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 iWork.com 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 iWork.com can be opened, saved and edited within Pages. Conversely, documents created in Pages can be exported and sent via Mail or uploaded to iWork.com 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

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