iWork 06: Not That Bad, Anymore

(Not really video related)

I’ve recently had a chance to work with the new iWork suite as part of a presentation I’m putting together. I must say, it’s come a long ways. I wanted to mention some of the highlights, because I think it’s becoming a usable alternative to the 800lb Gorilla of Office.

When I first played around with the iWork suite, it showed promise but there were still many issues. This new version though is really quite remarkable. I’ve just finished a short presentation in Keynote and it probably would have taken me at least 25% longer in Powerpoint.

Part of what made it so hard to compete with Office in the past was file compatibility issues, but thanks to PDF, that need is significantly reduce. How many Word docs do you get mailed nowadays?

The real power of all of the new applications that Apple has been releasing that deal with layout (iWeb, Pages, Keynote) is that they just let you do what you want and get out of your way. Want to rotate an image and then throw it on top of a quicktime movie? Go ahead. It may be ugly, but you can do it. Anyone who’s worked with Word knows the frustration of trying to get the program to let you do what you want to do.

Pages has come a long way. Previously, it was too slow and too flakey for me to consider using it as a Word replacement. This new version has me thinking about whether it’s time to ditch Word. While I may not go quite that far, but I think I will be starting to do my image-heavy tutorial work in it.

So what do you get?

Pages gives you a layout design program disguised as a word processor. Some folks have complained that this is overkill, but I think the new version has found the right balance. You get some amazing templates that you can modify with ease, or if you prefer, an easy system to create your own complex designs. Have a look at the Pages site to just see some of the possibilities. It really is remarkable.

Keynote is similar. You get nice templates, nice transitions, but most of all, ease of use. Powerpoint always seems to hide too much away. You never get a feel for the flow of things. If anyone has had to sit in a presentation while a presenter struggles with the 15 different ways to navigate slides or start the show, you know what I mean.

I think anyone who has a Mac should at least stop into an Apple store and take a look at iWork. It’s not going to kill Office, and I don’t think that should be the goal. But if the kind of work you do in Office just causes you frustration, you may find that iWork is what you need.

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