Blog Post

Has iWork Been an iDud for Apple?

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. I made the switch to Pages when it first came out. Why? Because I despise Word. Mind you I made my own business templates. That investment paid off because I have a large collection of templates for all forms of biz communication. Is there room for improvement? Yes, anything can be improved.

    Pages, IMO, is close to FrameMaker in conception and ever since Adobe dropped the ball on a native OS X FrameMaker port I’ve been using Pages for everything, big and small. It works if you make the minimal investment to learn it well and construct your own templates.

    iWork is dirt cheap compared to Office. This alone makes the suite compelling. The bottom line is that Pages has replaced Word in the things I do and it has worked out exceptionally well.

    While there are problems (most of them are newbie issues) the simple fact is that Pages can compete with Word and if you don’t think so, either you’re using a lot of Office integration (I do not) or you don’t understand things. So take a step back and learn it.

  2. OK, we run our consultancy on Macs. Toolset:

    Keynote — so much better than PP, and we can do really polished work that looks clean and feels tight.
    NeoOffice — daily use for text and spreadsheets we can share w/ clients & contractors. A bit clunky, and not pretty for graphs.
    MS Office — last resort, but still stuck with Excel for complex modeling because our monte-carlo tools only run there. Excel graphs are also prettier.
    Pages — anything on letterhead goes out pages -> PDF. The para numbering doesn’t get screwed up, and images behave properly.

    Many of the “needed” feastures above are needed before Pages will replace NeoOffice. Pages is a bit slower (!), doesn’t allow us to create complex templates, and is generally bizarre about some things. Plus side is that paragraph formats and rules can be enforced, and since Adobe (may they rot in hell) dropped Framemaker we’ve been bereft.

  3. iWork is great but there is room for several improvements!!!
    Pages – need more professionally / academically focused options (endnotes, easier compatibility with word, etc.)
    Keynote – NOTHING AT ALL :)
    SPREADSHEET AND DATABASE programs with at least the functionality of those found in NeoOffice/OpenOffice…

    although this is a long shot, if apple integrated this software into leopard, it would truly provide an all-inclusive out-of-the-box feeling!!! You wouldn’t really need anything!!!

  4. Frankly, I am really baffled as to why Apple is even competing in this market.

    Media apps like iTunes, iPhoto and iMovie were of course utterly brilliant because they got right in front of a massive wave of consumer interest in rich media.

    Internet apps like iWeb attempt to get in on the ground floor of the “next Office” — Internet content creation and publishing. (Unfortunately for Apple, Web apps will almost certainly dominate this space and Google is way out front with Blogger and Google Docs+Spreadsheets.)

    But a document-oriented app? To control how things look when printed out on paper? How old school is that? Plus they just antagonize MSFT for no particular reason.

    Unless they know something about the future of Office for Mac the rest of us do not.

  5. Walt Atwood

    The bottom line in all of this is that the iWork suite is not complete. So far, all we have is a word processor/DTP in Pages (Apple’s answer to Microsoft Publisher?) and a slideshow program (Keynote). These are nice, but what about other office-productivity tasks?

    Some say Apple needs to come out with a spreadsheet app to compete with Microsoft Excel and Corel’s WordPerfect Office Quattro Pro. I disagree. Spreadsheets are too tied to certain data structures and functions. What Apple should do is come out with a database app, like a FileMaker Lite. Apple could call this new app Data, or DB. This database app could still serve as a number-cruncher for spreadsheet users, but also work well with mailing lists and other data structures. Then iWork would be more complete. If iWork had a “Data” app that could also work well with Apple’s Address Book technology and its iCal and, (or perhaps acts as the next step up from them, much as Aperture is professional software versus the consumer-oriented iPhoto) then you’re getting somewhere!

  6. Doug Petrosky

    I have to agree with the general feeling on this board. iWork is a great product, but Apple has left people with the feeling that it is not quite finished yet and I think that is for good reason. IT NOT! When they add the Spreadsheet to it, the vast majority of current users will upgrade to get this new application along with the updated features in Keynote and Pages. At the same time a new segment of the Mac community will decide it is now worth spending money on and iWork market share will grow.

    BTW: If you want to see how cool the spread sheet program will be, just add some formulas to a table in pages to see how nice the UI of a spread sheet can be. iWork will have it’s day, just like iPhoto now does (do you remember how many people trashed iPhoto 1.0?).

