Earlier this month, O’Reilly Media published its latest title in the “Missing Manuals” series, Josh Clark’s “iWork ’09: The Missing Manual.” It throws a spotlight on Apple’s office suite, with how-to guides for the Pages word processor, the Numbers spreadsheet and the Keynote presentation app.
Even as a devoted Apple user, no matter how much I want to, I can’t quite make the psychological break from Microsoft Office. I’ve nothing against the software giant’s office suite — even the 2008 Mac edition I use is a great collection of software, although it is perhaps a little over-featured, lacking the intuitive web collaboration of Google Docs and not quite as elegantly Mac-native as I’d like.
Apple’s iWork ’09 fares no better on web collaboration than Microsoft’s offering, but it’s certainly more Mac-native and tantalizingly low-priced, though it’s not as full-featured and lacks tutorials for new users switching from Office.
As expected, the book steps through the application’s regular features but puts a surprising emphasis on design and aesthetics. The title’s broadly divided into three sections — focusing on Pages, Numbers and Keynote, respectively — with each section roughly breaking down into creating and editing, layout, themes and templates, and sharing. It’s a well put together tour of the suite, providing an overview of basics, with some hints and tips and coverage of more advanced functionality. There are few other books around that provide an objective (i.e., non-Apple) coverage of iWork, and in that regard, it’s a good overview.
However, even after an afternoon spent with iWork ’09 and Clark’s book, I’m still drawn to Microsoft Office. As elegant and as powerful as iWork is, the near ubiquity of Microsoft’s suite means that I feel my time is better spent understanding the ins and outs of a product where my investment in skilling up is more likely to yield more portable and transferable skills.
“iWork ’09: The Missing Manual” is a great title for acclimatizing yourself with Apple’s lovely working environment, but I can’t help but think iWork will remain a niche application suite in the face of Microsoft’s de facto standard.
Let us know what you think of the iWork office suite in the comments.