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Addition by subtraction? Hands on with Apple’s new iWork productivity software

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Frequently, Apple does things that make me wish there was a Paul Harvey, “and that’s the rest of the story” piece about it. The changes Apple made to its iWork suite this week fall into that category. Apple has a long history of curious software updates (iMovie 08 and Final Cut Pro X, raise your hands). Now, the 2013 version of iWork can take a seat on this panel.

When Eddy Cue began his demo, he mentioned new versions would take advantage of iOS 7, and the OS X apps were rewritten from the ground up. I thought this meant that the iOS 7 versions would get a feature boost.

I was wrong.

Instead of boosting the iOS 7 versions (and, to be fair, there are some improvements), the OS X versions got iMovied.

I find myself battling two reactions: anger, and acceptance of the fate. I’m angry because I (foolishly) expected that Apple would beef up the iOS versions, but I’m accepting because Apple has this history of re-baselining products and adding features back. Its clear, though, that Apple’s plan (assuming, that, unlike the Cylons, there really is a plan), was to change the feature sets of each platform to to get some level of parity.

Except, features are still missing in iOS 7. But more on that in each section.

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 6.59.38 PM


Of the three apps, Pages is the app I use most often. My writing needs straddle two environments: corporate and freelance. My corporate needs are pretty much tied into Microsoft Word. It has features, and I need to collaborate with other Word users, so it’s just easier staying in Word. However, for my freelance/personal writing I migrated to Pages a while back. I did this because using Pages and iCloud was the easiest way to pick up where I left off as I moved between iOS and OS X. Now, there’s a lot about the new Pages I don’t like, but, truth be told, the new version doesn’t get in my way. For the most part, I just need something to type in and maybe format.

However, if you were a more advanced user of Pages, well, I hope you read this post about the missing features on the Apple Community before you upgraded. If you didn’t, well, thankfully the old versions are still in the iWork folder in your Applications directory. However, the files in Pages 5 are not backwards-compatible.

A Cliff’s notes version of what’s missing from the OS X version:

  • Selection of non-contiguous text
  • Outline view
  • Superscripting/Subscripting text
  • Duplicate pages

On the iOS side, what I’ve noticed you can’t do is stranger:

  • No citation support (I’m going to give Apple half a pass on this, since citation management requires inter-app sharing that’s just not present on iOS
  • Can’t create Tables of Contents
  • Can’t edit Styles.
  • Can’t set first-line indents
  • Plus the OS X stuff mentioned above

If you use Tables of Contents and need to create them and Styles on iOS, using Pages as a beginning-to-end tool will be near impossible. In that case, Pages works best as a companion to OS X Pages.

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I’ve always felt that Numbers was an app Apple created because they had to; not because they wanted to. I’m not at all a Microsoft Excel power user (once in an interview where I was asked my favorite Excel function, I answered “Fill Down”), but even for my meager needs, Excel is a better choice. Numbers, to me, is when you might want a spreadsheet to look good. But it isn’t great at actual data manipulation.

In keeping with the spirit of Page’s complaint thread, there’s one for Numbers as well.

I’m not really sure what to make of the new Numbers. Most of what I’ve used Numbers for is to create a set list for my band with links to the sheet music. A lot of the features now missing in Numbers aren’t features I used in the app. However, if you were more of a Numbers power user, I expect you’ll be wanting to use the old versions.

On iOS, I’ve always used Numbers more as a viewer than an editor; I’ve felt more comfortable editing spreadsheets on my Mac. However, one nice feature that’s now in iOS Numbers is you can password protect a spreadsheet.

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 7.00.01 PM


It’s probably a bad sign that when I tried to open up my test presentation in the new version of Keynote it crashed. Twice. But the third time was the charm, and I haven’t any problems since then.

Like Numbers and Pages, there is a lengthly list of features now missing in Keynote. The biggest one seems to be that Slide Masters can no longer have builds and animations in them. This limits how much you can use a Slide Master as a template for a presentation. I’m surprised that Keynote was as altered as it was. Of the three iWork apps, Keynote is the one I expect Apple actually uses often; I’m just not picturing Peter Oppenheimer crunching Apple’s finances in Numbers.

