It's fair to say that iWork '06 got a short shrift in Steve Jobs' keynote speech at Macworld last January. With all the excitement about iLife '06 and the Intel-powered Macs, all iWork got was a mere announcement of its existence: "Go and check it out," Steve urged us.
So, that's what we've done. In this article I take a look at some of the new features in iWork, with plenty of screenshots to show you everything as it happens.
The first striking thing about the new iWork is the smaller, tighter package. It's only fractionally wider than the DVD it contains, and about two centimeters deep. Inside, you get the disk, a couple of booklets, a serial number, and those mysterious "Software Coupons" that don't seem to serve any useful purpose.
I find this striking because the amount of packaging has been drastically reduced. Perhaps this is simply a matter of personal taste and will reflect your own opinions about packaging and recycling; personally, I'm delighted to see smaller boxes.
On inserting the disk, you're presented with an installer, not a dragable .app file:
Before you go ahead and click that Install icon, it might be worth running your eye over the system requirements, which have been upped somewhat since the last version of iWork:
So this is the first version of iWork that balks at a G3 processor. Older G3 machines, even if you've got them running Tiger, won't be able to join the iWork '06 party. Not unless you really want them to.
As with previous versions of iWork, you need to enter a serial number to get your newly installed software working.
Also, many of the features covered here are present in both applications, but there's no point in us reviewing them twice. We've tried to split things up between Pages 2 and Keynote 3, but in real-world use you'll find that many features discussed in this article are common to both, or share characteristics of design or interface presentation.
One more thing: iWork '06 does not overwrite previous versions of iWork you may have installed. It installs alongside them; so you can install Keynote 3, and still have access to Keynote 2. You can run the two of them simultaneously if you like. Users of Quicksilver, take note: unless you remember to remove the old version, make sure Quicksilver is launching the one you want to use; after all, the old app and the new app have exactly the same name.
Let's start off with Pages 2. In my experience, opinions about Pages are very mixed. Some people like the combination of word processing and layout; many others are critical of its limitations and wish it would make up its mind about what it is trying to offer.
Personally, I'm rather fond of Pages. I have one regular project, creating a newsletter for the local community, that depends on Pages. The end result would not have gotten nearly so many compliments had I not been able to base it on one of Pages' templates.
But that's not to say I haven't gotten frustrated with Pages at times. What does the new version offer to calm my nerves?
You'll soon find yourself browsing the newest addition to the templates. Here's a selection of them to whet your appetite:
You get the idea. As usual, most of the templates look professional and slick, and offer plenty of scope for customization.
Pages 2 boasts new ways of moving around inside large documents. Right at the bottom of the document window, there are two new up and down controls. They're very small and easy to miss:
It's now possible to view the page thumbnails side-by-side, as they will appear in the printed document. This also displays the document itself in the same way; to switch it on, check Facing Pages in the Document tab of the Document Inspector:
The thumbnails panel will then look like this:
If you want to see the thumbnails this way, but still want to view each document page on its own, you can subsequently go to the view widget in the bottom-left corner of the document window, and flip the view options to One Up.
This is pretty handy to have switched on when you're working on any lengthy document, especially one that's going to be printed as a booklet.
You've always been able to use the Find command to look for, and potentially replace, words or phrases in Pages. In this new version you can also turn to the Search function, which finds all occurrences of your search term and displays them in a handy list.
One thing Pages users have been crying out for is support for endnotes, and it finally has arrived in Pages 2. Unfortunately you can't use endnotes in the same document as footnotes--it's either one or the other. To switch between the two, use the Document Inspector, where you'll see a drop-down control offering you the appropriate choice.
It's now possible to add a comment about any picture, object or chunk of text. Just select what you want to comment on, and hit Insert -> Comment. You can also put a comments button on the Toolbar for quick access.
Comments appear in a panel of their own, squeezed between the thumbnails view and the document itself. They look just like sticky notes; you can use the Inspector to change basic elements of note appearance like font size and style, but not much else.
The comments panel will remain in view until you hide it. You can choose to print your document with comments visible; just hit Command+P with the comments showing and this will happen automatically. The page contents will be shifted slightly to make room, so don't use this if you wish to get a page-perfect print preview.
Comments created in a Pages document that is then exported to Word format will appear just fine in Word:
Better yet, an additional comment made in this test Word document survived the trip back the other way, and appeared unscathed when viewed again in Pages.
Here's another feature that's long been present in rival word processors: the ability to automatically correct simple typing errors as you go.
Look in the Preferences and you'll see a new tab for Auto-Correction, where you can switch various auto functions on and off. Apple has already added common replacements, such as turning three dots into an ellipsis, 'teh' into 'the', and '(c)' into a copyright symbol, and of course you can add plenty of your own custom choices. All the auto-corrections except Use Smart Quotes are off by default, which makes a nice change.
Some years ago, I tried to help a Windows-using neighbor complete a mail merge using Word and Outlook; after many hours of frustration we gave up, but I still have nightmares about it today.
Pages 2 makes it easy. After opening a document with an address field, choose Edit -> Merge Address Book Cards from the Menu Bar. You'll see this sheet:
So as long as you've got all the contacts for this merge pre-assigned to a Group of their own in Address Book, it's just a case of choosing which Group you want to merge and clicking OK. You can choose to send the output either directly to a printer, or to a new document.
The most crucial part of all this is having a point in your Pages document that Pages knows is used for addresses; the merge won't work unless your document contains one of these.
