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Apple’s Pages for iOS still needs some work

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Apple’s Pages(s AAPL) app is my current go-to app for writing. This is mainly because of the ease of using Documents in the Cloud to transfer files between my mobile devices and desktop. My day job and freelance writing business are segregated (day job is on an encrypted laptop). Therefore, for my non-day job needs, I don’t need the full might and power of Microsoft Word(s MSFT). That said, Pages for iOS ($9.99) has lagged so far behind even the OS X version of Pages, I’m thankful that for the most part, I’m just using it to write articles and short stories. While Apple has recently made some changes to its iWork suite of apps for iOS, some of the improvements are only half-way implemented.

Change Tracking

The chief problem for me was that Pages did not show any sort of change tracking, making the app useless if your workflow relies on this feature. The good news is version 1.7 adds change tracking. The bad news: it’s so poorly implemented that it’s still almost useless.

While you now have the ability to review and accept changes on your iOS device, you still cannot use comments. For me, that is the most important part of the review process. Usually, that’s where a reviewer or editor asks questions and there’s a sidebar discussion in-line about the change. So, while I can accept the change someone made, I can’t see the commentary. I pretty much tend to usually “accept all changes” anyway. (I’m not in the legal profession, so your usage may vary).

The current state of change tracking, where comments aren’t handled, isn’t even something I can give Apple partial credit on.


Editing on the iPhone 5

Before the iPhone 5, editing in Pages on an iPhone was a complete mess. The screen was too small to display a lot of text and the keyboard covered up too much of the page. With the iPhone 5, well, it’s better, but sadly not by much. The chief advantage now is that I can fudge the margins a little bit and have my rows of text span the width of the screen in landscape so I’m not scrolling from side to side to see the text. While I can adjust the zoom level when reading with double-taps, once I edit the text, it zooms in.

Life would be so much easier if I could edit text in the zoomed-out view. So, for the most part I use Pages to refer to documents — meeting agendas, notes, etc. Performing more detailed tasks on a screen smaller than my iPad is something I might need to look at an iPad mini for.


iOS version still lags behind OS X

Styles still remain partially implemented. While you can choose from a list of styles, you can’t create your own. You also cannot update a style if you want the font to be different, though you can change the font manually.

Tables of contents also remain elusive, which can be a problem if you’ve made significant edits to a document and need to update the TOC.

Final thoughts

Pages for iOS still lags far behind the OS X version of the app.  Since we’re clearly past the myth of iPads existing only as consumption devices, and more professionals are eschewing laptops for iPads, I think Apple needs to seriously step up its game with its iOS iWork offerings. While I can accept that OS X Pages does not have feature parity with Microsoft Word, the lack of parity between iOS and OS X iWork apps is beginning to become tough to handle.

11 Responses to “Apple’s Pages for iOS still needs some work”

  1. sawdogbuster

    iWorks has not had a substantial upgrade or revision since at least 2009. Both OSX and iOS versions are going to be obsolete if Apple doesn’t do something post-haste.

  2. I regularly use Pages to prepare reports, and the ease of including images within document, in my opinion, is as good as MS Word. Admittedly it’s a little clunkier than using a real key-board with a mouse, but it is a mobile device after all.

  3. Imperfect import / export of Word docs – because, lets face it, .doc / .docx is still the de facto business-friendly file format, and the .pages format is about as relevant as saving to ClarisWorks – while its need to convert font / formatting to work in IOS Pages is beyond irritating. Meanwhile, while the ability to access / save to iCloud is fine, the auto-sync between the iOS and desktop Pages proves less ‘auto’ than it should be.

    Folks are using Google Drive and I’m using Word for Mac or CloudOn combined with Dropbox and its not hard to see why.

  4. Nicholas Paredes

    As others note, we need to find the distinctions between desktop and mobile work. It should not be fully featured, or you risk creating apps that are so overburdened as to eliminate their usefulness.

    I ran our Kickstarter video by some designers a week or so ago, and everybody wanted our graphic design app to be like InDesign. That is insane. We are trying to create simple tools for creatives.

    I actually do think that Pages does lots of things right, outside of skeuomorphism that is. It obviously needs a little work, but it has a distinct Apple perspective. There are plenty of writing apps! Pick one. And Office is coming, so you can recall what you wrote about the need for more.

    By the way, here is what I am thinking for graphic design apps. We launch on Kickstarter next week.

  5. For anyone who has much to say / write, doing so on a phone is ridiculous. On the iPad, it’s a little easier except that when I want to correct something I’ve already written, it’s a pain. There are no ways to navigate other than by touching where I want to edit, and that’s only close. Maybe Pages has added some cursor movement controls, but I won’t be using it since I have no need to create documents.

  6. Tony Crooks

    Why, oh why, aren’t you using Google Drive or similar?

    The reason I like iOS Pages is its lack of feature bloat. I’ve managed to create and edit a 64 page booklet using it and no one has complained about formatting, etc., as yet. I suggest that for a great majority of document writers that Pages is perfectly suitable. For those others why use a dining knife when you need a saw?

  7. Harbmaster

    Landscape word processing, why can’t pages for ios allow me to make a portrait and landscape document instead of portrait only, I know of workaround but that’s ridiculous

  8. Jim Madar

    Agreed, iWorks is a pale shadow of anything useful. Same is true of iPhoto or Photos. No sort criteria except the default …. This shuffles the photos or events so it’s impossible to find anything. Can’t select creation date, name, or even camera to sort by …. Whose genius idea was it to use last modified date as the sort key? Nor can you merge contents of 2 events, rename events or in fact do anything vaguely useful to manage your photographic content on the iPad. So near? Nay, so damn far …. massive fail. Self shoot foot!