In my ten-minute review I may have mistakenly compared Pages to Word. I have since been informed that it is actually very similar to Microsoft Publisher which is one of a whole sea of Windows applications I haven’t used or heard of so I can’t base any of my comparisons on it. I can only compare this product to other products I am familiar with such as Word and PageMaker.
Pages is part of the new iWork software suite from Apple. I am not really sure how well this bundle works since Pages will appeal to a broader consumer audience while Keynote is something that would be more popular among business professionals and college professors or anyone else who use PowerPoint on a regular basis. Of the two Pages is much more interesting to me so I would have rather been able to pay half of the iWork price just for it since I have never needed or even used Keynote except to just try it out. Pages on the other hand is an application that I can see myself using on a regular basis.
When you first launch Pages you are presented with something very similar to Word’s Project Gallery. This allows you pick from a number of attractive templates. While the number of templates is small compared to those available in Microsoft Word it is much easier to customize them once they are open. Many of the Word templates are the same template with multiple color choices. Instead of doing this Pages actually gives you the ability to change color of nearly all of the non-photographic elements of the templates. One of the big ways it differs from Word is that most of the templates feature multiple page layouts that can be selected through the Pages toolbar item. I expect that just like with iDVD and Keynote we will soon see Pages template sites popup all over the internet. Support for Word templates would have been nice since there are thousands of those available on the web for free but this isn’t that big a deal since you can just save a Word template as a normal Word documents and then open it in Pages if you really want to use one.
I decided to with the Flyer template for my review since this is something that Pages will be used for a lot. Being an old PageMaker user I immediately like to turn on the Show Layout option from under the Views menu just so I can get a better feel for how the columns are setup. First thing that struck me was that I didn’t like the green color of the box at the top. Turns out that there are a couple of different ways you can do stuff like this in Pages. The way you might have done it in PageMaker would have most likely been to create a rectangular object and applied the fill color of your choice to it. That still works in Pages but the way they used in the Flyer template was the paragraph fill option which is hidden on the More tab of the Text panel of the Inspector window.
Next up came changing the images. If you are an iPhoto user this is very easy. Just click the Media button on the toolbar. In the Media window that opens just select iPhoto from the popup menu, the album you want, and then drag and drop the image you wish to use over the image you want to replace. Pages will automatically scale the image proportionately to fit into the column. You can also drag and drop unto text to replace it or into a blank area just to add the image. If like me you are not a user of iPhoto then you can just as easily drag and drop an image from the Finder or even from my media cataloging application of choice: iView.
After you have added in your image there are quite a few things you can do to it inside of Pages. You can stroke with a few different line styles and control over the weight and color of the line, and you can add drop shadows with control over the color, angle, offset, blur, and opacity. The controls are not quite as good as those in Photoshop’s Drop Shadow Layer Effect panel but they are more intuitive. The drag wheel control for setting the drop shadow direction could use some fine-tuning. You also have control over image rotation using the same drag wheel control.
Another great feature for image editing in Pages is the ability to apply a mask in the application and the way text will automatically flow over masked sections according to your text wrap settings. It is a lot more user friendly that a traditional page layout application, and much easier and more stylish than it is in a traditional word processor. Remember ladies and gentlemen this is an Apple application should you should expect more in the usability sector than in other applications.
Pages has some nice shape features as well. The rounded rectangle features the ability to change the amount of curve used to round the corners with a range that goes from completely square to perfectly circular. The selection of shapes is decent but I hope it is expandable. I can’t find any internal mechanism to expand the selection but hopefully it support adding new shapes in some simple way such as adding an EPS file of the shape you want into the Application Support folder.
Like just about every application running under Mac OS X the on screen text is beautiful in Pages. For me this is always one of the most noticeable differences between Mac OS X and other OS’s. And it is often noticeable in printed documents as well.
Pages has all the text styling features we have come to expect. The Paragraph Styles work great and are flexible in the way they are implemented. Just like in professional page layout applications and high-end text editors if you edit a style the text that relies on that style is update throughout the document. The same is true of Character and List styles as well. One nice feature is that if you edit the text that a style is applied to this becomes an exception to the style but you have the option of updating the style based on a selection of text.
One small text problem I have ran into is when you insert a new image or move an existing one the text will sometime jump to another column even when there is plenty of room for it in the current one. This isn’t a big deal but it can be annoying at times.
This application has a number of export options including HTML, PDF, RTF, and Word formats. There is a small problem with the PDF option though. Acrobat Reader does not render the drop shadows. Obviously Apple has introduced a new real-time shadow-rendering feature into the PDF format which is currently only supported in Preview. I had heard about this elsewhere and was hoping that it might be easy to work around by choosing Print and then Save As PDF but that didn’t work. It would be nice if there were an option to render the shadows when you export.
The export to RTF option leaves much to be desired. It uses the RTFD format but in TextEdit the images don’t display. I opened up the package and it appears that the exported PDF formatted images were corrupted somehow.
Exporting into the Word format actually produces a very nice document with drop shadows and masked images cropped nicely. The columns hold up nicely and the text styles are transferred into Word, though there are a few features that don’t transfer.
Another disappointment that is not surprising is the export to HTML option. The end document doesn’t appear to look anything like it did in Pages. It tried but the CSS ended up to be way off the mark. They would probably be better exporting the columns as tables instead of trying to do it with divs. Like the RFT option this one isn’t ready for prime time.
Initial application launch time is quite a bit faster than Word on my 1 GHz iBook G4, although subsequent launch times of Word are noticeably better. If Apple was to add inline grammar checking and thesaurus services to Mac OS X I could see Pages giving Word a bit more of a run for its money but these and other features are going to leave Word in it position as a dominate force when it comes to word processing. Also a decent HTML exporting option and some integration with .mac would be nice for a future version.
All in all I really like using Pages. In my workflow it is going to replace Photoshop for flyer making and Word for everything except college essay writing. As always Apple has delivered a great 1.0 version of a new application but they have plenty of room to grow as well. This is without a doubt an iApp though.
Application reviewed: Pages 1.0.
Review hardware: 1 GHz Apple iBook G4 with 768 megabytes of RAM.