It appears most of the transitions available on the OS X app are also in the iOS app. That said, you may find that some transitions from the previous version are no longer available.

If you do upgrade, it would be very prudent to make sure all your transitions and builds still work properly before you’re in front of a live audience. For the record, my three-year old test presentation with lots of transitions still worked fine in the new version on both iOS and OS X.

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 9.18.17 AM

Final Thoughts

Thankfully, the old versions of the apps are still your Applications folder. Unfortunately, if you use iCloud and iOS, or if you’ve upgraded your iOS versions of iWork, once you open the document in them it’ll convert the document to the new version anyway.

I’m really disappointed in this version of iWork. It feels like these apps are more like iPhoto, where you can perform basic tasks. Unfortunately, there’s no Aperture-level pro application for the iWork suite. Given how long it took Apple to roll this new version out, I’m not optimistic that the apps will become more powerful quickly.

Maybe in iWork ’18?

29 Responses to “Addition by subtraction? Hands on with Apple’s new iWork productivity software”

  1. Honestly it’s not the technical stuff that is an issue for me – it is being put in a position of having to spend my precious time re-learning something that was just fine … I don’t know whether I am being treated like the idiot child with a version that is so dumbed down that I cant figure it out (cause its just too much of a word doc program like text edit now) or I get to be the idiot child cause its just so clever and “intuitive” I just cant figure it out.

    Its like upgrading my iphone only to get 1970’s neon flash without any option of turning back. Already lived thorugh the 70’s thank you very much! I am gad I still have my iWorks 09. Won’t be upgrading anything else too soon.

  2. Michael Aldin

    It’s “FEWER” features, not less features. For the love of basic language skills, it’s not that hard to learn the difference! I know most people hate those of us who care about grammar, but that aside, when I start reading what I expect is an intelligent review for productivity software, and the first thing I see in the “Summary” is a high school level grammar error all credibility goes out the window.

  3. RottenApples

    I am a ‘power user’ for iWork. The new upgrade to iWork is horrendous…specifically Keynote. I have made some extremely complex presentations using Keynote (09) that involved advanced animations. Keynote 09 wasn’t perfect, but it was very intuitive for a regular user and a power user. It blew Microsoft Office out of the water and overall it was a pleasure to use. The dumbing down of the interface and loss of control to do things really is disappointing.

    I read in another review that someone suggested making two versions, one for the average user and a ‘pro’ version for the power user. The response from others was that it was a stupid idea, however maybe it would help to create a layout switcher or something along those lines to keep the control and complexity for the power user. The new iWork/Keynote upgrade is so bad I refuse to use it and just hope that Apple pulls their heads out of their asses…the new upgrade is very, very disappointing and probably a sign among signs of things to come that Apple’s reputation is on the decline…post Steve.

  4. Split cells functionality is gone in Keynote – what a debacle! It’s the most poorly thought through “upgrade” I have ever witnessed. Back to PowerPoint for me!

  5. “Numbers, to me, is when you might want a spreadsheet to look good. But it isn’t great at actual data manipulation.” Fantastic. Can you imagine an auto mechanic saying, “This wrench isn’t much use for turning nuts and bolts. But, boy, it sure dresses up the toolbox, doesn’t it?”

  6. Back in 1985, my office bought the first LaserWriter sold in the Austin metropolitan area ($7000 for monochrome, 300-dpi, and 8-ppm) because we wanted to produce work that looked the best, not just “good enough.” During the Dark Days of Apple when The Steve was in exile, we stuck with Macs because we weren’t willing to settle on “good enough.” We were early adopters of Pages because we could do virtually anything that had been possible in PageMaker with a much clearer user interface. We loved Apple’s commitment to being the best, not just “good enough.” Creative Suite was too expensive, too complicated, and too reliant on the user being a design professional. For the last 28 years, we have been editing documents that rely on precise vertical alignments, text flow from box to box and page to page, the ability to reorder pages, the ability to search for invisible characters, and a variety of other features that are simply gone from Pages 5. These are basic features used by almost every club newsletter editor, not just “power users.” Few (if any) of the hundreds or thousands of documents we have created in Pages 4 can be opened in Pages 5 without hopelessly scrambling the formatting, and there is no way to reproduce them in the new program.

