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Review: Apple's iWork '09 gets online sharing, 'evolutionary' updates

iWork.com is Apple's take on Web-based document sharing

February 8, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The last time Apple updated its iWork productivity suite, it included a number of revolutionary advances over previous versions -- especially the inclusion of the Numbers spreadsheet application. By contrast, this year's move to iWork '09, unveiled at last month's Macworld Expo, feels much more evolutionary than revolutionary. All three applications in the suite -- the Pages word processor, Numbers, and Keynote, Apple's presentation app -- received notable updates, but they tended to fine-tune and complement the existing feature set rather than introduce radical changes.

While the updates may not wow current iWork users, each application got some worthy changes, easily justifying the $79 price tag on iWork '09 -- or the $49 charge if you're buying it along with a new Mac. One interesting note: The updates are largely application-specific, unlike the iWork '08 release, which included general interface updates across all three apps.

iWork '09's template browser makes it easy to choose from a variety of document templates.
iWork '09's template browser makes it easy to choose from a variety of document templates.
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One major addition to the suite is iWork.com, a Web-based collaboration tool that allows users to share documents created in any one of the three iWork applications. iWork.com allows multiple users to view and comment on documents through a slick Web interface and download shared documents in iWork, Microsoft Office or PDF formats. For now, iWork.com is available for free, as Apple says it's in public beta testing. Eventually, though, it will be a paid service.

Another update across all three applications is the template browser, which got several new templates. Like previous iWork releases and the iWeb application included in Apple's iLife suite, all three applications offer users a wide range of document templates. The browser for choosing a template when creating a new document has now been tweaked to allow easy viewing of all pages in multipage templates by simply moving the cursor over the template thumbnail -- much like events in iPhoto can quickly display multiple photos.

As with past releases, the available templates are striking and cover a variety of home and business projects, offering new users excellent starting points. Numbers, for example, includes several spreadsheet templates for purposes users might not even think about, such as tracking their diets or workouts, creating a home inventory or even building a math quiz. Third-party templates that extend the features built in by Apple are also available, and users can create and save their own.

As with last year's iWork, however, most of templates have sample data included, making them more like demo files than actual templates. Some might see that as helpful; I tend to find it a little frustrating if I'm creating a new project or document.



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