As part of my Leopard switch, I set one goal for myself: run nothing but Intel native applications. That meant finding a clear alternative for Microsoft Office. Pages Sticking with the iWork ‘08 trial, I began my migration quickly and easily. All my Word documents changed […]

As part of my Leopard switch, I set one goal for myself: run nothing but Intel native applications. That meant finding a clear alternative for Microsoft Office.


Pages Sticking with the iWork ‘08 trial, I began my migration quickly and easily. All my Word documents changed peacefully to Pages by default and all opened just fine. The only minor issue I ran into was not having Microsoft’s font book, and therefor several obscure fonts were reset to Times New Roman. If anyone has a quick fix for this, I’d be interested to hear. I imagine I could take the font book from a Mac with Office installed and simply replace my font book with it?

Opening new documents was simple. Using the Blank template I was able to manage around Page’s Inspector. However I quickly ran into problems re-saving edited documents. Pages by default saves in the Pages format. So even editing a .Doc requires you save it as Pages. That’s a bit frustrating. You can export a file into Word for convenience, especially if you’re planning on sharing those documents with others. But it would be much more convenient to be able to choose your format directly from the Save screen. So I began saving my documents in the Pages format and getting rid of the normal Word documents when done editing them. Fortunately for me, I didn’t need to export documents as much as I thought I would. But again, it is frustrating after awhile. At least offer a keyboard command to quickly access the export feature so I don’t have to rely on my mouse as frequently.

The one real benefit I found with Pages and iWork was how quickly it opened. I imagine since Office is currently not Intel native, it requires more time to open. We’ll see how that remedies when Office ’08 goes on sale. But it’s nice not having to wait for a document to open. So far I’ve been happy with Pages, until it comes to creating a new flyer, not based on any of their templates. When creating a new layout or design, I can get more done and faster through Photoshop.

Keynote & Numbers

Keynote I’m lumping Keynote and Numbers together because as a writer my main focus lies solely on document editing. So for a more precise comparison, I recommend trying them out yourselves.

I think watching Steve Jobs’ Keynotes has created a bias for me. Or if you’re more familiar with An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore relies on Keynote for his presentation. Feature wise, Keynote offers very similar features as PowerPoint, just in a more clean, streamlined fashion. Since it meshes directly with iPhoto and iTunes, it’s a lot simpler to import music, photos, or even videos. One feature I truly love about Keynote is my ability to export it directly to iPod. When giving presentations I find it easier to carry around my iPod and A/V chord instead of a laptop and chords. Much less fuss, and much more streamlined. You may not retain as many features, but for someone that needs something portable, it’s a great idea. Over all I feel more satisfied with my Keynote presentations than I have with PowerPoint, so I’m going to stick with it.

Numbers Numbers was an interesting one for me. I could open my previous Excel files fine, but if they contained drop down menus, or set fields I began running into issues. Not a spreadsheet fiend, I think I’d prefer Excel only because of its familiarity and the fact it seems a business staple.


One thing I appreciate overall with iWork and Mac is the attention to detail. For example iWork allows you to move a document currently being editing to another folder without any errors. The document will kindly ask whether too start saving there, or save in two locations. Between Pages and Keynote I feel satisfied for most of my current office needs.

For students, something to keep in mind, is universality. Obviously Office is the preferred choice for schools and teachers, so it might be best for you to stick with it. Especially for note taking, I remember enjoying Word’s Notebook feature. Not only could I simultaneously record lecture from within Word, I could write clear outlined notes using its Notebook format. It was simple, efficient, and helped a lot.

If price is a factor for you, be sure and check out NeoOffice. It provides a classical approach and is completely free. iWork can be purchased for $79, and it looks like Office ’08 will run you up $150 for the Student/Teacher edition or $399 for Office Basic. If you’re running low on hard drive space, try testing out Google Docs and Spreadsheets, ZoHo, or Adobe’s new Buzzword. There are a variety of ways around office applications, so find what works most efficiently for you. If you have any recommendations or ideas, feel free to comment.

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  1. I too used Word’s notebook feature quite a lot before switching to iWork. As an alternative, I started using Omnioutliner for notes, and Audacity for audio recordings. Works fine!

  2. Can anyone tell me why Pages documents seem to have up to a ten-fold increase file size, than the respective .doc files? I’ve been looking for a opendocument plugin for Pages ’08, but so far no luck

  3. For someone who calls themselves a “writer” your spelling and grammar are appalling.

  4. @pedant: Complaint noted. Please stay on topic and if you have any complaints in the future, please use our contact form.

  5. In September I reviewed several Mac word processors to compare how well they import Word docs, which is important when you’re working with folks who are using Word. Pages did rather well.

    Mac Word Processors and Importing Word Documents

  6. Julio Ojeda-Zapata Monday, December 17, 2007

    Unfortunate timing on this since Intel-native Office 2008 is just a few weeks away. Might have been better to get that and then do a fair comparison.

  7. Nobody Important Monday, December 17, 2007

    Thanks for this informative post about iWork. As a potential switcher, I found it very useful.

    One thing I’d like to learn more about is the use of the iPod in giving presentations. In my use case, you get a projector with a VGA input – does the iPod hook up to that? And I guess you press the click wheel to advance slides?

  8. I switched to NeoOffice more than a year ago and I’ve never once had occasion to look back. Not just FREE, but GREAT as well.

  9. I was reading this on Vienna moments ago…

    I too made this transition, but mostly because my Office apps were taking an insane amount of time to start up, and then crashing repeatedly each session due to “an unexpected error.” Personally I would feel more comfortable if they could expect the error and prevent it.

    I do my papers in Pages, my presentations in Keynote, and my spreadsheets and graphs in Numbers. All is well in my world. I take class notes (AND lecture recordings) in OmniOutliner Pro. Kick out the cash for this, it’s lightweight enough that (UNLIKE MS Word) I can surf the Internet for references to whatever my batty professors are talking about and copy the links to my notes as I type them/switch back and forth between OO and my web browser. This may not seem like an impressive feature, but it was impossible on a fairly new MacBook Pro for much of this past semester.

    I too am interested to see what comes out of the new Office 2008. Since the release is scheduled before I graduate, I get a free copy…no guarantees that I’ll switch completely, but I hope Apple is paying attention (although I figure that if they do anything particularly cool, iWork will have beaten them to it).

  10. sorry for the hanging modifier, pedant…
    i meant that if Office 2008 has anything cool, iWork will have already done it.

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