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Has iWork Been an iDud for Apple?

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At Macworld San Francisco in 2005, Steve Jobs unveiled Apple’s iWork package, including Pages and Keynote, offering consumer-level alternatives to the Microsoft Office staples Word and PowerPoint (though Pages is admittedly more for page layout than word processing). While the initial coverage spawned questions as to whether the iWork package would force Redmond to discontinue MS Office for the Macintosh, the products haven’t exactly set the marketplace abuzz, as iWork has played the ugly stepsister to the much ballyhooed iLife suite.

Apple’s “Get A Mac” ads have heavily promoted the features of iLife, including iPhoto, iWeb and iTunes, but iWork isn’t even mentioned. And though Jobs loves the additional features and themes of Keynote, I can’t remember the last time I needed to use the program, and the only time we ever unveil Pages is when we’re doing our annual Christmas letter.

While some Mac rumor sites have speculated that Apple would add “Document” and “Charts” to the arsenal as part of iWork ’07, to more directly take on Word and Excel, I don’t know that the Mac community has adopted iWork in the way we have Safari, Mail and other Apple programs. Market share statistics at the very beginning of 2006 showed iWork had 2% of the market, making it a distant second to MS Office in productivity packages, but the release of iWork ’06 was not worth a single slide in Jobs’ MWSF presentation earlier that month.

It seems that iWork is a forgotten tool in Apple’s weaponry, and it’s not making much of a dent in an Office-centric world. While Mac users have proven happy to purchase $129 system upgrades on an annual basis, and Macs or iPods every other year, we just aren’t ponying up for additional Apple software. My and QuickTime and Safari are great, but they were free. Unless iWork too becomes free and gets loaded via Software Update, I don’t know that I will ever buy it again, and the Mac community hasn’t charged forward with credit cards in hand for the suite. As product introductions go, this one could very well have been an iDud, a rare one for Apple in this time of resurgence.

56 Responses to “Has iWork Been an iDud for Apple?”

  1. Macmanager

    I think APPLE has missed the boat with PAGES. The hidden strength of this product is in the theme pack market. Not so much in home craft projects, but what I suspect is iworks biggest user base, the SoHO market.
    Here is my killer app idea. I think apple should get their team of designers to produce new theme packs for SoHo markets. Apple has a few dollars to spend and should spend money researching SoHo business trends, work flows and the types of documents/ forms those Home based businesses need. Develop Theme packs for . i.e. Real Estate, Home based Travel Agents, Graphic designer/Photographers,
    Apple has done a good job at producing JAM Packs for Garage band, what about new themse for iMovie? Speaking of iMovie and iWEB- how about a real co-ordinated effort and produce complete solution theme packs that contain not only new iWorks themes in a box but coordinated themes for iweb and iMovie, Keynote. so that my Home business can produce a consistant clean unified look with my company’s communication.

  2. Brandon Eley

    I don’t think you can compare the popularity of iWork to other Apple software such as iLife, Mail and Safari. Those software packages come free on every new Mac, and iWork is a commercial software package that you have to purchase as an add-on.

    The simple fact that Apple includes as much bundled software as they do is amazing, and I don’t expect them to include iWork for free anytime soon, but as long as they don’t it’s not fair to compare them to each other – apples and oranges.

    Comparing to Microsoft Office or NeoOffice is more appropriate. Both have to be obtained after the fact, and both are office suites. I have all 3 installed – Office, NeoOffice and iWork.

    I use Pages for just about everything simple – fax cover sheets, letters, proposals, contracts, invitations, thank you cards, etc. It’s just easy to use. When I have a Word doc, though, I just open it in Word. I use Keynote when I have a presentation to do, which is very rare.

    The one Achilles heel of iWork is the lack of a spreadsheet application. No serious business person can work without a spreadsheet app, no matter what field. I’m not in finance but I use Excel daily.

    I think if Apple doesn’t include Sheets (their trademarked name) in iWork ’07, they’ll lose any marketshare they’ve got. I know I won’t upgrade. I’ve held off upgrading MS Office hoping that iWork ’07 will include a spreadsheet app and I’ll be able to ditch MS Office for good.

  3. I recently switched from Word to Pages for novel writing, mostly because Pages text looks better on screen, and after hours of looking at a computer screen, anything helps. Pages renders letters better than Word. However, when I deal with editors, I switch back to Word for compatability purposes.

  4. Maybe my memory is failing me, but I remember Steve Jobs saying ‘we are building the replacement for AppleWorks’ when he announce iWork at MWSF. Kind of like it was an ongoing project. I would expect that we will see another component or two added this year.

