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In Depth Look: Pages on the iPad

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Apple’s famous word processing application Pages has seen its first update of 2010, delivered as a touch-enabled little brother for the new iPad. But how does this version stack up to its OS X counterpart? After testing the app for almost a week, here are my thoughts.

Like other iPad applications, Pages is fast. Loading almost instantly, the first thing you’ll see is a Welcome document, ironically created in Pages itself. The My Documents is area where you’ll see all of your synced documents, accessible by flicking left or right. It seems like managing a large number of documents in this area could be cumbersome, so it will be interesting to see how Apple addresses this UI concern with future versions. There’s also options here for exporting documents to or email, deleting documents and importing new documents.

Creating a new document is simple as well, though you are limited to 15 templates besides a blank document. I’m honestly surprised Apple hasn’t brought over the full arsenal of templates.

Navigating around Pages is quite simple. In portrait mode, you’ll have a menu bar across the top with quick access to My Documents, an Undo button as well as an Inspector, Media, Settings and a Full Screen option.

Cool Pages Tip: Tap and hold the Undo button to initiate a Redo.

Tapping the lighter colored bar beneath the toolbar will present you with a traditional ruler, justification options and options to make your type bold, italicized or underlined. Landscape mode is primarily used for creating content in your document, so the toolbar remains hidden.

The Inspector

The Inspector provides an additional method for adjusting alignment, support for columns (limited to 4) and line spacing (limited to quarter line increments). In this view there are also options for formatting lists and applying (but not redefining) the default styles for titles, headings and subheadings. This particular view also changes, depending on what content you are editing. For example, if you’ve tapped a table and then open the Inspector, you’ll see related options here.

Media Browser

The Media Browser functions similar to the desktop version, showing photos and videos that have been synced to the iPad via iTunes. Unfortunately, none of my TV shows or movies were accessible through here, even the ones that aren’t restricted with iTunes DRM.

Options for tables, charts and shapes are included as well, allowing a user to select from a wide variety of default looks, then allowing them to use the Inspector to further fine tune them. Manipulating objects is very user friendly by just tapping and interacting as you would be naturally inclined to do. Tap two fingers on an object, pause and rotate your fingers to rotate an object. It’s simple.

Fine Tuning

Document Setup mode allows you to format your document with custom dimensions simply by tapping a margin and dragging it. You can also set watermark images as well as format the header or footer of your document. Unfortunately, documents are limited to a size of either US Letter (8.5 x 11) or A4 (8.27 x 11.69). There were no apparent options for adjusting the orientation to landscape.

Selecting text works the same as it does on Pages for the desktop, except you’re using finger taps instead of mouse clicks. Double tapping a word will select it while triple tapping will select the entire paragraph. In the pop-up menu, you have your usual options for copying the content as well as the option to copy the style if you wish to copy and paste formatting styles between areas. There is also an option to define the word you’ve selected.

Other options include a traditional spell checker which functions just like the desktop counterpart by underlining the misspelled word, allowing a user to tap and see a suggested replacement.

Syncing Files with Pages

Contrary to original rumors that suggested the iPad would mount a folder and allow for easy syncing of documents, you have to sync specific documents to the iPad through iTunes. Undoubtedly Apple realizes that this process is quite cumbersome and hopefully future iterations of iTunes or iPad software will make this process easier.

Pages documents that you receive through Mail on the iPad or browsed via can be opened, saved and edited within Pages. Conversely, documents created in Pages can be exported and sent via Mail or uploaded to in addition to being synced back through iTunes.

The Downside

Pages on the iPad is a great application, but it’s not without its share of missing features and limitations. Unfortunately, Pages is limited to a rather small collection of typefaces. While there’s still enough to create content that is unique, the lack of support for adding your own typefaces means Pages won’t let you easily move any document from your Mac and see the exact same thing on your iPad. In fact, you’ll get document warnings if you try and open a file that includes a typeface that your iPad is missing. This is an issue that Apple needs to address before people really begin to consider the iPad as “the laptop replacement.”

Additionally, more advanced features of Pages are missing. Here’s a quick list of some of the features that aren’t present.

