I've now given the quick check-out to Apple's upgraded iWork suite. Again, these ae just scratch-the-surface impressions. As a level-set, I am running Office 2000 under Parallels to provide word processing/spreadsheet functions, and I am hoping the new iWork will let me retire one more Windows app (iWork wasn't an option previously as I use spreadsheets extensively). Pages In prevous incarnations, Pages was criticized for being heavy on the page layout (desktop publishing) paradigm, and therefore a little cumbersome for basic word processing. This new release appears to address that quite nicely, as it now has different modes (and templates) for each task. In Office-speak, Pages now is a combination of Word & Publisher. I played briefly with the word processing view. There's not much to say in this day & age about word processing. Pages appears to have all the functionality the average home user would need to create documents. It opened my test Word documents without problems. If there are any import issues it gives you a nice little list of them to review. One of my documents had a number of missing fonts, and it even gave me the option to replace them with fonts on my Mac right up front. Not every Word feature will come over - for example, it will discard any paragraph borders you had - but it least it tells you it's doing that and why. Being a heavy user of Word styles, I was happy to see that Pages imports your styles automatically, including character styles. I think Pages will work for me as a Word replacement. Keynote If you've ever watched a video of a Steve Jobs presentation you've seen Keynote in action. It's presentation software with the emphasis on presentation. Attractive, innovative templates and extensive animation capabilities are what sets Keynote apart from its MS Office counterpoint, PowerPoint. I built a quick sample presentation in Keynote just to check it out. I'm a longtime PowerPoint user, and had no problem getting up & running in Keynote. It does open PowerPoint files. I have only a simple example on hand (using our standard template from work) and it looks just like it does in PP, so that's good. I haven't had a chance to play with the advanced stuff yet, but so far, Keynote looks good. Numbers It's been a long time coming, but iWork has finally morphed into the Apple Works replacement it's supposed to be with the new spreadsheet component, Numbers. As a heavy Excel user (I'm in the program pretty much daily, both at work and home), I am very curious to see if Numbers can replace Excel for my personal use, eliminating one more reason to fire up Parallels. At first glance, Numbers has pretty impressive functionality for an initial release. All the basic (and some not so basic) stuff you'd want to do with a spreadsheet is there. It does have a different slant on things, however. The most obvious is that multipage sheets don't show up as tabs along the bottom, but as a list along the left side. This is going to take some getting used to. Also, Numbers treats each sheet as a container for subobjects, such as tables, pictures, charts, etc. (When you open an Excel spreadsheet, you'll see each tab turned into a sheet with a table object representing the contents of the spreadsheet.) Again, this will take a little adjustment but I can see that it can give a lot of flexibility in presenting your sheets. I tested Numbers with a couple of my Excel files I work with regularly, and they opened with all formulas and formatting intact. As in Pages, you get a review dialog if the import detects any issues. Working with the tables is very familiar, with all the standard functions & formatting options easily available. So far, so good, but it's the little things that trip you up, and I've run into a couple of them. My two most-used keyboard shortcuts in Excel are Alt-; (inserts the current date into a cell) and Alt-' (copies the contents of the cell above into the current cell). I have not yet found any equivalents for these functions. Hopefully it's just a matter of stumbling upon them in the Help (one of my complaints about the Mac in general is sometimes pretty cool functionality is buried deep). Other than the missing shortcuts above, Numbers is looking pretty good so far. It feels remarkably complete and robust for a first release. I have a couple of very complex Excel files I have yet to test with Numbers; those will be tonight's exercise. Summary Finally, Numbers is here, and iWork is now a viable Office suite replacement. With the delay of the Intel-native Office for Mac I suspect a lot of Mac users will be looking very closely at iWork. Office has been around a long time, and has advanced features which are not found in the iWork programs. The question is, how many people use those features? iWork covers all the functionality most users will need. At $80 (and only $100 for the 5 license Family Pack) iWork looks poised to steal a fair amount of business from Microsoft. More over the next few days as I continue to put Numbers through its paces.