Apple’s famous word processing application Pages has seen its first update of 2010, delivered as a touch-enabled little brother for the new iPad. But how does this version stack up to its OS X counterpart? After testing the app for almost a week, here are my thoughts.


Apple’s famous word processing application Pages has seen its first update of 2010, delivered as a touch-enabled little brother for the new iPad. But how does this version stack up to its OS X counterpart? After testing the app for almost a week, here are my thoughts.

Like other iPad applications, Pages is fast. Loading almost instantly, the first thing you’ll see is a Welcome document, ironically created in Pages itself. The My Documents is area where you’ll see all of your synced documents, accessible by flicking left or right. It seems like managing a large number of documents in this area could be cumbersome, so it will be interesting to see how Apple addresses this UI concern with future versions. There’s also options here for exporting documents to iWork.com or email, deleting documents and importing new documents.

Creating a new document is simple as well, though you are limited to 15 templates besides a blank document. I’m honestly surprised Apple hasn’t brought over the full arsenal of templates.

Navigating around Pages is quite simple. In portrait mode, you’ll have a menu bar across the top with quick access to My Documents, an Undo button as well as an Inspector, Media, Settings and a Full Screen option.

Cool Pages Tip: Tap and hold the Undo button to initiate a Redo.

Tapping the lighter colored bar beneath the toolbar will present you with a traditional ruler, justification options and options to make your type bold, italicized or underlined. Landscape mode is primarily used for creating content in your document, so the toolbar remains hidden.

The Inspector

The Inspector provides an additional method for adjusting alignment, support for columns (limited to 4) and line spacing (limited to quarter line increments). In this view there are also options for formatting lists and applying (but not redefining) the default styles for titles, headings and subheadings. This particular view also changes, depending on what content you are editing. For example, if you’ve tapped a table and then open the Inspector, you’ll see related options here.

Media Browser

The Media Browser functions similar to the desktop version, showing photos and videos that have been synced to the iPad via iTunes. Unfortunately, none of my TV shows or movies were accessible through here, even the ones that aren’t restricted with iTunes DRM.

Options for tables, charts and shapes are included as well, allowing a user to select from a wide variety of default looks, then allowing them to use the Inspector to further fine tune them. Manipulating objects is very user friendly by just tapping and interacting as you would be naturally inclined to do. Tap two fingers on an object, pause and rotate your fingers to rotate an object. It’s simple.

Fine Tuning

Document Setup mode allows you to format your document with custom dimensions simply by tapping a margin and dragging it. You can also set watermark images as well as format the header or footer of your document. Unfortunately, documents are limited to a size of either US Letter (8.5 x 11) or A4 (8.27 x 11.69). There were no apparent options for adjusting the orientation to landscape.

Selecting text works the same as it does on Pages for the desktop, except you’re using finger taps instead of mouse clicks. Double tapping a word will select it while triple tapping will select the entire paragraph. In the pop-up menu, you have your usual options for copying the content as well as the option to copy the style if you wish to copy and paste formatting styles between areas. There is also an option to define the word you’ve selected.

Other options include a traditional spell checker which functions just like the desktop counterpart by underlining the misspelled word, allowing a user to tap and see a suggested replacement.

Syncing Files with Pages

Contrary to original rumors that suggested the iPad would mount a folder and allow for easy syncing of documents, you have to sync specific documents to the iPad through iTunes. Undoubtedly Apple realizes that this process is quite cumbersome and hopefully future iterations of iTunes or iPad software will make this process easier.

Pages documents that you receive through Mail on the iPad or browsed via iWork.com can be opened, saved and edited within Pages. Conversely, documents created in Pages can be exported and sent via Mail or uploaded to iWork.com in addition to being synced back through iTunes.

The Downside

Pages on the iPad is a great application, but it’s not without its share of missing features and limitations. Unfortunately, Pages is limited to a rather small collection of typefaces. While there’s still enough to create content that is unique, the lack of support for adding your own typefaces means Pages won’t let you easily move any document from your Mac and see the exact same thing on your iPad. In fact, you’ll get document warnings if you try and open a file that includes a typeface that your iPad is missing. This is an issue that Apple needs to address before people really begin to consider the iPad as “the laptop replacement.”

