Erik Eckel takes a look at some of the updates you can expect to see with Apple's iWork applications.
Apple’s iWork applications -- long secondary players to industry-leading behemoth Microsoft Office’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint -- are showing life. Cross-platform iOS, OS X, and Windows web-based compatibility, combined with new collaboration features, make Pages, Numbers, and Keynote (now free with new iOS devices and Macs) compelling competitors. Learn more about iWork applications’ new look and features within this comprehensive gallery.
Users can access Pages, Apple’s word processing application, using a web-based interface, an iOS device, or a Mac. The application includes several templates, including the blank portrait, blank landscape, and note-taking configurations (Figure A), as viewed when using the application on a Mac.
Numbers, the iWork spreadsheet tool, includes a blank template, checklist configuration, and charting basics layout, among other options. Figure B captures the template view using the application within OS X.
Keynote, iWork’s presentation application, includes several preconfigured templates. OS X users receive a default screen (Figure C) when creating a new presentation. The template choices include either standard or widescreen display options.
iWork applications can also be accessed on the web. Figure D shows the standard view that greets an iCloud user when logging in to his or her account. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are all largely functional, although still in beta at the time of this late fall 2013 writing.
Whether accessing Pages on an iOS or OS X device or from a web browser, Apple includes quick tutorials. Figure E shows the Pages screen that greet web-based users of the iWork app.
Apple recently added collaboration features to its iWork programs. The web-based introduction (Figure F) lists some of Pages' new features, including collaboration components. By using Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, business users can now share files with colleagues and team together to make edits and updates to documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.
Apple includes helpful, time-saving tips to familiarize users with Pages' new features. These Coaching Tips can be hidden simply by clicking the Hide Coaching Tips option at the top right of the page. Figure G captures the Pages home page, which lists previous documents the user has created and stored within his or her iCloud account. Thanks to iCloud synchronization, edits made to the file using the web will also appear within the file when the document is accessed using an iOS device or OS X computer (and vice versa).
Numbers includes the same Coaching Tips (Figure H) as Pages. Using iCloud, Numbers' spreadsheets can be accessed from the web, an iOS device, or OS X.
As with Pages and Numbers, Keynote’s default web view displays Coaching Tips (Figure I). Presentations can be created and edited using the web-based interface, and -- as with Pages and Numbers -- changes made to the iCloud-based files are then synchronize across the user’s iCloud account to other iOS devices and OS X computers.
Although in beta, the web-based Pages program offers powerful document creation and editing features. Figure J shows a sample report, which demonstrates the simplicity of the web-based tools that's used to create and edit documents.
Users wishing to share iWork files using iCloud need only click the Share icon (Figure K). Doing so reveals the Share Document button, which -- upon being selected -- prepares the file for shared collaboration.
When users choose to share an iWork file, the application asks the user to confirm the sharing action. Users can also click the Learn More button (Figure L) to obtain additional information regarding iWork’s sharing and collaboration features.
Once iWork has prepared a file for sharing, the user receives this confirmation screen that includes a handy URL. Users can click the Email Link button (Figure M) to distribute the file sharing link with colleagues. Alternatively, users can select the Stop Sharing button and suspend sharing for the iWork file.
Once an iWork document, spreadsheet, or presentation is shared with others, the Share icon changes from white to green (Figure N). The green icon alerts and reminds users the file is shared with others.
The Pages' OS X interface (Figure O) is similar to the same view users receive when accessing the application from the web. One notable difference is the addition of the toolbar across the top of the screen.
Pages includes several templates (Figure P), as mentioned earlier. In addition to typical document templates (like resumes, reports, etc.), Pages also includes envelope and business card configurations. Users receive templates for posters, advertising flyers, cards, newsletters, and more.
Despite its simple interface, clean lines, and plentiful white space, Pages can create complex documents (Figure Q). As users interact with the program, the sidebar changes to provide contextually related tools. Thus, if a user places the cursor within text, text-based tools appear within the sidebar, making it easier to change fonts, styles, alignment, and spacing.
Numbers makes it easy to build complex spreadsheets and charts (Figure R). As with Pages (and Keynote), sidebars provide contextual information based on the cursor’s location and the actions the user is performing (such as adding graphics, editing text, or building a table or chart).
Numerous spreadsheet templates are available when using Numbers on a Mac (Figure S). In addition to blank templates, other options include personal finance tools, business functions, and pre-formatted budgets.
Apple hasn’t just created simple spreadsheet templates. As this personal budget template demonstrates, Apple’s worked to create attractive spreadsheets that include powerful tools and graphics to help make quick sense of complicated information (Figure T).
Keynote, as seen on a Mac (Figure U), includes a left-hand sidebar that displays each slide. The slide itself appears within the main window, while contextual tools appear within the sidebar on the right side of the page.
As with the web-based interface, Keynote, when run on OS X (Figure V), presents the user with a multitude of pre-formatted templates.
Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are loaded and updated using the iOS and OS X App Store, as are other programs. Maintenance is easy, because users no longer need to check for iWork application updates separately from other programs. The App Store updates entries, shown in Figure W on a Mac, also list the update’s size, version, date, and details.
Pages, Numbers, and Keynote can all also be accessed on an iPhone. Figure X demonstrates how the iPhone formats Pages.
By using iCloud, users can access and edit documents on an iPhone and even create new files (Figure Y). Changes synchronize throughout the user’s iCloud account using either the smartphone’s Wi-Fi or cellular data network.
Users may find they have to use gestures to read an entire document on an iPhone’s smaller screen, but pinching reduces the document size so that entire pages can be seen on the display (Figure Z).
When viewed full-size on an iOS device, documents can become unwieldy. Yet, edits can be made using the default iOS onscreen keyboard.
Spreadsheets can also be created and edited using an iOS devices (Figure BB). As with web-based and OS X interfaces, the iOS Numbers version also includes tutorials and templates.
Numbers spreadsheets can be edited using an iOS device (Figure CC). Changes synchronize throughout the devices connected to the user’s iCloud account.
Moving to an iPad from an iPhone provides additional real estate to view and edit a file. Figure DD shows a Pages document on an iPad mini with the onscreen keyboard displayed. This Pages iPad view also demonstrates the iPad interface and corresponding toolbar complete with tool icons.
Spreadsheet edits become easier when using an iPad over an iPhone, thanks to the larger display (Figure EE). Coaching Tips are also available when using an iPad. The iPad view shows how the Numbers toolbar mimics both Pages and Keynote.
Turning an iPad sidewise and triggering landscape mode enables users to view and edit many spreadsheets in their entirety (Figure FF).
Checklists, budgets, and numerous other spreadsheets can be accessed and updated using Numbers on an iPad (Figure GG). Performing the pinching gesture on this spreadsheet would enable viewing the file in its entirety onscreen.
Keynote on an iPad also presents the ability to create, access, and edit presentations. As with Numbers and Pages, the application’s toolbar appears along the top of the screen. Using Keynote, users can opt to leverage several formats, including Keynote presentations, PDF files, and Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, as shown within this Apple App Store preview (Figure HH).
Keynote’s presentation-sharing features are important for business users, who frequently must collaborate upon projects. Apple touts the sharing capabilities, as can be seen here. This Keynote iPad App Store preview (Figure II) also demonstrates how the iPad version makes it possible to easily send presentation links to colleagues.
What are your favorite updates to Apple's iWork applications? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.