Free iWork upgrade angers Mac users

'Serial software killer,' one customer calls Apple after it yanks features from desktop applications

Apple's iWork free upgrade has angered long-time Mac power users, who have flooded the company's support forum with complaints about lost features.

One customer called Apple "serial software killers," while others collaborated to list the features Apple dropped in Pages, the word processing application and the most popular of the three that make up the iWork suite. Among the Pages tools that went AWOL in last week's upgrade: endnotes, the outline view, selection of non-contiguous text, facing pages, saving files in RTF format, significant limitations in automating workflow using AppleScript, and more than 100 ready-to-use templates.

"Even the things you can still do are harder to get to now," argued Alistair Cullum. "Having a minimal interface makes sense in iOS, where space is limited, but in OS X I don't see the need to strip away toolbars, sidebars, etc."

Two pertinent threads on Apple's support forum -- here and here -- combined for nearly 900 comments and had been viewed almost 50,000 times, both large numbers by any measure and an illustration of how many have been affected by the update. Few of the customers commenting in the two threads had anything nice to say about Apple's move.

Last week, Apple released new versions of iWork for OS X, and announced that the three applications would be handed free of charge to buyers of new Macs. Users who had previously purchased Pages, Numbers or Keynote would also receive free upgrades.

Apple last shipped a major upgrade for OS X's iWork in 2009.

The move followed a similar announcement Sept. 10, when Apple said it was giving the iOS iWork apps to customers who bought a new iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.

Bloggers and pundits also weighed in on the move, speculating that Apple's prime motivator was to make the iOS and OS X editions file- and feature-compatible, a decision that required it to scale back the desktop applications' feature sets.

"The fact that iWork on the Mac has lost functionality isn't because Apple is blind to power users. It's because they're willing to make a short-term sacrifice in functionality so that they can create a foundation that is equal across the Mac, iOS, and Web versions," said Nigel Warren, a user experience designer.

But that explanation didn't sit well with users.

"One of the problems with never doing consumer research is that Apple has lost touch with how serious users actually use the product," said Luke Christian. "Quite simply, I would never, ever, want to write a Pages document or a Keynote presentation on my phone.... What might seem 'super-cool' to Apple dudes on campus in California is not very practical in the real world of making a living in London."

Many of those livid at what they called the "dumbing down" of iWork on the Mac said that they would instead turn to Microsoft Office, the suite written by Apple's Redmond, Wash.-based rival. Office for Mac 2011 starts at $140 for the Home & Student edition, or $100 annually for a subscription to Office 365 Home Premium.

iWork on multiple platforms
Apple last week revamped iWork to make the productivity suite file- and feature-compatible for the iPhone, iPad and Mac, as well as for its Web-based apps, iWork for iCloud. (Image: Apple.)
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