  • Inserting Table of Contents & Footnotes
  • Inserting Section or Layout Breaks
  • Inserting Merge Fields
  • Tracking Changes
  • Saving as Templates
  • Adjusting Styles
  • Adjusting Type (Tracking, Ligatures, Baseline, Capitalization)
  • Printing
  • Document Statistics (Word Count, Number of Pages, Page Location)

Pages is a very functional app but for those who really wanted it to replace the desktop version, you’ll be desiring a more featured packed update from Apple. Originally I’d planned to use the mobile version to put the finishing touches on documents (if I’m on the go) but it looks like the best workflow is to create your documents on the iPad and apply finishing touches when you are back on a Mac.

One last little bit to note about this application, and everyone is mixed on this, but typing on the iPad keyboard, even in landscape mode is still awkward. Personally, I’m comfortable with the full size keyboard layout on my Mac and so I find myself aiming for certain keys that just aren’t there. I strongly recommend investing in the bluetooth keyboard if you’re planning to use Pages or any of the other iWork apps on the iPad.

Check out our gallery of Pages below. Have you used Pages for the iPad? What are your thoughts?

Related TechUniversity Screencasts: Pages 101 and Word to Pages

58 Responses to “In Depth Look: Pages on the iPad”

  1. Sofie Senecal

    I’m in high school and it seems that the pages app works well for my basic needs. I bought a wireless keyboard; it greatly simplifies the act of typing and editing on the iPad. The plus side of having a keyboard (other than being easier in general to type on) you can easily look at the document in portrait view. I often go sit on the couch and balance my iPad on my knee with my keyboard on my lap and type like that.
    To those who keep saying how that want so much more so that they can do their work on it, it wasn’t designed to do serious, long papers on. If you want to do work, buy a laptop, for goodness sake!

  2. I have the pages app, I also have the printer app but I can’t print from the pages app no option for it.With all of pages other limitations, you can’t even print fun simple things you create with it. All you can pretty much say is, oh that looks nice on screen and go off scratching your ass in the sunset.

  3. Gunawan

    I cannot send my document from Pages. Either with pdf or pages or even doc format. Anything wrong? And after convert it where are the document saved? Thx

  4. Bradley Rothenberg

    Im woefully disappointed at the ipad inability to be able to provide any form of meaningful word processing. Im unable to footnote , print, word count, styling the list is endless. I cant even open and convert a word document. This is the most unbelievable piece of shit Ive ever seen. Is this an absolute joke or wot ?


    Great article on Pages. Unfortunately like you said it does not work with Track Changes at the moment. For those who like me needs the commenting and track change function in you word documents. You can go checkout this article which provide you a way to do so for free.

  6. paul peabody

    I have created something which for me is quite exciting with pages on my macbook pro,it is a book (the start of which) has accompanying pics,and video from a trip to India,,which was featured (my work there) in all the news papers in India,,,however,,,I have done everything but walk around on my head,,,and no go.It seems as I own pages on my mac that i should be able to share this document with its accompanying pics video,,,on the ipad,,this may be pushing the current capabilities,,but when this does happen WOWee,,at least i have it on my computer,I just really want to share this,,,please respond if you want to my email address,,,as i see you have done alot of work on this subject.As usual they dont think all of these things through,,,but perhaps soon this marvelous combo of things may be shareable on the amazing ipad.

  7. I really love the Pages app for my iPad, but I seriously miss the commenting feature in the desktop version. I do a lot of editing of my own and my husband’s novels and we use this extensively. I feel frustrated that I can’t easily add comments without changing colors, etc (to make them easy to find), as I bought the iPad mainly for editing in comfort. I do hope Apple adds the commenting feature soon.

  8. Paolo Ceriani

    There are 3 big bugs.
    1) is not possible to share files created with Pages for ipad in Pdf format, because the windows users can’t view correctly the Pdf created by Ipad ( problem of fonts)
    2) It’s a non-sense that I can’t organize my files in folders directly in Pages for Ipad
    3) I can write, but I can’t print!!!!!!

  9. Dexter

    I haven’t had a chance to use Pages for a full pages document yet but from what I have typed i’ve noticed that Pages is really good at knowing what you what to do and whay you are typing before you are finished.

  10. Ben Cox

    Thankfully, a recent update brought us toolbars in landscape mode. Yay!

    I think it’s really unfortunate that people get stuck in the “if it’s not 100% compatible with the other version we’ve been robbed” mindset. As anyone who used Pages 1.0 remembers, some very important features were rather slow to come. But now they are there and we have all these great things to hold against the iPad version!

    Anyone who makes this argument demonstrates a complete lack understanding of the software lifecycle. Look at it this way: if the choices are “have nothing for two more years” and “have a great little word processor for now, and a fully compatible one in two years”, wouldn’t you rather have the second choice? I know I would.

