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Jewish World Review
January 16, 2009
/ 20 Teves 5769
Apple's Pages '09 Interesting, Cheap
It's a personal quirk, but I've long had a "thing" about word processors:
they've fascinated me, new ones are intriguing, and old ones sometimes evoke fond
memories. (Where have you gone, oh XyWrite?)
Apple, Inc.'s iWork '09, announced January 7 and coming about 18 months after
the 2007 launch of the '08 version, keeps the single-user price at $79, but adds a
ton of new features. Thanks to my idiosyncrasy, I attacked Pages '09 first: doing
things with words and documents still fascinates me most. The program runs on
Macintosh computers, and I can't recall seeing anything that comes close to its
ease of use on the Windows side of the aisle. Herewith some initial impressions;
more on the whole iWork suite, including '09 versions of Apple's Numbers
spreadsheet and Keynote presentation program, will be forthcoming.
Pages might best be described as more than a basic-basic word processor, but less
than a full-fledged publishing program. It's in the middle, where many users might
find themselves. This might not be the program to use when setting up a complex
mail-merge document, one where the names and addresses change but the basic text
remains the same. But it could work quite nicely for an at-home or small business
user who wants distinctive looking documents that are easy to create. That's
"easy" as in one or two mouse-clicks easy.
When starting Pages, you have the option of viewing a bunch of pre-designed
templates, including enough letterhead designs to satisfy most needs. Select the
layout you like, and with a click you've got the letter (and some "dummy"
text) onscreen, ready to be customized and used. The program draws your name,
company name, address, phone and e-mail from your personal "card" in Apple's
Address Book application, but you can edit these items if desired.
There are also templates for newsletters, business cards, envelopes of various
sizes, and even such esoterica as lab reports, evaluations and a surf school
brochure. The range isn't limitless, but it is impressive. Many of the letterhead
template designs are part of "families," where the letterhead, envelope, resume,
business card and invoice templates are all alike. That can be particularly useful
for a new entrepreneur.
These templates are particularly useful for folks -- such as one gentleman of my
acquaintance -- who don't want to concern themselves with a plethora of steps in
creating a letterhead each time they want to, well, write a letter. The ease of use
of Pages' templates is also an impressive thing: I could drag and drop a photo
into one spot, then resize the "mask" to highlight the area of the photo I
wanted to use. Changing or editing other items was also easy.
Pages seems to be designed for those with something of an artistic bent: the default
toolbar includes tools for drawing text boxes, adding shapes and charts, as well as
a "media" browser to let you pick photos, audio and video clips, the latter two
not usually a staple of today's print documents.
I've found one minor annoyance: to export a text file, a user must click on a
"Share" menu as opposed to finding this option under the "File" menu, as is
traditional with just about every other Mac word processor I've seen. Not a
deal-breaker, but it took some adjustment. On the plus side, the "plain text"
export seems flawless.
Overall, and with a relatively brief exposure, Pages is something to consider,
especially since Apple is offering a 30-day free trial. I'll have more later, but
for now, Pages seems more than adequate for many users, especially those who don't
want to learn more complex programs such as Microsoft Word 2008 for Mac.
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2008, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com