    For those of us who want a powerful Word Processor and do not need to have full MS Word interoperability, I would suggest Mellel. It’s made by Redlex and is their bread & butter business. Feedback and user requests are taken seriously and implemented. It’s also inexpensive.

    Here is the website

    Of course you can always go with NeoOffice J. It’s hard to beat free.

  5. lmwilliams

    I like Keynote. I do a lot of presentations and prefer a professional appearance, but just try to manage sounds & music. What a hassle. I know the music industry is obsessed with DRM, but give me a break. I just want a few bars to lead into sections of my very non-commercial presentations. I shouldn’t have to use complex power tools to get simple music transitions.

  6. Me = academic
    Keynote = Incredible
    Pages = Not bad (simple desktop publ. only)
    Omnigraffle = very helpful
    Microsoft and Endnote = Usable but clunky
    Mellel and Bookends = OS X, fast, reliable, “clean”, responsive developer

    ______________________ and___________________
    Fotomagico = best mac slideshow app under $100
    iLife = podcast friendly
    Quicktime Pro = good bridging app
    Galerie = Superior image catalogue generator (web work, FREE)


  7. I picked up Pages/Keynote because for school all I ever need is a word processor/presentation program.

    I really enjoy pages. It’s easy to use, looks great, and has some horsepower under the hood. However, it’s definitely a new product. It gets dog slow if you start having a lot of objects in the document (part of the reason for a majority of my documents I switched to LaTeX). Some of the features feel like the should be far easier to access (I don’t see why you can’t have font/size in a dropdown menu on the bar. Overall though, I’m very happy with it and I’ve created some documents with it that would take me -ages- to do with Word.

    Keynote is hands down better than Powerpoint in every single aspect. It’s faster, has better media integration, has better themes, better animations, better transitions, better everything. I cannot understand how anybody could have issues publishing a Keynote presentation…is Quicktime Video, PowerPoint, PDF, Images, Flash, DVD, and HTML not enough export options? And quite often almost all little details of the presentation are exported intact. I recently took a Physical Oceanography class, and I had to give two major presentations: one on freshening of arctic oceans, and one on nutrient redistribution in the Pacific Ocean due to El Niño. I used my own laptop to give the presentations, and my professor actually mentioned to me on both occasions that I had the best looking, most “attention-keeping” presentation out of anybody in the class. Guess what, I was the only one using Keynote. It’s a fantastic, flexible application that Apple hit a home run with. My only complaint would be that it can take a few second to load a presentation.

    I think though, that iWork should come bundled with Macs. With the removal of AppleWorks, it really is a bit of a pain, and does really remove some of that “I can do everything out of the box” of the Mac awesomeness.

    I don’t think Apple needs to make a separate word processing program, a little work on Pages is all it would take. And for the rare occasion that I need to do some spreadsheet work, a little SS application would be nice :)

    – MacBook Pro, 2.16GHz, 2GB Ram, 120GB 5400RP SATA

  8. D. Fritzinger

    I originally bought iWork to use the page setup abilities of Pages. Now, I hardly use Pages, but have started to use Keynote as my sole presentation program. On all 3 of my Macs (PMG5/dual 2.0/1 Gig, iMacG5/2.0/1Gig, MBP/1.83/1 Gig), PowerPoint is dog slow. I give presentations with embedded graphs (from Excel) and pictures (from Photoshop or Canvas), and slide transitions can sometimes take 10 seconds or more from the time I click the mouse to the time the new slide is on the screen in Powerpoint. In Keynote, no matter how complicated the graphic, the transitions are almost instantaneous. In addition, PowerPoint just can’t handle pdf graphics, and shows them at very low resolution, while Keynote handles them well. I do use Pages sometimes, but since I need to exchange documents with PC users, it is just easier to use Word. Word also includes the ability to track changes in a document and has powerful find and replace capabilities that I haven’t figured out how to use in Pages. Also, Cite while you write in Endnote doesn’t work in Pages. What pages has is the ability to place graphics in the document, exactly where I want them, which is clearly lacking in Word. So, I guess I will write in Word, convert to Pages and insert my graphics. Hopefully, the new versions of Word and/or Pages will gain some of the abilities of the other program.

  9. I personally have been waiting to purchase iWork ’07 because of the rumored Document and Spreadsheet modes. I’m trying to say Microsoft-free, and NeoOffice is rather bland.

