iWork '08: Impressions & Discussion

Discussion in 'Apple' started by Craig S, Aug 8, 2007.

  1. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    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.
     
  2. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Craig,

    This post brings up an interesting inquiry for me.

    I currently use Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac. It had WORD,
    EXCEL, POWER POINT -- all the office stuff I need and the 2008
    version is 5 months away.

    What reason would I want to migrate over to iWork? Any
    advantages as far as you can see? BTW, I am mostly an EXCEL and
    WORD user.
     
  3. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    Ron, honestly if you've already got MS Office 2004 I don't see a need to migrate. The main advantage would be that iWork is Universal (runs Intel-native code), and Office 2004 still uses Rosetta emulation on the Intel Macs, so theoretically there would be a performance boost. But everything I've read says Office 2004 runs fine under Rosetta.

    You might want to take a look again when Microsoft releases Office 2008, especially if the upgrade price is significantly more than iWork.

    BTW, when you get your copy of iLife '08, you'll find an iWork '08 demo CD included in the box. So it'll be easy to try out whenever you're ready.
     
  4. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    That's my calculus: I planned to upgrade to Office 08, which will be $150? $250? iWork is $79! It could be win-win with lower cost and better features for my modest needs.
     
  5. Aaron Reynolds

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    Also, iWork '08 has Office '07 compatibility, where Office '04 for Mac does not.

    I've never used Excel, so I'm very curious to hear your deeper impressions of how Numbers stacks up, Craig (or anyone else). I'll be picking up a copy at the end of the week, maybe sooner.
     
  6. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    Well, I gotta knock Numbers down a notch or two. As I work with it more, I am finding more & more stuff that I like from Excel that it just doesn't do. Two biggies for me are freezing panes, and expandable row/column grouping.

    Skimming through various forums there are a lot of people complaining about missing Functions. Suffice it to say if you do advanced scientific or financial analysis & charting Numbers may not be up to snuff for you at this point.

    Of course, there is no macro support, but that shouldn't be surprising as the other 2 iWork apps are missing Office-style macros as well. I am unsure if there is AppleScript support for these apps. There don't appear to be any Automator actions either.

    I've seen some posts about poor performance (slow scrolling, etc.) but I haven't noticed that on my system. It's pretty zippy so far.

    To be fair, Apple's intent was not that Numbers be an Excel clone. This first look from Macworld is a good overview of what they're trying to do:

    http://www.macworld.com/2007/08/firs...php?lsrc=mwrss

    That said, Excel is one of the world's most venerable apps, having been in use for over two decades (and remember, the original incarnation of Excel was on the Mac). People are so used to using it that I think they'd do well to go back and add some of the missing features into Numbers.
     
  7. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    That first-look and your comments positive to me, for home use. Thinking about my basic personal needs, I do things like loan predictions, budget estimations, and membership rosters for a club. The Numbers approach sounds sufficient and well suited to these sorts of things.
     
  8. ErichH

    ErichH Screenwriter

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    I've been in the mood to wave goodbye to microsludge for many moons. My document useage is simple these days - just a few contracts and letters.

    As long as I can send a compatible doc to my PC people, I'm good. I can't tell you how many times my firends and I have installed the various versions on new Macs with an `Ugg' in the conversation. `Well, I might need it to translate xx' is always the excuse.

    True, 2004 runs OK on a fast Mac, but so what. Apple continues to eliminate the need for 3rd party ware.

    Now, if they'd just hurry up and do a great telephony pkg, I could ditch Phone Valet. Perhaps a V2 iPhone is the answer.
     
  9. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    Those who have never used Excel will (obviously) never miss the features I mentioned. You should be quite happy with it.
     
  10. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    I gotta give Numbers some credit for a nice new feature which I know I will use a lot. Often when working in spreadsheets, I may want to get a total of part of a column of numbers. It's not anything I want to keep, just a momentary check. In Excel, what I have to do is find an unused cell, and drop in a SUM() function for the selected cells. When done, I delete it.

    Numbers has a pane (lower left) that contains five functions (incl, SUM(), MIN(), & MAX()) that are set up for auto-calculations. You just select cells, and the auto-calc pane shows the current value of its funcs, instantly updating as you change the selection. VERY nice. [​IMG]
     
  11. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Excel added this feature in 2003.
     
  12. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    See, I KNEW someone was going to say that...

    I've been using Office 2000 for 7-8 years now. Only just got 2003 at work recently (yeah, we're behind) and I couldn't see any reason to pay to upgrade it at home. I actually fired up Excel 2003 earlier to see if it could do that but it didn't stand out (I see it now, down in the lower right).

    Edit: Good grief, I just checked and Excel 2000 does it too! How could I have missed it all these years??? I will give Apple credit for making the feature more obvious.

    Sheesh, how embarrassing...
     
  13. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    It's always that way. Grumble about a missing feature and someone tells you it's right in front of you [​IMG]
     
  14. Ken Chan

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    If no one knows a feature exists, it's not useful [​IMG] That's a problem with apps like Office with lots of versions and lots of features, and partly why they switched to the Ribbon UI.
     
  15. Craig S

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    The thing about this particular feature in Excel is it's not hidden in the menus or anything - it shows up right in front of you (well, down in the lower right border). I think the problem is it's tiny text, black on gray, and when you're selecting items you tend to focus on the part of the sheet you're working on. I just never saw it down there.
     
  16. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Loaded iWork on my Mac and from the little I saw,
    I am rather impressed.

    Having to write letters, I really appreciated the many intelligently
    designed templates that were available to me.

    These programs seem to be a worthy replacement to Microsoft
    Office 2004.
     
  17. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Ugh, my academic store sold out of iWork until this coming week, so I won't be able to get them or iLife until Tuesday or Wednesday. Hopefully they won't sell out of iLife while I'm waiting for iWork [​IMG]

    Was at an Apple store this weekend and was surprised to find that the online academic price for these were $71 each (saving only $8). I called my student store and the price is the same as it has always been for our campus: $39 each. I even re-confirmed the price after seeing the academic price online at $71.

    Can't wait to use Numbers. I know Excel is still 100 times more powerful and feature packed, but from what I saw of Numbers at the Apple Store, they have set up a lot of templates that mirror exactly what I jimmied up on Excel. Since I'm not an Excel power user, Numbers looks to be right up my alley!
     
  18. Craig S

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