Free for all new Mac buyers; Nice UI redesign; New toolbars and contextual sidebar makes content creation quick and easy; Powerful enough for most uses
iWork for iCloud beta lacking a few features; No pivot tables in Numbers
Now offered free for all new Mac buyers and current iWork owners, iWork is an excellent productivity suite for OS X users.
Apple's iWork suite -- which includes Pages, Numbers and Keynote -- is Apple's version of the Microsoft Office productivity suite and Google's Drive. With the launch of OS X 10.9 Mavericks, Apple has completely rebuilt the software with a new UI, a new formatting panel and a consistent file format for cross-platform document parity. Even better, Apple is providing the suite for free to current iWork owners or to anyone who buys a new Mac or iOS device. But is the new iWork suite good enough to convince Microsoft Office for Mac and Google Drive users to make the switch? Read on for our full review.
Apple is no slouch when it comes to design. In each open document, the toolbar provides options that let you change the view and zoom level, as well as insert tables, charts, text boxes, shapes, comments and media content. The top-right section of the toolbar houses a new button with the option to share via Mail, Twitter, Facebook and Messages. You'll also find tips for using Pages, formatting options and a setup area.
If you're adding media content, the sidebar changes to give you powerful new ways to edit your image within the documents, including options to resize the image, and change exposure, saturation levels and the alignment of the text around your image. When you're working with tables, you can customize the look of your table with preset designs, adjust fonts and borders, and change the data format. Microsoft Word provides more options for customizing tables, but we found that Pages gave us better-looking tables.
Overall, we found that Pages let us create good-looking, well-formatted documents with a consistent look across all of our Apple devices. Pages does an excellent job of putting the tools you need front and center so you can quickly and easily crank out your documents.
In Numbers, you'll find the same familiar toolbar at the top, with one-click access to many ways to enhance your documents with charts and media, and the sharing area to let you collaborate with others. You'll also find the contextual sidebar format panel.
The interactive-chart tool is one of the more useful features added to Numbers. When you're working with a series of data, you can create charts that include buttons and scrollbars, which animate your charts to make them come to life on the screen. For example, say you're analyzing a product and want to understand its sales trends. Simply create a table with the appropriate data, and create an interactive chart. The chart will feature a slider that you can use to scroll through individual months to see how the sales are trending. In many situations, interactive charts can present information in a much more meaningful and understandable way than typical static charts can, and this feature helps Numbers stand out from the pack.
One capability that Numbers still lacks that's a mainstay in most corporate offices is the ability to create Pivot Tables, which provide Microsoft Excel users a way to create easy reports with big data tables. Though you can essentially replicate this in Numbers, the process is complex and not as intuitive as it is in Excel. Apple has made great strides with Numbers, but it has some catching up to do if it's going to handle much more than basic spreadsheets and charts.
Once you open Keynote, you'll find the same changes to both the toolbar and sidebar formatting panel as in Pages and Numbers, though there are a few tweaks appropriate for working on presentations. In addition to the standard new toolbar, two additional buttons -- one to start the slideshow you've created, and the other to create and edit animations and transitions -- have been added to the mix.
In addition to the UI enhancements consistent with the rest of the iWork suite, Apple added new, cinema-quality transitions to its slide-animation function. Magic Move maintains these animations whenever the same information is presented on multiple slides.
The new transitions added to an already impressive array of the effects in previous versions of Keynote, and Magic Move solves one of the formerly frustrating aspects of using transitions. If you have the same data, charts or tables on multiple slides, Magic Move will assign the same transition effect to these slides once enabled -- so you no longer have to choose the same effect repeatedly to create a consistent presentation.
Apple also fully revamped the Presenter Display within Keynote. With the new Presenter Display, you can edit notes on the fly as you're presenting, access the slide navigator and jump to any slide from within the display itself. One downside is that you can no longer customize the Presenter Display, apart from enabling/disabling sections. If you rely on notes to get you through a presentation (and many of us do), you either have to use a tiny notes bar at the bottom of the screen or disable everything else for a full-screen view. This frustration aside, the Presenter Display is a handy tool to help get you through your presentation with ease.
In a way, it seems appropriate that Keynote received only minor updates, as this program has long been the best and most functional iWork app. Though Microsoft PowerPoint has more templates and features, Keynote arguably has better transitions and is more intuitive for newbies. And with the added sharing features brought to the iWork suite, Keynote has just become an even better solution for presentations, cementing its place as the must-have presentation app for Mac users.
iWork for iCloud beta
The biggest change to iWork for Mac and iOS is the consistent file format -- all of your documents look and function in the same way on Mac, iOS, and the Web suite. This is particularly helpful for those who don't exclusively use Mac products, as documents are now stored in iCloud by default. Now, iWork users can edit documents created in Mac or iOS on any device, without missing a beat.
Perhaps more important, iWork for iCloud beta opens up the collaborative functionality of iWork by letting anyone with a computer contribute to iWork documents, though this functionality is still a bit rough around the edges, despite recent enhancements.
Overall, we'd like to see Apple bring the new design of iOS 7 and OS X 10.9 Mavericks into the Web-based iWork for iCloud beta suite, but we're happy with the level of functionality Apple brought to the product. We found it was easy to use the Web version of these Mac apps, even on a Windows machine.
In practice, the collaboration functionality in its current form is limited compared to the competition's offerings. A recent update added sorely needed tools that let users know who else is editing a document and where they are physically positioned within a document. But there's still no way to chat with the other person aside from a third-party application. This is one of the most helpful features found in Google Drive, and Apple needs to bring this feature to iWork for iCloud beta for people to use it as a serious collaboration tool.
We had the best experience when both collaborators were using the iWork for iCloud Web app. When one user was in Pages for Mac, for example, and another in the Pages for iCloud beta Web app, changes made by one user weren't made at the same time, and you essentially end up with two (or more) documents that you need to reconcile later, resulting in more work to get the document the way you want it.
Overall, collaboration in iWork for iCloud beta is off to a decent start but is missing a few features needed in a true collaboration tool. Recent additions make the suite much more compelling than when the product initially launched, but the lack of a chat client and some of the more helpful markup features leave iWork for iCloud coming up short.
To accomplish this platform parity, some features -- such as autocomplete, in Numbers -- were removed, but Apple said it will add several of the features back to the suite in a future update, and the company promises that new features are on the way as well.
Users sitting outside Apple's ecosystem will obviously have little incentive to switch, as Google Drive particularly does a better job with collaboration functionality compared to iWork for iCloud beta. Nevertheless, iWork is a compelling content creation platform for Mac owners.
|Software Type||Business Software|
|Software Required OS:||OS X Mavericks|