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Apple iWork '09 is a suite of three programs - Pages, a word processor, Numbers, an Excel equivalent, and Keynote, a PowerPoint substitute. iWork is, rather unusually, at just £60 actually cheaper than Microsoft's alternative Microsoft Office for Mac. So, is Apple's offering better than Microsoft's? Read on and all will be revealed...
To start with, the quality of design in iWork '09 is - well, in my opinion at least - better than the quality of design you get in Microsoft Office. There are template designs for keynote that look amazing, and Pages has a selection of templates that look nicer than Microsoft Word's default templates. On from design, iWork is very easy to use, if a little confusing for people who - like me - have used Microsoft Office for all of their life.
I would say that the main problem with iWork lies in its compatibility with Microsoft Office, which is after all used by 95% of the computing world. In Apple's defense, there are stellar tools for converting to Office-type files, however sometimes, especially with Keynote presentations, the converting goes wrong and you end up with a less-than-good product. However, if you think you can live with that, I would definitely recommend iWork as it is very easy to use, and has good design templates.
iWork 09 is the latest version of Apple's smallish business software suite.
Comprised of Pages, Numbers and Keynote and priced at around £60 it make for a compelling purchase when compared to Microsoft Office and it's prohibitive price tag.
Installation is simple enough, you just have to run an installer package and go through a couple of simple steps. One thing I noticed during this was that Apple seem to have dropped using serial numbers (iWork '08 had them.)
On to the individual programs:
Pages - A reasonably simple but capable word processor. One of the standout new features for me was the full screen writing mode. Very useful when distractions in other bits of the screen stop you working. It also has a wide range of predefined templates that are actually well designed (something else iWork has over Microsoft Office.) Pages can also open and save as Word documents. Handy in a mixed office environment or if you don't want to subject yourself to Word itself.
Numbers - Apple's alternative to Excel. It does what it does with style, forgoing the usual infinite axis grid of cells for the option of drawing separate tables. It has been improved with additional mathematical functions and templates.
Keynote - The crown jewel in Apple's 'business' software in this reviewer's opinion. Keynote is the equivalent of Powerpoint, but puts it to shame with it's text control and design. The transitions and builds, whilst showy, ooze quality, as do the templates.
A new addition to the iWork family is iWork.com, an online repository that allows you to share your documents with others or access them remotely. This, whilst useful, is still in beta and subject to change (further comment is reserved until it reaches it's final release.)
My only criticism of this suite of applications is the 'Inspector', the tool palette that is common to all of the apps. It looks a little dated in comparison to the rest of the software, it's layout and design could do with a tweak or two. This is only a minor factor and doesn't really hamper my use of the apps.
Overall, iWork 09 represents excellent value for money and makes producing documents a pleasure.
iWork is Apple's answer to Microsoft Office, it is relatively new to the market with just a couple of iterations but has the usual Apple look & feel. It is only available for the Mac OS X operating system(s), and has it's own proprietary file format, so doesn't work seamlessly with Office out of the box - although can be made to do so, just takes a couple of extra steps.
There are three applications within the iWork suite - Numbers, Pages, and Keynote.
Numbers is the spreadsheet application; the essential functions are the same as Excel, although Numbers attempts to do things in a more stylish way! You start off with a blank canvas, and then draw on cells & chart and position them wherever you want on the page. Initially this approach seems a little confusing, especially to those used to the endless cells of Excel, although in a way it makes more sense - you only draw the areas that you want, meaning that charts and cells can easily be positioned next to each other on the same page. The graphs look wonderful when compared to Excel's, with many fancy 3D effects available it is clear that this didn't escape Apple before a trip to the design department, there is actually colour's in the default themes - which I'm sure anyone will agree is a welcome change from the endless black & white.
Pages is a bit of a cross between Word & Publisher - said to be a desktop publishing application, but having the structure of a word processor. The overall layout is similar to that of Numbers - in fact it is a constant between all of the applications. It works well as a word processor, and has other integrations with apps such as the ability to embed "spreadsheet" objects, from which you can create graphs that will dynamically update. The DTP aspects of Pages are useful in that the allow for you to move object's such as images and graphs wherever you want around the document - removing the restrictions that Word often has, in addition to this it also has "guidelines" which appear allowing for you to easily centralise objects, something which I think is missing from Word.
Keynote is like a grown-up PowerPoint, replacing those cheesy slides with smooth 3D transitions, and comes with more professional looking templates. Essentially it will perform the same functions as PowerPoint, but also comes with some extras. A notable one is a dual-screen mode, allowing for you presentation to be shown on a projector while you get an overview (i.e. notes/next slide) on a second display - this can also be used with a separately purchased iPod Touch/iPhone App. Also you are able to export your presentation in a variety of formats, including a movie mode, allowing you to export it to a single video file to be played anywhere.
As I have mentioned compatibility with Microsoft Office isn't excellent, although it can be improved - Google "iwork 09 plist .doc" and one of the first results is an explanation of how to make Pages work with .doc files more easily, this greatly improves functionality and makes exchanging files a simpler process.
I'd say that iWork is much better than Office for Mac, it integrates much better and runs more smoothly, despite this the fact that it has tried to set it's own standards rather than adopt the file formats of Office is something that will deter many, but it is available for a free trial from Apple's website, so you can try before you buy.