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What You Get

The installation DVD contains templates and the other programs in the suite. There is also a good electronic help system. You can also view video tutorials on Apple's web site.

System Requirements

  • Mac OS X Tiger 10.4.11 or later
  • 500 MHz G4 processor (or faster)

Pages (iWork '09)

By Monte Ferguson

Another year and another update. Apple has been consistent in providing updates for itís suite of business applications. Yet Apple is not a company that tosses out an update without giving us a reason to upgrade. There are definitely reasons to consider upgrading to the new version of Pages.

This year you would have to look closely to spot the changes. Many of them are not as obvious as they have been in years past. This years update is not as transformative as Pages í08 was. Itís aim appears to address perceived weaknesses in the programs feature set.

There are a number of welcome enhancements to the existing features. Yet there are also some added features that will be that will be familiar to folks who have worked with MS Word. It might be an early signal that Apple is ready to compete with Microsoft in the enterprise software market.

New Features
A new Full Screen View has been added to the program for those who find that they need to keep distractions to a minimum. This is more than just hitting the maximize window button in the title bar. When you enter Full Screen View all you see is the document you are working on and a dark background. Even the formatting bar disappears. When you need a tool you can always invoke them. You can also move back and forth through a document by using the arrow keys on the keyboard. It provides a simplified view of your document which helps you focus on the words and composition.

A new Outline Mode is another welcome writers tool that debuts in Pages í09. You can quickly enter topics and information. Itís easy to modify your outlines by expanding and collapsing topics, or move topics up and down by dragging. Movies and images can be included in your outlines, as either thumbnails or at actual size.

Pages í09 gains Mail Merge functionality. You can use data stored in Address Book or Numbers. This lets you create professional correspondence without having to manually enter all of the data. To take advantage of this you need to use a template, or a document with merge fields specified. Then choose a table in a Numbers spreadsheet, or an Address Book card. Any column in a Numbers can be used with a merge field. Itís a definite labor saver that will be welcome in the business world.

Pages í09 finally addresses one of my pet peeves. It finally adds dynamic integration with other apps in the iWork suite. It does this with a dynamic linking feature. It works like this. Now you can create a spreadsheet in Numbers. Later link to it in Pages. When you update the spreadsheet the changes are automatically updated in Pages as well. Long time Mac users will realize that this sounds practically identical to an old Apple feature from the 90ís called Publish and Subscribe. Which it is. Iím delighted to see this feature make a reappearance. The lack of dynamic linking between components of the suite was my main gripe with previous iterations of iWork.

But Wait Thereís More
An Enhanced Template Chooser, much like the one found in the iLIfe suite, helps you to quickly sort through all of those built in templates. If offers high resolution resizable previews that greatly aid in picking just the right template. Pages í09 features 40 new professionally designed templates. This bumps the total number of included templates to 180.

Pages gains the ability to integrate with a couple of venerable third party programs: MathType 6 and EndNote X2. MathType lets you insert perfectly formatted equations into your documents. EndNote X2 makes it easy to create instant bibliographies.

Now For Something Completely Different
Sharing your Pages documents has always been pretty straightforward. You could always save them out as a Word or PDF file. But now there is a new way to share your files. It also provides a limited amount of collaboration. Apple announced this feature as a new service, currently in beta, called iWork.com.

You have to publish a document to iWork.com to take advantage of the service. Which is as easy as clicking a button in Formatting bar. Once you have published the file you can invite people, via email, to view, comment or download the file. It works with both Mac and PC users.

When the recipients of your invitation arrive at the site they are presented with an excellent copy of the original document. It appears just as you viewed it in Pages. Invited visitors can add comments, which look like sticky notes and have an ongoing chat type running conversation in the side bar. If they prefer to have a copy of the file they can download it directly from the iWork.com web site. While the file was being uploaded iWork created copies in Word and PDF format, as well as a native Pages file.

Right now the service is free, it is in beta, to anyone who has purchased iWork í09. Apple has said that at some point they do plan to charge something for the service. How much is yet to be determined.

Pros
The improved features solidify an already good program. The integration with MathType and EndNote narrows the list of exclusive MS Word features. It also positions Pages as a more viable, and less expensive, alternative to MS Word. Yet the program does not suffer from feature bloat. The iWork.com is an interesting additional feature. Itís rather early to tell, but it looks promising.

Cons
My biggest grumble, lack of live linked data between apps in the suite, is no longer an issue. I really found no glaring faults with the program itself. I think iWork.com shows some initial promise but needs further refinement. Itís works well, as far as it goes, but it doesnít allow true collaboration. Say some kind of check in check out type of system so multiple people can work on a document. It would be nice if it supported other files as well, for example jpegs or photoshop files.

Conclusion
Pages has moved forward yet again. Itís hard to get excited about word processing apps in general. Much of the focus of this years release is tightening and improving upon existing features. Not exactly something that excites many prospective buyers. This years release does not have much in the way of big features. It is more of an evolutionary update. The overall effect of the various improvements is that the program feels more complete and polished. It does sport some new features that can apply to a range of Pages users and give the new version added value. I would heartily recommend the update. The combination of features, and low price point, make it worth the money to upgrade.

Posted: Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009


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