When iWork was first announced, I will admit that I had a sinking feeling there was a strong danger that the suite wouldn’t see a second release. I wasn’t particularly optimistic about Apple’s chances of producing a word processor and a presentation app that would survive, especially when Apple skipped releasing an update in ’07. Today, I’m quite happy to see that iWork has not only survived, but is thriving in a third release, iWork ’09.
Apple broke out the polish for Keynote this year, adding several new features that pretty up your presentations and make advanced animation techniques even more accessible. There are several new themes, graph types, and textures for charts, including some chrome, wood and stone textures that just look beautiful.
Magic Move tracks objects from slide to slide so that Keynote can build transitions from one slide to another and animate the movement of the object across the page. This feature shows up when creating transitions that involve images for some very polished object transitions, but also works on text where it treats letters as individual objects that can be animated across the screen. One of the impressive demonstrations involved a pile of scattered playing cards that then flew around into neatly fanned stacks of cards in the next slide. Text effects included an “anagram” transition that reused the letters by rearranging them into a new word, flying unused letters off the screen and flying in new letters to complete the word.
Also new is a Keynote Remote iPhone app that gives you control over your presentations from the iPhone. The app is smart enough to present you with the slide and speaker’s notes when in vertical orientation and it switches to the current slide and the next slide when horizontal.
Pages adds a new full-screen view, outlining, mail-merge with Numbers, new templates, and integration with MathType and EndNote. I’m not a huge fan of full-screen — I see it as more of a gimmick than a real feature. If you want to write uninterrupted, quit IM, close Twitter, and turn off notifications of new email.
Outlining is a welcome addition and quite useful for longer documents. Dynamic outlining means that rearranging sections in outline view moves that the changes are reflected in the document view in realtime.
The best part of the new Numbers integration isn’t just being able to mailmerge from a list outside of Address Book, but rather the dynamic linking of charts and graphs between the two. Changes in a graph that was copied from Numbers will update the graph in Pages.
The MathType and EndNote integration reaches a smaller audience, but support for these two programs will be enthusiastically received by the academic and scientific communities. I actually like Sente for academic citation management, but EndNote is the most recognized brand in that space.
Numbers has two big additions — functions and categories. Schiller mentioned that Apple’s goal for this release was to add more features that power-users were clamoring for. The number of functions has been increased to 250 and have been made easier to use with a new function view that lists the available choices with a plain language description of what each does and the variables accepted. Formula list view will show you all of the formulas in your spreadsheet. I imagine that this will be tremendously useful for tracking down an error through a long chain of formulas.
Categories are a simple way of creating a summary from a list that is organized by a particular field. In the example provided in the keynote presentation, Phil Schiller showed a baseball roster grouped by position with a count of players for each position. Creating this summary is as simple as selecting “Categorize by This Column” in the pull down menu in the column header.
iWork.com is a new public beta from Apple that allows you to share your iWork documents online. iWork.com does not go as far as Google Apps in allowing online editing and creation of documents. It is just a way to share documents and allow others to annotate directly on the page, or to comment on the document as a whole. While all the comments and annotations are tracked online, iWork adds a menu item under Share that allows you to go straight to the page for that document to find new posts from your friends or colleagues. It can also act as on online repository of your working documents that you can reference from anywhere.
The overall functionality is a little limited, but it provides a really simple way to share Pages documents that PC users cannot open directly. Along with the web version for viewing, iWork will also upload PDF, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint versions to allow others to download a document that they can edit on their desktop. There’s no easy way to incorporate someone else’s edits or comments back into the document directly, but I’m hopeful for the future. I was really hoping for an online editing app that would be more like the MobileMe apps for email and Address Book. The first step is a small one, but a step that might entice some PC users to check out the native apps that created the nice-looking previews they can see online, but look a little funky when downloaded and opened in Office 2007.
Should I Buy It?
This upgrade isn’t the no-brainer that iLife ’09 is for most people. If you need any of the features in Numbers or Pages, then I would say go for it. If you’re a Keynote maven, or in the financial, academic or scientific communities then I would think the new features would be really compelling to you and worth the cost of the new version. For anyone outside that community, iWork.com isn’t that exciting (yet) and the new features just expand on what you already have.