  10. I bought iWork’06 because I was tired of seeing PowerPoint presentations. I used KeyNote and it was different enough and nice but I don’t think anyone was blown away by the difference. I do like that you can have two different views of your presentation, one on your screen that allows you to see your notes and then the projected image without the notes. However, if someone aside from Apple made this program I am not convinced there is enough there to draw people away from PowerPoint- aside from the price. Additionally, when I travel to a conference there is no way I would feel comfortable bringing my KeyNote presentation because I have never seen anyone else use KeyNote (large scientific conferences).
    As for Pages, for us, the absolute deal breaker is the lack of intergration with bibliography programs (EndNote etc.). Because of this missing feature, you will NEVER get people in academics to use pages over Word in regards to writing grants or acadmeic papers with heavy use of figures. However, the the ease of use of putting in figures and pictures is very, very good in Pages so it remians a program with potential only.

  11. Everyone I’ve introduced iWorks to, has loved it, be they Windows or Office users.

    They rarely ever need to go back. Only when collaborating with others who are using Word then they may have to go back. I found this to be mostly the case with the Equation Editor features of Word. I would like to see Pages have compatible and open math symbol capability.

  12. I was surprised to read this post, and I am glad so many people have spoken up in favor of Pages and Keynote. I have started using both as much as I can because they are user-friendly and effective. MS Office makes me grumble now whenever I have to use them to collaborate with Windows users.

  13. I agree with all the positive sentiments above. I really enjoy using both Pages and Keynote. I’ve even found that Pages is a decent substitute for photoshop/illustrator for creating graphics that can be used for web or print. I recently revised a client’s logo using Pages and exported as a pdf that could then be opened in illustrator with each vector object intact. Of course Pages lacks all of the filters that are available in Photoshop but it is amazing just how much can be accomplished with it.

    For home and small business users especially, iWork is a fantastic bargain and powerful tool.

  14. Nate Green

    I think the consensus here seems to be that Keynote matters for those people who would otherwise relying on Powerpoint on a daily basis. It is, according to many people, one of the best software applications Apple has ever created. If we are evaluating iWork as an office suite, then it clearly does not rate, as Pages is a very sad little app, but Keynote should be recognized as the landmark achievement that it is. As with Safari, these stellar Apple applications result from exceptional (by which I mean atypical) development practices. If only they were to treat the iLife apps in the same way, we’d have much more solid applications.

  15. I dont think you can call it when you admit you have little need for a word processor/presentation software.

    I really enjoy using both apps. I think in order to gain traction though, Apple should really be bundling this into all new Macs for free. In fact, its somewhat ludicrous that it isnt already done so. Without AppleWorks, people buying a Mac no longer have any sort of productivity suite.

    As TextEdit supports OpenDocument in Leopard, I think iWork 07 will be the same. The ability to export to Open Doc format will be a big selling point.

  16. If there is going to be an iWork 07 – I hope that Apple will have ready made, built-in Office 2007 translators – read & write.

    Those plus a spreadsheet module might tip the balance in a big way, since they’d even be ahead of the MacBU on that compatibility…

  17. Keynote is definitely a beautiful app. The only gripe I have is that it won’t autosize the text that you put into the body or header text areas. It is simply amazing how quickly you can produce a good-looking presentation with such little effort.

    Pages for me is slow. I have an iMac 2Ghz G5 with 2GB ram. If it were faster, I might use it more. It doesn’t have track-changes abilities, though it is sure to come with the recent addition of ‘comments’ earlier this year. I also like the INTEGRATED dictionary and word completion. It does not fit our traditional style of word processing, but with some getting used to, you can produce beautiful documents. However, in my law school, you don’t really need beautiful documents.

    In short, Keynote is the good app in iWork. I can do without Pages (so far).

  18. I think to call iWork a “dud” is at least an overstatement, and my own feeling is that iWork is about to get a new look, as Office 2007 rolls out. Yes, viewers/converters are on the way, but one of the reasons our company invested in a few hundred seats of iWork was this year’s Word/Core Duo-save bug ( ) that nearly brought our company to a halt.

    Has it replaced Word? Not yet, but, in a telling move, we’ve changed our deliverable format for subcontractors from .doc to .rtf – that overturns more than a decade of Word as the only thing to use.

    If Apple were resurrect K.I.S.S. (aka Spreadsheet 2000), another Casady and Greene product like SoundJam/iTunes, MS might have a serious competitor for the first time.

  19. There’s no doubt Pages and Keynote have found a niche audience – as can be seen by your comments. I open Keynote when I need to absolutely center an image on a slide and want to use the intuitive guidance. Pages, as mentioned, has worked for our family Christmas letter. But do you believe it has reached enough Mac users to be considered a success? Is Apple promoting iWork the way it has iLife, and do we expect that to change as new apps and new features are added?

  20. I love Keynote but I have to publish my presentations as handouts for my students and PowerPoint is much stronger for this. Also, I occasionally have to transfer my presentation to another computer and converting Keynote to PowerPoint can create some format problems. Finally, the file sizes for Keynote are much larger than PP and more difficult to post online. So, despite a creative preference for Keynote, I’ve gone back to PowerPoint. I use InDesign for my layout work but Pages is a nice application. The bottom line is that I enjoy iWork but probably will not upgrade again soon.

