Pages, Apple's free iWorks word processing program, includes deceptively simple tools for adding compelling tables and charts to documents. Properly formatted and positioned, tables and charts add attractive white space to documents and typically reduce the need for excessive text by better communicating informational elements and the relationships between different data sets.
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Tables created in the Pages program have attractive formatting options with colorful, graphical highlights. Pages also supports creating a range of simple or sophisticated 2D, 3D, and interactive bar, pie, bubble, scatter, donut, and similar charts. Best of all, tables and charts are easy to add to and adjust within a Pages document.
With Pages open, click the Table or Chart icon from the menu bar to add the respective element (Figure A).
The Tables option presents a variety of preformatted charts that have numerous preformatted colors and layout styles.
To add a table column, click the table within the document (to prompt Pages to display the table's formatting elements), and then position the cursor within a column next to the location where you wish to add another column. Select Add Column Before or Add Column After from the resulting pop-up menu. If you wish to remove the highlighted column, you can also select Delete Column. Using the same contextual pop-up menu, you can add column headers or convert a column to a header. Simply enter data by clicking within the respective cell.
By following the same steps, you can add or remove table rows, add row headers, and convert a row within a table to a header.
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If you wish to change a table's formatting and coloring, click the table, and then click the Format icon from the Pages Toolbar. Pages will display various corresponding table styles within the Inspector. Select the new style option you wish to use, and Pages will apply the changes without changing the table's text and data.
The Chart option (Figure B) offers a multitude of different chart types, including bar graphs, pie charts, and column graphs. More than a dozen preformatted 2D charts, eight predefined 3D charts, and four interactive chart templates are available, each in six different color schemes.
Once charts are placed, they are easy to adjust. You can change, edit, and fine-tune charts using the Format menu (Figure C). To make adjustments, click the chart within the Pages document, and then click the Format icon within Pages' Toolbar. The Inspector will display contextually relevant options for adjusting the chart's color and style, as well as the chart's individual components. For example, if you create a pie chart and wish to further tweak the chart's settings, you can click the Wedges tab to adjust data point name and value labels, value data format, label option locations, and even the wedge positioning.
You can customize other chart settings, including labels and values, by clicking the respective chart and clicking the resulting Edit Chart Data button. Many charts enable changing the angle and perspective from which they appear on the page, too—just click such charts and adjust the corresponding spin by holding the click and moving the cursor.
These customizations in Pages may seem like little refinements, yet refinements to an otherwise pedestrian document can arrest the reader's attention precisely where you want.
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Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.