  7. Michael Whitney

    I use AppleWorks everyday too. I’ve found Pages to be too clunky and cluttered for most my writing (which is very simple). I think AppleWorks (formerly ClarisWorks) is an absolute gem in Apple’s lineup. It’s a shame it hasn’t received any love in the last 5 or 6 years. A minor overhaul of the AppleWorks interface would result in an “Class A” must-have app.

  8. iWork is great, I love pages and keynote. I’m a pro creative user, but still find great use for both applications–especially keynote. Still, the biggest limitation is that the very types of documents I would create in iWork are the documents I would need to share (most of the time)…and guess what? Most people are on a PC. Yes, the files can be exported in Powerpoint, word, and others, but that’s just not as good as the real source. Not everything can be translated to those crappy formats, which is tough when you are collaborating. So, in order to really use iWork, people need iWork on a PC!! I swear this would work, iwork is great and people hate office. For $80? they’d just pick up PC iWork to be compatible with us crazy mac users…and just might like it enough to make their app of choice. Heck, they might even switch after using Apple products.

  9. Al Pawlowski

    I still use AppleWorks every day. Why? Like iWork mac-easy (compared to Office), but it has the dbase component I need. IMO, a small scale relational dbase added to iWork would make it a smash hit.

  10. I’ve demoed Pages but not bought it because although I write for a living, I don’t print anything, just send rtf files to editors. For that, TextEdit is often all I need, though I also use Scrivener (and, once upon a time, Mellel) for more complex documents.
    Some of my editors do use Word, so I have to keep using it in those rare cases, and I agree that when Pages can handle track changes and seamlessly translate Word files with change-tracking, back and forth, I’d consider buying iWork.
    Actually Apple has steadily improved TextEdit over the years and Im’ surprised they don’t ever mention it when publicizing the Mac’s bundled software. In word processing, less can often be more, and I really prefer TextEdit’s minimalist approach to Word’s bloat. It gets out of the way of my writing whereas Word impedes it.

  11. Keynote is worth the entire price of iWork and more. I used to teach PowerPoint at a major university and I don’t want to go near it any more. Keynote is much better with graphics, presentation, and ease of use. Are there more things I’d like to see in it? You bet! But as a presentation tool it is miles ahead of PP.

    Pages is another story. Its problem, IMO, is that it is a taint–taint a word processor and taint a DTP application. That is, it’s more powerful than just a word processor but nowhere near as powerful as XPress or In Design.

    So people use Word. The thing is, Word has far more stuff than Pages, but the fact is, most people don’t use all that flab. They use it like a word processor. Professionals don’t use it for DTP, amateurs (and cheap businesses pawning it off on secretaries), however, do. So the high-end DTP apps have their place, and the word processors have their place. Where does pages fit in?

    So I agree that Keynote is the star and Pages doesn’t have a market.

  12. I had occasion to use Keynote and the iLife tools to turn a bunch of media into a coherent presentation on short order during a trip over the summer, and Keynote rocks. I just have little occasion to use it.

    Pages is slow. Pages is beautiful, however, and I cannot make myself use anything else now that I have seen its output, unless I really require features Pages lacks. There are some specialty features for legal writing that nobody’s gotten right since WordPerfect, but WordPerfect doesn’t ship for Macs (nor does IBM’s Lotus SmartSuite). However, for ordinary letters, pamphlets, and so on, the appearance of Pages places it at the top of my list. The problem is that someone seriously needs to do some performance profiling on the app and fix its glacial speed. The app is not snappy to begin with, and after being in use for a while becomes unusably slow even on a late-generation G5 iMac 20″. This is most pronounced on long docs, even without lots of images. Fifty pages? Ugh.

    If Apple offered a spreadsheet, and enabled integration of between it and iPhoto, iMovie, the spreadsheet, Keynote, and Pages, one would have a very attractive environment for creating written and live presentations, and keeping both live and written versions synchronized.

    I see iWork as a work in progress, though the price of this work in progress is admittedly galling. If I’m going to beta test a product, I want a price break. However, the products look so good, it’s hard to complain at the results.

    I suspect Apple’s avoidance of the enterprise market may be impacted by fear that moving before it is really ready to pose a threat, that is, before it’s really ready for the all-fronts attack, will result in nasty consequences that will harm short-term marketing. Apple’s incompetence at Enterprise can’t be an accident, it has to be a deliberate decision that Apple is not yet ready to approach the market. The question is whether Apple will ever decide that there is a good time, or whether Apple really just does not want to succeed in that market.

