Review: Apple's recent iWork improvements

Apple has extensively improved its iWork mobile device, Mac and iWork in iCloud suites. We looked at Office for iPad yesterday. Today we explore Apple's iWork improvements:

Review: Apple's recent iWork improvements

What changed?

A full list is available here, highlights:

iWork on the Mac

  • Delete, duplicate, and reorder sections using Pages' page navigator
  • Set margins and create headers and footers in print setup in Numbers
  • Enhanced presenter display options

iWork for iOS

  • Improved support for bi-directional text in Pages
  • Progress indicator for calculations in Numbers
  • New Keynote remote feature lets you control slideshows on other devices

iWork for iCloud beta

  • New “view only” setting lets you share documents you want others to view, but not edit
  • Updated design in document editor
  • Open documents directly from iCloud Mail

Additional enhancements include the capacity to edit charts in imported documents; new templates; animations and transitions; improved text wrap; and Excel spreadsheet headers and footers that are now preserved on import.

We're looking at collaboration, Office compatibility and editing today.

Collaboration

Connected working means collaboration tools are essential, prompting Microsoft to purchase Yammer and Skype.

Last time we explored collaboration in iWork we saw limitations. These continue despite the new "Share as read-only" option that lets you share work in progress with a wider group while controlling who in that group can edit documents. You still cannot manage user privileges during the collaborative cycle -- all you can do is cease sharing a document and start again.

Apple has addressed the problem that when you shared a document link anyone who got that link could edit your document; now you can password-protect shared documents.

You can now see which of your collaborators are currently in a document and watch changes being applied in real time.

We still don't enjoy version control or change tracking within the iWork suite, but it's clear the suite already recognizes when changes take place in order to share such changes between collaborators.

Office compatibility

It is probable enterprises will fall afoul of Microsoft's Office licensing scheme, making it possible some staff will turn to iWork when working on projects (to use at home or on their own device), so Office compatibility matters.

Apple has improved this:

  • Export documents, spreadsheets, presentations in DOCX, XLSX and PPTX formats (respectively, includes password-protected documents).
  • Custom number formats in charts are preserved when importing Word 2013 documents
  • "Improved compatibility" (unspecified) with Microsoft Word and Excel 2013 documents.
  • iWork for iCloud will open password-protected Word documents

These improvements make it much less likely you'll experience unwanted formatting changes when working between iWork and Office --a major step toward easy (free) document fidelity.

Editing additions

Apple's core iWork focus remains that of making better documents quickly and easily. Editing improvements include:

  • The capacity to delete, duplicate and reorder sections in Page Navigator
  • Improved instant Alpha image editing
  • Support for date, time and duration values in charts
  • Motion blur for animations in Keynote

While not all improvements are available across all the platforms (OS, iOS, iCloud), the result is the suite has become easier to use, more flexible and more reliable than before.

Conclusion

Apple faced criticism when it introduced the current versions of iWork. In response, it promised frequent updates and feature additions. Since then, it has introduced three major and several minor updates.

iWork is now a credible cross-platform productivity suite that meets the needs of most users while being increasingly compatible with Microsoft Office and better (and more secure) to use than Google Docs. At the price (free) you'd be foolish not to install iWork on all your Apple devices. For many, iWork is the only productivity solution you'll ever need, while for more serious users, iWork is becoming the perfect Office companion for productivity in a multi-platform, multi-device world.

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

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