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iWork: The changes in Apple's productivity suite

This week brought a big update to iWork, the iOS, OS X and iCloud productivity suite made up of Pages, Keynote, and Numbers. You may have already grabbed the updates for iOS and OS X from the respective App Stores and not noticed too much of a visual change to the apps, but here's what has changed.

iCloud Versions

Let's take a quick look at the iCloud version of the apps. All of the apps now feature Retina display-ready graphics that really look impressive on a MacBook Pro with Retina display. While I must confess to not having used the previous versions of the beta iCloud apps very much, it does appear that Apple has attempted to make the app look very similar to the iOS apps.

Those documents can now be shared with others in a view-only mode, making it easy to let someone see the latest revision of a document without giving them full access to make changes. For new documents, the apps have additional templates that have been added to the mix. If anyone sends you a Pages, Keynote or Numbers document via iCloud Mail, you can now open that document directly in the iCloud version of the app -- the email features an "Open in Pages/Keynote/Numbers" link making it easy to get right to work.

Pages

The Mac version of Pages now allows users to delete, duplicate, and reorder sections of their documents using the page navigator, and copying and pasting styles has been improved a bit. Apple says that they've improved Instant Alpha editing of images, although I saw no variation in the way that function works. The Media Browser is improved, although still not exactly speedy.

I did see vastly improved support for AppleScript in Pages 5.2. That's something that power users have been asking for since Pages 5.0, and the addition of an iWork Suite of commands appears to bring back most of the functionality that was available in previous versions of Pages. That suite is available for all of the iWork apps.

Apple says that they've improved text box behavior, although I was unable to ascertain exactly what was different from previous versions. There's improved support for EndNote, including citations in footnotes, and for those who are using Pages for ebook creation, ePub export is allegedly better.

The iOS version now lets you search documents by name -- previously, you could only browse documents in a list or thumbnail mode. Inline images and shapes in table cells are now preserved properly when you import a document or table, and placement of inserted and pasted objects now seems to work better. If you write in Hebrew, you'll be glad to know that there's now a word count feature for that language, and all in all the app seems somewhat more usable (especially on iPad) than previously.

Keynote

Apple's presentation app gained some new features on iOS, including one that I am already in love with -- you can now use your finger to draw on any of your slides by just tapping and holding. A "crayon box" of pencils shows up at the bottom, along with the familiar "laser pointer". It's now possible to hold your iPad in portrait mode while giving a presentation thanks to a new portrait layout option in the presenter display. A couple of new transitions and builds -- object revolve, drift and scale, and skid -- have been added, and animations just seem to be much smoother than before.

The Mac version adds some fun features in addition to those found in the iOS version -- there are improved presenter display layouts and labels, and Magic Move now includes text morphing. The app now exports to PPTX format, and there's support for animated GIFs being pasted or imported into presentations.

Numbers

This is the part of Apple's productivity suite that I probably use the least, both on iOS and Mac. Some of the big changes to the iOS version include the ability to search spreadsheets by name and faster imports of CSV (comma-separated text) files, as well as improved compatibility with Microsoft Excel documents.

The Mac version adds the ability to set margins and create headers and footers in print setup, and there are new printing options that include page numbering, page ordering, and zoom. If you want custom data formats, you can now create them in Numbers. Customization of table styles is also added. And remember those CSV improvements in the iOS version? Now you can drag and drop a CSV file right onto a sheet, or update an existing table by dragging in a CSV file.

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