    For those who are pissed off because this device doesn’t yet completely replace your laptop, I think you need to adjust your expectations. This is v1 software on v1 hardware, with a company that’s notorious for shipping things long after everyone else but done right. They are miles ahead of anyone else in terms of overall capability and software selection, ease of use, performance, and design. So here again your choices seem to be “wait two years with nothing until it can completely replace my laptop” or “have something awesome that handles 60 – 80% of the stuff I need with a really sweet form factor and an even better one in two years”.

    Either way, getting pissed at Apple for not doing something impossible (both immediately and perfect) seems like a good way to have a frustrating life. Me, I’m incredibly grateful that I can do most of what I need when I’m not writing code on a super-portable, powerful, fun to use device. Sure, there’re features I would like to have, but nobody took my MacBook away when I got my iPad! Someday it may replace said MacBook, but I can’t bring myself to be particularly upset about what it doesn’t do when it’s so danged perfect for what it does do.

  11. The more I read this blog, the more I yearn for an actual journalist. It’s like watching a bad comedy act. You think the guy’s an idiot for making a fool of himself yet you feel sorry for him at the same time. Yeah, it’s like that. Sorrow and pity.

  12. Christopher

    “Apple’s famous word processing application Pages has seen its first update of 2010 …”

    If I would ask my wife what “Pages” is, she would probably not answer “That’s that famous word processing application for the MacBook I have been using for the last four years”. Seriously, nearly nobody knows there is a word processing application besides MS Word. Maybe some know OpenOffice, but Pages? Famous? You can’t be serious.

  13. I think the worst missing feature is that you have to sync iWork documents through iTunes. This adds a completely cumbersome and unnessecary element to my workflow and will become the #1 reason that the iPad can never become a production device. Maybe Apple never intended it to be, but lots of people would still really love to use the iPad to work ‘on the go’. But syncing EVERYTHING you do via iTunes? Please!

  14. the limitations are for people like us who work hard and knows how to customize a document. this is for everyday people that needs to make a document and send it thru email. This app is complete. for something else there’s always a Macbook.

  15. I am disappointed that they didn’t learn from the Microsoft Word for Windows CE fiasco, which was really really crippled — no footnotes in Word, no charts in excel (Numbers at least has charts.)

    However, there are all kinds of options. The most feature-rich is probably Documents to Go. Quickoffice will also work.

    You are right that perhaps the price was the factor here, and Apple needs to come out with a “Pages Plus” for $50 which has some of the missing features, or boost to have some of the functionality. (it is accessible from the ipad, and does allow you to comment.)

    As for syncing, it should be built into Pages itself. Who cares what application syncs it, as long as there is a “send to iPad” option in Pages.


  16. bigpics

    And what’s the deal with no apostrophe on the virtual keyboard’s layout. What Jonathan Ives trained ergonomic “expert” made that decision?

    Why should typing the word “don’t” require several extra keystrokes? I seldom write anything of any length that doesn’t have apostrophes. If it’s a real space issue, hey, I’ll trade the letter X for an apostrophe, given the relative frequency with which I use the latter over the former.

      • Todd Giencke

        While typing on the the iPad you don’t need to use an apostrophe. The iPad inserts it for you for the most part.

        The only omission I find troubling is the lack of the Pages menu bar while in landscape mode. I use the iPad to write on the go, and I’m not going to tote an external keyboard so I can write in portrait mode.

        Yes, I’m writing this on an iPad and haven’t had to change from the main keyboard.

  17. Robert

    Okay, I know I’m gonna get sh** for playing the grammar-nazi card, but just how is it “ironic” that the Welcome screen in Pages was created in Pages?

    Wouldn’t it be, oh, I don’t know, less wrong, to say that the Welcome screen in Pages was, “not surprisingly” created in Pages?

    Irony: noun; the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.

  18. I know that it’s not the biggest concern of most users, but I was really hoping that track changes would work on the iPad. I don’t see using the iPad for creating long documents, but it seems ideal for on-the-fly editing and commenting.

  19. “This is an issue that Apple needs to address before people really begin to consider the iPad as ‘the laptop replacement.'”

    This is a ridiculous rumor that keeps surfacing. Never once did Jobs or anyone else in the original Keynote intend for this to be a laptop replacement. Jobs said it himself – it is suppose to be suficent enough for the times when your laptop is too much and your iPhone is not enough. And why can you not just create a document, leave comments (can you comment on the document?? I haven’t gotten my 3G + Wi-Fi iPad) and make a note for when you get back to your laptop?