Additionally, more advanced features of Pages are missing. Here’s a quick list of some of the features that aren’t present.

  • Inserting Table of Contents & Footnotes
  • Inserting Section or Layout Breaks
  • Inserting Merge Fields
  • Tracking Changes
  • Saving as Templates
  • Adjusting Styles
  • Adjusting Type (Tracking, Ligatures, Baseline, Capitalization)
  • Printing
  • Document Statistics (Word Count, Number of Pages, Page Location)

Pages is a very functional app but for those who really wanted it to replace the desktop version, you’ll be desiring a more featured packed update from Apple. Originally I’d planned to use the mobile version to put the finishing touches on documents (if I’m on the go) but it looks like the best workflow is to create your documents on the iPad and apply finishing touches when you are back on a Mac.

One last little bit to note about this application, and everyone is mixed on this, but typing on the iPad keyboard, even in landscape mode is still awkward. Personally, I’m comfortable with the full size keyboard layout on my Mac and so I find myself aiming for certain keys that just aren’t there. I strongly recommend investing in the bluetooth keyboard if you’re planning to use Pages or any of the other iWork apps on the iPad.

Check out our gallery of Pages below. Have you used Pages for the iPad? What are your thoughts?


Related TechUniversity Screencasts: Pages 101 and Word to Pages

  1. “Loading almost instantly, the first thing you’ll see is a Welcome document, ironically created in Pages itself.”

    Why is this irony? It’s not the opposite of what’s expected. It would be ironic if the Welcome document were created in MS Word… or MS Paint.

    1. Actually it’d be ironic if the Welcome page was made in Flash.

      1. Then there would be no welcome screen at all, which would be ironic…literally.

    2. Haha, Jared, you beat me to it. I was going to say exactly the same thing (just without mentioning Paint).

  2. Wow. I’m going to get an iPad out of simple curiosity, but my main intended use is using it as a writing tablet, which now seems quite out of the question. I must say I’m a little shocked at the depth and breadth of missing features. No way would you be able to use the iPad for any serious writing as it stands today.

    Every document I write has footnotes for instance. Every document I write requires that I keep track of the word count. Every document I write usually requires me to adjust some of the styles. This is just awful! It makes the iPad completely unusable as a writing device for me and I don’t exactly have any unusual requirements.

    Just to add in another “gotcha” that you haven’t mentioned … it appears that the iPad spell checker can only handle the American variant of English. For english speakers (and writers), there might just as well not be spell checking at all.

    The iPad seems more and more like it’s only setup for consumption and won’t gain realistically useful document creation abilities until sometime in 2011. So sad.

    1. You don’t think you have odd requirements? You listed off several such as footnotes and word count that I would say many users do not need in their documents.

      Why is it that you find the need to bash the iPad at every opportunity? If you don’t want it and find it a waste of money then just stay away. Simple as that. And yes, I have read some of your other posts…

      1. Actually, word counting and footnotes are extremely commonly used features, used in places from school, work, online communities where writing is shared, to the entire fucking print news business.

  3. A work around to get a landscape document orientation 11 x 8.5:

    I Just import a landscape document that I created in pages on my MacBook. I haven’t tested any other document sizes.

  4. Syncing seems like it should be another app entirely. I mean, does anyone else realize how insane it is to house music, books, apps, videos, updates, photos, and documents in an application called iTunes?

    If iTunes could handle all of those things on your system, that would be great, but it doesn’t. It’s just a gatekeeper for the stuff that gets loaded onto your device. This really seems to merit a separate application.

