Apple’s new iWork is all the productivity most of us need

Apple's new iWork does everything most of us need

Apple, iOS, OS X, macOS, iWork, iOS 10, iPhone, iPad, Mac

Released along with macOS Sierra and iOS 10 in the last few days, Apple has also improved its iWork productivity suite (Pages, Keynote and Numbers).

It means that for most Mac and the 35 percent of iPhone users already migrated to iOS 10 the only reason to ever use Google Docs is because someone else makes them do so, while power users will continue using Microsoft’s Office solutions.

Work together

The flagship improvement is Apple’s introduction of real time collaboration (beta), a move that matches Google Docs and Office Online. What this means is you can share documents with other people and work on them simultaneously, whether the people you are working with are on a Mac, iOS device, or connected to iWork via iCloud using Safari, Internet Explorer or Chrome browsers.

While the collaboration tools are beta features, and therefore sometimes a little glitchy, Pages, Numbers and Keynote users can:

  • Edit spreadsheets, presentations and documents with others at the same time
  • Share documents publicly or with specific people
  • See who is in a document you are working on, including being capable of seeing other people’s cursors as they work.
  • Keynote users can also present slideshows others can watch from a Mac, iOS device or iWork on iCloud thanks to a new feature called Keynote Live.

Apple has made some smaller improvements as well, including tabs support that lets you work on multiple documents in one window, as if you were using Safari. You can also open and edit Pages 05 and Keynote 05 documents.

If you've used Pages, Keynote or Numbers in the past you may have been a little turned off by some of the idiosyncrasies of the software, but it is well worth looking again, as many of the software wrinkles are ironed out in the latest edition of the suite.

What’s critical – and what sets the new iWork apart from Google Docs – is interface design. “The concept of giving colors to the different users and integrating the edits in real time appears to be a much more elegant and natural user interface than what Google (and others) have done,” one analyst wrote.

The environment is…

Ask anyone who has ever tried to manage an AdWords account page and you know that Google doesn’t put serious effort into application design. Humans may be central to that company’s business, but it is advertisers that form the central plank of the company’s philosophy.

This is where Apple has gone one better with iWork, even while matching Google’s approach to productivity software. Like Google, Apple doesn’t want to be the best productivity suite, just a good enough alternative for most of us. After all, only a fraction of us use or need all the heavy haulage features you find in Office.

Google says just 10 percent of Docs users are doing anything more complex than reading and light editing of documents. “That population of creators and content authors is 10 per cent or less,” Google’s Rajen Sheth said last year. If you want advanced tools, you’ll use Office, and Microsoft does good business on the 10 percent who need those features.

This means Google – and Apple – only need to focus on ensuring their software can handle Office documents efficiently, rather than matching the full feature set. This means iWork doesn’t need to offer everything you’ll find in Office, just a good enough selection of tools “for the rest of us”. And that’s where Apple plays its hand to make Google Docs irrelevant for most iOS and Mac users:

By design

Over 5 million businesses use Google Apps, but the stark truth is that doing so means you have to endure an incredibly utilitarian user interface. It’s kind of like someone invented a productivity app in the 80’s and never improved it. Apple beats Google here by creating apps (online and offline) that are nicely designed and user focused. It’s that designed for humans thing, remember? It means that iWork has all the features you need inside a solution that’s nice to use, highly visual and – therefore – better.

Apple’s focus on the human interface means its iWork solutions offer all the features most people need, but also provide a superior user experience consistently across all supported platforms: Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and online at iCloud. The latter means PC users can also work with you. Apple’s solution is also free, which makes it more attractive – and as secure as Apple’s highly secure iCloud.

What this means is that for most iOS and Mac users, the new iteration of the iWork suite means there should be almost no reason to use Google Docs, while those who need more sophisticated solutions will continue to use Microsoft Office.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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