  7. visualrealia

    The loss of mail merge features in Pages kills the use of the new versions for me. Back to the old versions for now, and sadly, a probable move to different software.

  8. SIP Grinder

    I have four presentations that I have given regularly over the years. I add to them and update them but not having transitions on the master slides makes this program unusable. There are alternatives to Pages and Number that you can buy but not Keynote. This is a disaster.

  9. Good article; thanks for sounding the alarm. One missing Pages feature that no one seems to mention is the lack of fields for merging data from Contacts. I’m an attorney who relies heavily on dragging and dropping a contact card into forms and letters etc to avoid having to type a recipient’s name, address, date of birth, etc etc every single time. It’s a HUGE timesaver. Without data merge, try writing a letter to someone … Try composing a letter on your iPhone or IPad. Takes about 20 times longer than it did on a Mac running Pages ’09 with merge capability.

    Apple, you’re going the wrong way. Please bring back mail merge!

  10. There is at least one new feature—Pages now supports right-to-left text entry and editing. This is something that even Word on the Mac can’t do at the moment.

  11. Scott Sterling

    I spent some time Saturday creating a Keynote in the new app on an iMac. Being a heavy Keynote user who strives for simple presentations, I wanted to see how it works.

    It works beautifully. Then I saved the file in iCloud and opened the presentation on iPad. Perfect. This is a winning strategy. Just give it a shot.

  12. Apple is looking forward to capture the ‘kids’ market, i feel. Even though I am an apple fan, I am forced to go to MS Office. Sigh!

    The company has started messing up everything again, after Steve Jobs left it, for the second and last time.

  13. biallystock

    Not content with castrating the iWork suite, Apple has lopped of its head, chopped off its arms and legs and sprinkled it with touchscreen ornaments*.

    Ah the new Apple: genius by committee.

    *My Maverick screen is full of fingerprints now, but nuuuutings haaapening!

  14. Gary Hull

    I have found a number of features now missing from Numbers which I use daily, that I find infuriating… especially the loss of the predictive text completion.

  15. What a disappointment. I run a small four person business and we moved to mac and its iWork apps five years ago. Found everything useful and a good replacement for Office. Now, we have a dumbed down version of these apps. We’ve kept the old apps and will hold out as long as we can. After that, I don’t know what. All our docs are in iWork formats so we can’t adopt MS Office. This really sucks.

    • So agree. We are in the same boat. All our quotes are done in numbers because they look so good. But now they have removed print preview and headers and footers we have to stay with 09. How does Microsoft manage to get this right with office 365.

    • Scott Sterling

      “All our docs are in iWork formats so we can’t adopt MS Office. This really sucks.”

      If you do switch to Office (I’m in your exact same shoes and would not switch to Office for anything) simply open the file in Pages, export it to Word and the use in Office.

    • Enteecee

      Same boat here.
      I convinced a previous company to move to Macs, partially on the grounds that they could save the cost difference by not having to buy MS Office because iWork and included software did everything they needed. Now I know it doesn’t, and I hope they’re alright.

  16. Wolfie B

    Don’t know about the rest of it, but superscripting and subscripting of text is definitely included in the OS X version of Pages.

    With the text selected, in the “Style” format panel, click the gear icon that’s next to the Bold / Italic / Underline icons. In the pop-up menu, “Superscript” and “Subscript” are both under “Baseline”.

    Hope this helps.

        • Alivation

          Well, while the superscript subscript is still there in OSX, taking away the ability to place shortcuts to them in the toolbar (in fact you can’t edit the toolbar at all now in Pages or Keynote as far as I can see – please tell me I’m wrong! ) is a real pain. I am not much of a keyboard shortcut user and having to dig down into a menu for a basic text style is hopeless. I am a chemistry teacher and superscript/subscript is my bread and butter! I was really hoping Apple would bring them to the iOS versions but instead they just make it harder on the OSX versions.

          If Apple wants science folks to use it’s productivity software it really needs to wake up to the needs of equation writers!