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What's New in iWork '06?
Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Masking with Shapes

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.

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.

Making a new 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.

Use the Mask with Shape command

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.

The finished cutout

Transitions and Builds

Keynote 3 includes a number of new options for slide transitions and for building slide elements.

New transition

Another new transition

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.

The strange obsolete software feature

Pulling It Together

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.

Does It Compete?

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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