  13. Strongblade!

    Well, I have iWork ’06 and I find it to be an excellent package. I don’t have alot of use for Keynote, but the stuff I have needed it for was completed quickly, looks stunning, and runs beautifully.

    Pages still has some rough edges, but for any kind of page layout has been excellent and easy to use. Version 1.0 had issues but they appear to be totally fixed in 2.0

    I do find the Inspector to be a little backwards and clumsy, but after an hour or two it became second nature.

    I’m still fumbling with MS Office over a decade after being forced to use it. Once iWork has a couple more elements added and is polished a bit, I can’t imagine ever looking at anohter MS program again.

  14. I personally love both Pages and Keynote. I prefer each of them over Word and PowerPoint. But having said that Pages has further to go to be truly competitive with Word (in terms of wordprocessing features) than does Keynote compared to PowerPoint, at least from my vantage point.

    We have started using Pages in an office environment. It works pretty well. It needs, in my estimation, at the very least: (i) an auto backup feature, (ii) a track changes feature compatible with Word, (iii) the ability to make more complex styles (interestingly Pages has a great style engine – you can import a rather complex style from a Word document and Pages handles the style perfectly, even styles you could never create from within Pages) and (iv) line numbering. Others would probably have their own list of missing/desirable features.

    I have looked for a viable office alternative to Word and right now Pages comes the closest to satisfying our office needs. It seems to do a much better job of importing complex Word doc files than do the other wordprocessors I have looked at.

    Anyway, with a bit more polishing, Pages could be a wonderful office wordprocessing application. I am going to be very interested to look at its next iteration.

  15. As someone else noted earlier, when iWork was originally announced, Jobs specifically labelled it as “building a replacement for AppleWorks”.

    To be a true replacement for AppleWorks, it would have to include:

    1. Word-compatible word processor (Pages)
    2. PowerPoint-compatible presentations (Keynote)
    3. Excel-compatible spreadsheet (rumored “Numbers”)
    4. Access (or FileMaker?) compatible spreadsheet
    5. Drawing utility
    6. Painting utility
    7. BE BUNDLED WITH EVERY CONSUMER MAC, like AW was for over a decade.

    We have #1 and 2; #3 is rumored to be on the way. #4 would likely be based on FileMaker, not Access (which is fine with me…Access sucks); #5&6 aren’t really vital.

    #7 is the key, and given the underwhelming sales of iWork so far (as far as we know), this sounds like a likely thing soon..

  16. Dr. Mongo

    I have been a MS Office for Mac user for years – updated every time it came out. This year I switched totally to iWork and I love it. LOVE it.

    Yes, Pages needs some work – but it works well for what I do. And when I need to get creative to make posters, flyers, tri-folds – it really helps out a bit. My college-aged daughter is using it instead of buying MS Office – and she hasn’t had any problems.

    Keynote is great – and I use powerpoint a lot for my worship slides. Beautiful and easy to use.

  17. Lou Johnson

    We have adopted iwork on every Mac our school district buys.. and we are a very large district. It is better than office for doing documents quickly that look great. Keynote is the best thing to come along in years. It is awesome.
    We are hoping that they add a spreadsheet. That would be the best.

  18. I don’t think iWork has made a big impact… yet. This is obviously a suite of tools that is still in development and growing. Apple may be waiting to shine the light on iWork until they’re finished building the suite. There’s no sense in starting the comparison when you’re not finished adding components.

    Personally, I love Pages. Once you spend some time really going through all of it’s features and adapting a workflow around that, you find that it’s a surprisingly powerful program. Sometimes Apple has a tendency to make a program simple to use but in the process they hide much of the available power.

    Pages launches much faster on my MacBook Pro than MS Word and any formatting that is lost is quickly cleaned up when I open Word docs with Pages. I use Pages every day and, for me, its a joy to use.

    Keynote is another wonderful program that makes building presentations a breeze but its going to be hard to get widespread acceptance without a cross platform viewer. If I create presentations and go to a MS Windows based conference I’m not able to present the way I want to, IF the presentation was created in Keynote. Apple would be well served to release a cross-platform viewer for Keynote… something like QuickTime Player.