Apple iWork 05

Synopsis:

This product review takes a look at Apple's iWork 05 package, which is made up of the Pages word processor and Keynote presentation tool

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Apple's iWork 05 is a new package, made up of a new version of the Keynote presentation tool and a brand new word processor called Pages; where the first version of Keynote costs 79, iWorks gives you more, for 30 less, which is a good start. The package comes on a DVD and installs in the usual MacOS way. Both products come with an extensive selection of Themes, which are templates that you can modify for your own use.

Keynote was already a capable presentation tool, and the new version adds more themes, and some very impressive animation features, which can make transitions or invidual slides much more eye catching. The other major addition is a presentation view, which allows you to show the slides on one display while you view your own notes, along with a timer and a preview of the next on another. It's surprisingly easy to create good looking effects - the iWork tour is a Keynote presentation, and you can view and edit it to see how things are done, which is a nice touch. There's now also the option to export to a self-running presentation, and even to Flash, as well as PDF or QuickTime.

A new feature included in both Keynote and Pages is the media browser, which integrates with Apple's iLife products, so that you can quickly view your photos, movies or music, and just drag them from the browser into your document. In Pages, you can drag just about anything in - even a whole PDF, so you can use the front page as a picture, though you'll end up with pretty big files as a result.

For most people, a word processor is where they'll spend a lot of the time, so how Pages manages is pretty important, and it's something of a mixed bag. Like Keynote, there's a wide range of themes, designed to help you create newsletters, reports, brochures and other types of document. They're all designed for you by Apple, and you can just replace pictures and text with your own material for a very slick look; most have several types of page, so you can add a three column page following a front page, for example. But here we found our first glitch - although there's a DTP-like add page command, there's not one to delete them. You need to select the items on a page and delete them.

In fact, in many ways, Pages is more of a page layout application than a word processor. There are tools to rotate images, and control the text flow round objects, add charts via a data editor, and of course all those themes to help you make documents. It's surprisingly easy to make something really good looking.

But if it's hard core word processing you need, Pages may not be the tool for you - there's no revision tracking, for example, which you need if you're revising work a lot. And the built in word count only applies to the whole document (though you can download a free service applet to count the words in a selection).

On the positive side, Pages can read and write Word, Apple Works and RTF documents, and you can create PDFs too, so you can carry on using your existing files. And it's very easy to create multicolumn layouts, tables, and even manage footnotes or tables of contents. We do think, though, that you'll need a reasonably fast machine if you're planning on creating graphics-heavy documents.

iWork 05 isn't really a complete office suite - but with a very capable presentation tool and a pretty good word processor for under 50, it's definitely worth a look. Keynote will suit just about everyone's needs, and the new presenter view should be a great help to users. Pages, in its half way house between word processor and DTP, is a bit of a strange beast. You can produce great looking documents very easily from the templates, so it'll suit people who need to knock up brochures, flyers and newsletters, and most casual word processor users. Even things like footnotes and tables of contents are very simple to manage. But if the word processing you do requires features like revision tracking, or mail-merging or macros, then you'll need to consider an alternative.

End of article.

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