The simple way is to choose Insert -> Address Book Field from the Menu Bar. If it isn't open already, the Links Inspector will appear, prompting you to pick which part of the address this field is to be used for (first name, last name, and so on). Adding all the fields for a new address in a new document is therefore a little time-consuming, because you need to repeat the same click-heavy process many times. But it's probably worth doing in the long run, since you can save the result as a template and modify it as required later on.
Pages 2 now includes some basic mathematics-fu to make your tables into mini spreadsheets. Don't expect this feature to be a replacement for Excel or OpenOffice.org; the emphasis is on the word 'basic' and while you can get some useful things done, serious calculations will still need to be done in a full-featured spreadsheet application. For basic household or business accounts, though, Pages offers enough.
Use the Tables Inspector to make any table cell mathematics-aware. Basic functions like sum and average are included; and if you wish to customize them, choose the Formula Editor and dive right in. It's not exactly Excel, but better than nothing.
As with Pages 2, Keynote 3 includes a bunch of new visuals. There are some new themes to play with. Here are just some of them:
The additional features in iWork '06 mean that not everything you create will necessarily show up, or work properly, in iWork '05. When saving documents, there's now an option to save them in such a way that they'll still be viewable in iWork '05, even if the newer features stay hidden.
Exporting has been improved considerably. Now the export sheet looks more like a preferences window, and choosing to export as images gives you the option to do so directly to iPhoto:
The export automatically creates a new album in iPhoto, which you have to name before the process completes. Images can be exported as .jpg or .tiff files.
Elsewhere in the export sheet is the new option to export your slides as a new iDVD project. You can choose what kind of video size you'd like (4:3 or widescreen 16:9), and what quality. There are settings (in seconds) for slide and build duration.
Keynote saves both a .dvdproj file and a QuickTime movie in your desired location, ready for messing with in iDVD.
Another very nice new feature is the Light Table view of slides. This is especially useful when editing large presentations, or old ones whose details you have forgotten. It gives you a good overview of the structure of the presentation and reminds you what you did last time. Adding new slides is a Control-click away; re-ordering slides is drag-simple.
As in Pages, you can now edit all images directly within Keynote. Although it's worth mentioning that Keynote's image adjust panel has a nice little Auto Levels button which is not present in iPhoto 6.
As tables have been given more oomph in Pages 2, so charts have a bit more sparkle in Keynote 3.
Of course, the smarter tables are available in Keynote too, so you can include the same kind of live calculations in a presentation that you might put in a spreadsheet. But the new charts sport improved three-dimensional visuals.
Like much of what's new in Keynote, this is not really radical change, but an evolutionary growth of what was already on offer. For most people, both presenters and audiences, a chart is a chart, and its most important attribute is displaying figures in an instantly understandable way. The extra dimension is not something many people will be buying iWork '06 for, but if you regularly need to include charts in your presentations, you'll probably be pleased to see this extra functionality.
You can now create a unique cut-out image from any picture you drag into Keynote, allowing you new freedom to experiment with masking for better visual effect.
Start the process by importing a picture, then go to the Shapes toolbar button. At the bottom of the shapes list you'll see the curved symbol indicating the Bezier curve editor.
Keynote will throw up a helpful explanatory note at this point, but the aim is to click repeatedly (and carefully) around the edge of the object in question. The final click should be on the spot where you started--this will tell Keynote that you've finished the curve.
Now select both the shape you've created, and the image you want to mask, and choose Format -> Mask With Shape from the menu.
The object has been successfully masked and cut out from its surroundings. You can move it around and edit it further, just as you can with any other object or masked image.
Keynote 3 includes a number of new options for slide transitions and for building slide elements.
Unfortunately some of the transition and build effects that were included in the previous version of iWork have been dropped from Keynote 3. You can get them back easily, though, by checking the Include Obsolete Animations in Choices control in the General Preferences. Why these perfectly usable animations are suddenly considered obsolete is anyone's guess, but at least you still have the means to use them if you like them.
We have not mentioned all the new features in iWork '06. You should make time, if you can, to sit and read the built-in user guides provided as PDFs when you install. There's quick access to them from the Help menu.
As a whole, iWork '06 is a compelling package at a good price. Pages offers something for everyone. Schoolchildren, homemakers, and business professionals alike will all find something in it to make their lives easier. The quality of the supplied templates is outstanding, and Pages 2 is more flexible than before, and offers more that's useful in commercial environments, such as comments, mail merge, and simple spreadsheet calculations. Keynote 3 has a few functional and cosmetic additions that will appeal to those who often have to create presentations.
There's been much talk recently on whether or not iWork can be considered a competitor to Microsoft Office.
Your choice boils down to your needs and your budget. If you want to save a few bucks and you don't need to create complex spreadsheets, then I'd go as far as to say that yes, iWork can be used instead of Microsoft Office. Calling it a competitor is possibly taking things a step too far.
No matter how many new features it has, iWork won't suit everyone, not by any means. For the vast majority of home users, for schoolkids, and for small business owners (I count myself among the latter), iWork has enough to get all day-to-day tasks done, and done well. It also has the benefit of excellent integration with iLife and Address Book, if you use those anyway.
In my opinion iWork '06 is a decent upgrade from its predecessor, and while its retail price is reasonable in comparison to rival products, it does seem a shame that Apple offers no lower upgrade price for loyal customers.
Giles Turnbull is a freelance writer and editor. He has been writing on and about the Internet since 1997. He has a web site at http://gilest.org.
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