    1. I’d agree. iTunes is becoming bloated.

    2. Agreed.
      They should make an iPhone OS device manager app for Mac and PC, which plugs itself into iCal/WinCal, iTunes, Address Book, iPhoto, Safari (for bookmarks), and syncs it all to your iPhone OS gadget. This could be an updated version for iSync. It would also be good if it would support plugins for other devices, so those of us running Android or whatever can use it to sync their music to their phones, while keeping iTunes’ music sync feature to iDevices (including clickwheel iPods).
      iTunes should have a button for invoking this app and keep only the music related features, this includes iPod sync and maybe music sync for all iDevices.
      So, a recap of how I imagine the future should be:
      – iTunes manages music and video and syncs it only to all iDevices – iPods (touch and clickwheel), iPhones, iPads. Has a button for the App Store and a button for extended sync. These buttons fire up…
      – … the new iSync-esque app. This app synces everything you select (music, videos, photos, calendars, bookmarks, vCards…) to your iPhone OS device, and anything else somebody cares to write a plugin for.

  5. Raymond Brigleb Friday, April 9, 2010

    Honestly, my biggest frustration with Pages on the iPad is that you can’t view it in the equivalent of “word processing” view – only page layout view. Which is ironic, since you can’t print from the iPad. So the whole concept of “pages” themselves is outmoded.

    In a “word processing” type view, I wouldn’t have to look at those big page breaks. It’s just weird.

    1. Yeah. The whole loupe feature to scan through different pages is a bit awkward too. With no real sense of how many pages you have, it’s hard to really get an idea of what page you’re on versus where you are in the document overall.

  6. “This is an issue that Apple needs to address before people really begin to consider the iPad as ‘the laptop replacement.'”

    This is a ridiculous rumor that keeps surfacing. Never once did Jobs or anyone else in the original Keynote intend for this to be a laptop replacement. Jobs said it himself – it is suppose to be suficent enough for the times when your laptop is too much and your iPhone is not enough. And why can you not just create a document, leave comments (can you comment on the document?? I haven’t gotten my 3G + Wi-Fi iPad) and make a note for when you get back to your laptop?

    Main reason for my comment is just to put the rumor to sleep – the iPad is NOT suppose to replace a laptop or be a netbook.

    1. Well it depends on how you define “replacing a laptop.” Will a laptop ever be a suitable replacement for a desktop computer? Not in every instance, no. But there are many instances where people are looking for an iPad to replace what their laptop does, and usually when someone is looking for this, they aren’t maximizing the capabilities of their laptop. So what’s the problem with wanting this to perform as it would on my laptop? If Apple is going to tout Pages on the iPad, then one would expect it to have the same functionality as Pages on the Mac.

      1. “If Apple is going to tout Pages on the iPad, then one would expect it to have the same functionality as Pages on the Mac.”

        Not for $9.99, one wouldn’t.

  7. I know that it’s not the biggest concern of most users, but I was really hoping that track changes would work on the iPad. I don’t see using the iPad for creating long documents, but it seems ideal for on-the-fly editing and commenting.

  8. [...] In Depth Look: Pages on the iPad [...]

  9. Okay, I know I’m gonna get sh** for playing the grammar-nazi card, but just how is it “ironic” that the Welcome screen in Pages was created in Pages?

    Wouldn’t it be, oh, I don’t know, less wrong, to say that the Welcome screen in Pages was, “not surprisingly” created in Pages?

    Irony: noun; the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.

  10. And what’s the deal with no apostrophe on the virtual keyboard’s layout. What Jonathan Ives trained ergonomic “expert” made that decision?

    Why should typing the word “don’t” require several extra keystrokes? I seldom write anything of any length that doesn’t have apostrophes. If it’s a real space issue, hey, I’ll trade the letter X for an apostrophe, given the relative frequency with which I use the latter over the former.

    1. pres and hold the “,” key and you get an “‘”

      1. Todd Giencke Sunday, April 18, 2010

        While typing on the the iPad you don’t need to use an apostrophe. The iPad inserts it for you for the most part.

        The only omission I find troubling is the lack of the Pages menu bar while in landscape mode. I use the iPad to write on the go, and I’m not going to tote an external keyboard so I can write in portrait mode.

        Yes, I’m writing this on an iPad and haven’t had to change from the main keyboard.


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