Apple tries to calm stormy iWork waters with pledge to restore 18 features

Promises to resurrect the features in the Mac productivity suite within six months

Apple today responded to complaints from Mac users over features dumped from iWork, promising to restore 18 of them to the productivity suite in the next six months.

While some customers applauded the news -- "I'm doing the Snoopy dance..." admitted cosmofromwatertown today on an Apple support forum -- others remained disgusted with Apple. "The love is gone," countered PollyFK on the same thread.

Apple announced its plans for iWork in a support document published Wednesday, confirming what many had suspected: the revamp of iWork on OS X was designed to make the Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps file-compatible with those for iOS. Apple said nothing, however, about other suspicions, including that the culling was meant to put iOS and OS X versions on an even feature playing field.

"In rewriting these [OS X] applications, some features from iWork '09 were not available for the initial release," Apple said. "We plan to reintroduce some of these features in the next few releases and will continue to add brand new features on an ongoing basis."

Apple listed 18 features it would restore to Pages (8), Numbers (6) and Keynote (4) on the Mac in the next six months. Among them are customizable toolbars, renewed support for AppleScript workflow automation and page- and section-management via thumbnails.

The Cupertino, Calif. company also warned users of iWork '09 that the file format differences between the new and old applications meant that once documents, spreadsheets and presentations are opened in the new programs, they cannot be opened in the old.

Although Apple did not say why it published the support document, it was clearly a response to the very vocal complaints long-time Mac iWork users had posted on the company's support forums as soon as Apple began distributing the new editions Oct. 22.

Those customers were angered and frustrated by the removal of features from productivity software that they had used for years and in some cases, relied on for their small businesses. Much of the back-and-forth in the peer-to-peer support forums was dedicated to enumerating the lost tools and functionality, figuring out how to revert already-edited documents to the iWork '09 file formats, and arguing how best to pressure Apple to make amends.

Some of those customers had predicted that Apple would resurrect the ditched features and tools in future upgrades, just as the company promised today, basing their speculation on the fact that even after an upgrade, the iWork '09 applications were retained, shunted into a folder named "iWork '09" in the Mac's "Applications" folder.

Today, some of those disappointed iWork '09 customers continued to lash out at Apple even after they saw the pseudo-mea culpa.

"Think of all the anguish and time they could have saved everyone if they'd just posted that WHEN THEY RELEASED PAGES 5," said PaddyD Wednesday morning. "Can't help feeling a bit manipulated here...and to what end? Do they think that the two weeks of upset will now make us more loyal somehow? Or were they just waiting to see what things people screamed loudest about to figure out what to actually bother putting back?"

"OK, great. So I'll just close my business and wait an indefinite period until they restore my ability to earn a living using their software?" asked PollyFK.

On Oct. 22, Apple released new versions of iWork for OS X, and announced that the trio of applications would be free of charge to buyers of new Macs. Users who had previously purchased Pages, Numbers or Keynote would also receive free upgrades.

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.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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