWork brings a refreshed user experience to Pages, Numbers and Keynote in line with iOS 7. With the new apps, Apple wants to prove that even if you only have these devices at your disposal, you'll still be able to create great-looking documents, spreadsheets and presentations. How well does the new iWork suite -- free for new iOS users -- live up to that claim?
The latest version of Pages, Apple's answer to Microsoft Word, has been treated to a UI redesign, bringing the app's look in line with iOS 7.
All of the templates from the OS X version of Pages are available on iOS, giving you access to more than 60 ready-made documents to let you hit the ground running. Once you launch a document, you'll see a new toolbar up top that puts all the tools you'll need to fully customize your document, reducing the amount of time it takes you to create content. The toolbar lets you navigate back to your iCloud documents, undo any changes made, perform advanced text formatting, add media content and charts, change settings and share your document with others.
When you add media to your document, such as a photo, the text automatically wraps around this content to give it a clean look. This feature is a welcome one, as it was previously a frustrating process to add images and tables to documents and format everything to get it looking just the way you want. Now it's automatic, and we found it worked very well in our testing.
The on-screen keyboard has received a modest revamp as well. A new small editing bar sits atop the keyboard, giving users basic one-touch options for the most used tools. You can use this bar to quickly change the text alignment and font settings, as well as insert comments, footnotes, and page, line, and column breaks.
Pages was designed with collaboration in mind, and new sharing options built into the app let you share documents via Mail, AirDrop, Twitter or Facebook. From there, people will be able to open and edit your document via the Pages for iCloud beta app on the Web. With this added focus on collaboration, Pages now includes enhanced commenting and highlighting tools to help users work on documents together, though they will only work in the Pages for iOS and Mac apps, and not in iWork for iCloud .
With the new Pages, Apple clearly set out to make it as simple as possible to create good-looking documents, and the company has achieved this goal. We found all of the tools needed were just one or two touches away, and each was useful and added to the overall experience. Best of all, because Apple also brought a single file format to both the iOS and Mac version of iWork, we could switch from iPhone to iPad to Mac to iWork for iCloud beta without our document losing any formatting . You can also share documents in PDF, Word or EPUB formats so that non-iWork users can view and edit your documents.
Numbers, iWork's spreadsheet app, has also received an iOS 7 interface overhaul. When you first launch the app, you'll be able to select from one of Apple's 30-plus preset Numbers templates, with several new ones created just for the new iOS interface.
Apple also made changes to Numbers' formatting panel, making it more intuitive, with all the tools you'll need just a touch or two away. Numbers now has better print preview and export options, more sharing functionally, and added interactive and bubble charts.
However, it's the changes to the keyboard that really help Numbers for iOS stand out. When editing cells in Numbers for iOS, four circular buttons sit atop the on-screen keyboard to quickly switch between numeric, time, text and formula-based input options. The most important of these is the formula keyboard, as most spreadsheet work is created for the purpose of summarizing large data sets. Apple has made formula work easy with the new functions tab, which you can use to find the formulas you need to perform data calculations. Once you've selected a formula, on-screen prompts let you easily select the data you'll need to perform the given function.
Overall, we found that Numbers for iOS was a great tool for making basic spreadsheets and charts, as well as making quick changes to spreadsheets on the go. However, Numbers is probably the iWork app we're least likely to use on an iPad or iPhone. Having the extra screen real estate and a physical keyboard and mouse is essential for spreadsheet work. That said, the touch interface on Numbers for iOS is compelling, and the quick-change keyboards make for a better data input experience. Further, Apple has added powerful new tools like Interactive charts to help make the experience a good one.
Keynote, which is used to make PowerPoint-style presentations, has been given a facelift to bring it in line with Apple's new design for iOS. There are now more than 30 template designs for Keynote, giving users a way to quickly begin working on a presentation without needing to do too much formatting.
Keynote is widely viewed as the best iWork app in the suite, so it's perhaps fitting that the app only received a few added features aside from UI enhancements. Apple added several new animations, bringing your presentation to life with transitions, builds and effects. You can also add interactive charts, which include a scrollbar you can use to animate your charts and present data in a more meaningful way. You can share your work with others on Messages, Facebook, Twitter or via Email.
The updated formatting panel puts your tools front and center, and an added Play button for Keynote lets you quickly preview presentations as they would appear on screen. One-touch access to several tools and features let us easily make changes to our presentation, and each tool is presented in an intuitive way.
Overall, we found the new Keynote made creating presentations a simple, frustration-free process. The new user interface puts all needed tools right where you need them, and provides one- or two-touch access to everything. Even if you're using Keynote for iOS exclusively, you'll be able to create professional, good-looking presentations, and added features like interactive charts will help make your presentation shine.
iWork vs. the Competition
iWork for iOS' main competition is Google Drive, Office 365 and a handful of stand-alone mobile productivity suites, including Documents to Go, Polaris Office and Quickoffice. Compared with these products, iWork's formatting options provide more tools to better customize your documents, and presents them in a way that makes them easy to find and use. Only Apple has also added powerful new tools such as interactive charts.
Since Apple designed iOS and the iWork suite, iWork users are treated to a product with a familiar design aesthetic. And while other apps can match iWork in terms of look and feel, iWork is much better integrated into the OS, as evidenced by the enhanced sharing features that let you share your documents via many different avenues and formats.
iWork is also now winning the price battle, with new iOS users getting the suite for free. Google Drive is also free, but most of the stand-alone apps will set you back $10 to $20, and Office 365 requires an annual $100 subscription. Looking at the total package of cost, features and design, Apple's iWork for iOS is the best option for most iOS users.
Now free with any new iOS purchase, the iWork for iOS suite is a must-have tool to unlock your iPhone and iPad's content-creation potential. Pages, Numbers and Keynote can each be used to create clean, professional-looking documents. And Apple's powerful new tools, such as interactive charts, will help you present information in a meaningful way. Best of all, these applications now look like they belong in iOS 7 .
Sure, you may not always want to create documents exclusively in iWork for iOS, but Apple has shown that you can, and that you don't have to make many sacrifices to do so. The new iWork for iOS is one of the best productivity suites available for iOS today. Even for current iOS device owners, the cost of purchasing the suite -- $29, or $9.99 individually -- is worth it for those who need a productivity suite on their iPhone or iPad.