    Main reason for my comment is just to put the rumor to sleep – the iPad is NOT suppose to replace a laptop or be a netbook.

    • Chris Ryan

      Well it depends on how you define “replacing a laptop.” Will a laptop ever be a suitable replacement for a desktop computer? Not in every instance, no. But there are many instances where people are looking for an iPad to replace what their laptop does, and usually when someone is looking for this, they aren’t maximizing the capabilities of their laptop. So what’s the problem with wanting this to perform as it would on my laptop? If Apple is going to tout Pages on the iPad, then one would expect it to have the same functionality as Pages on the Mac.

      • “If Apple is going to tout Pages on the iPad, then one would expect it to have the same functionality as Pages on the Mac.”

        Not for $9.99, one wouldn’t.

  20. Raymond Brigleb

    Honestly, my biggest frustration with Pages on the iPad is that you can’t view it in the equivalent of “word processing” view – only page layout view. Which is ironic, since you can’t print from the iPad. So the whole concept of “pages” themselves is outmoded.

    In a “word processing” type view, I wouldn’t have to look at those big page breaks. It’s just weird.

    • Chris Ryan

      Yeah. The whole loupe feature to scan through different pages is a bit awkward too. With no real sense of how many pages you have, it’s hard to really get an idea of what page you’re on versus where you are in the document overall.

  21. Cold Water

    Syncing seems like it should be another app entirely. I mean, does anyone else realize how insane it is to house music, books, apps, videos, updates, photos, and documents in an application called iTunes?

    If iTunes could handle all of those things on your system, that would be great, but it doesn’t. It’s just a gatekeeper for the stuff that gets loaded onto your device. This really seems to merit a separate application.

    • Agreed.
      They should make an iPhone OS device manager app for Mac and PC, which plugs itself into iCal/WinCal, iTunes, Address Book, iPhoto, Safari (for bookmarks), and syncs it all to your iPhone OS gadget. This could be an updated version for iSync. It would also be good if it would support plugins for other devices, so those of us running Android or whatever can use it to sync their music to their phones, while keeping iTunes’ music sync feature to iDevices (including clickwheel iPods).
      iTunes should have a button for invoking this app and keep only the music related features, this includes iPod sync and maybe music sync for all iDevices.
      So, a recap of how I imagine the future should be:
      – iTunes manages music and video and syncs it only to all iDevices – iPods (touch and clickwheel), iPhones, iPads. Has a button for the App Store and a button for extended sync. These buttons fire up…
      – … the new iSync-esque app. This app synces everything you select (music, videos, photos, calendars, bookmarks, vCards…) to your iPhone OS device, and anything else somebody cares to write a plugin for.

  22. George

    A work around to get a landscape document orientation 11 x 8.5:

    I Just import a landscape document that I created in pages on my MacBook. I haven’t tested any other document sizes.

  23. Gazoobee

    Wow. I’m going to get an iPad out of simple curiosity, but my main intended use is using it as a writing tablet, which now seems quite out of the question. I must say I’m a little shocked at the depth and breadth of missing features. No way would you be able to use the iPad for any serious writing as it stands today.

    Every document I write has footnotes for instance. Every document I write requires that I keep track of the word count. Every document I write usually requires me to adjust some of the styles. This is just awful! It makes the iPad completely unusable as a writing device for me and I don’t exactly have any unusual requirements.

    Just to add in another “gotcha” that you haven’t mentioned … it appears that the iPad spell checker can only handle the American variant of English. For english speakers (and writers), there might just as well not be spell checking at all.

    The iPad seems more and more like it’s only setup for consumption and won’t gain realistically useful document creation abilities until sometime in 2011. So sad.

    • You don’t think you have odd requirements? You listed off several such as footnotes and word count that I would say many users do not need in their documents.

      Why is it that you find the need to bash the iPad at every opportunity? If you don’t want it and find it a waste of money then just stay away. Simple as that. And yes, I have read some of your other posts…

      • Actually, word counting and footnotes are extremely commonly used features, used in places from school, work, online communities where writing is shared, to the entire fucking print news business.

  24. “Loading almost instantly, the first thing you’ll see is a Welcome document, ironically created in Pages itself.”

    Why is this irony? It’s not the opposite of what’s expected. It would be ironic if the Welcome document were created in MS Word… or MS Paint.