  21. I’m a college professor, and so one thing that’s common to all aspects of my job is document creation — mostly presentations and text documents. Since switching to a Mac last year, I’ve found Keynote to be wonderful, and Pages… not so much.

    Keynote is wonderful because it is designed with the right role in mind for presentation software: namely, the integration of content rather than the creation of content. It is exceedingly easy to incorporate all kinds of content — images, video, audio, equations typeset with a LaTeX app like LateX-It (I teach math), etc. — with Keynote, and that’s why it’s 100x easier to use than PowerPoint for me. PPT is designed as if it is supposed to *generate* the content rather than pull it together.

    However, a similar philosophy with Pages just doesn’t work so well. Pages has worked well for me when I am creating complicated, media-intensive documents like handouts for my classes that involve LaTeX-ed equations and graphs. But when I want to just make a simple text document, maybe with a heirarchical structure like an outline, Pages IMHO is just too much for such a simple task. I usually default back to Word — slow and clumsy, sure, but pretty simple — or even LaTeX or a just a text editor.

    And when I work with a publishing company — editing textbooks, etc. — there are always text documents whose changes have to be tracked. Word really shines in this task, whereas I don’t think Pages even has this ability.

    If Apple could come up with a nice free Mac-like alternative to Word — something that does only text documents and allows for collaborative work — then it’d be my #1 most frequently used app overnight.

  22. iWorks doesn’t have to compete with Office -now. It has to grow and be in place that it could replace office if the strategic situation will allow/need it. That’s only on marketing level. As tools for average users pages and keynote are already good tools.

  23. swissfondue

    Keynote and Pages are more user friendly and polished than their Windows-based “equivalents”. My main issue using Pages is that it is too slow on my PowerBook 1.5GHZ G4 to use as a word processor. So I write a text using Writeroom and then copy/paste into Pages for layout.

  24. Zach: save items as RTF. It’ll work with both Pages and Word without any conversion, and all but very sophisticated formatting will remain intact. And since on Windows .rtf files and .doc files use the same icon, your Windows using classmates/instructors will never notice the difference.

  25. iWork certainly doesn’t get the same kind of fanfare that other programs do, but I love the suite. Pages, especially. I run a publishing company, and though there are a few instances that I wish Pages could do something (like run a grammar check), for the most part it is wonderful. I can’t fathom going back to Word. The simplicity, the intuitiveness, and the way layout and word processing are so interconnected — please don’t diss Pages. It’s so much better (especially at the price).

  26. I absolutely love Pages. It’s easy to use and very powerful. However, it’s cumbersome to have to save duplicate copies of everything so I have a Pages document and a Word document. I’m a college student and frequently have to submit assignments online as Word documents or share files with Windows using classmates. If Pages was my default program for .docs AND would automatically save things as .docs, I’d use it. But if I’m simply editing some homework document I downloaded, it ends up being simpler to just open it in Word and hit cmnd-s when I’m done. It sounds silly, but that’s how I feel. Although I’m trying to break the habit now that I have an Intel Mac.

  27. There’s no doubt that pages and keynote are very good apps. The moment you stop comparing them to the competition they shine. But the truth is most poeple won’t buy multiple office suites, and most people will end up buying MS Office. They just dont see the value. But if you show them a demo of pages and keynote they’ll be blown away. If you have even a single presentation to make, the Keynote is worth the price of entry.

    Nonetheless, I truly hope iWork succeeds and gets a big update in January. It’s only going to get better and more impressive.

  28. I’ve also been using Pages for a great deal of my work. I’ve got a Windows PC from my company sitting beside my personal Mac. I was using for Word for Windows for my technical documents and fighting the formatting, especially with embedded graphics. Once our organization decided to move to PDFs for sharing I quickly switched to Pages and found that I was fighting my documents a lot less and providing a lot more for the customer.

    Pages just fits my workflow better.

  29. I teach and I constantly have to make worksheets and such. If I use Word I often get hung up on small stuff– awkward interface, for one. Pages, in contrast, is user friendly and even inviting, in that Mac way. Granted, my purposes are simple. Still, I’ve a feeling there are bound to be a few other people out there just like me. There’s little reason to knock Pages or iWork.

  30. Pages certainly has the shadow of Word to contend with, but Keynote is quite the hit. There was just a round of Keynote lovefest blogging not to long ago.

    Personally, I use Pages for everything I can. I don’t understand why people use Word when there’s generally no need for it, and Pages is much more Mac-like. Maybe it’s an inertia thing.