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When it comes to word processing, Microsoft Word is one of the most popular names in that business. But that is not the only name there is. There are many other great products available, each with its own unique features.

One of the alternatives that we could use to create documents on a Mac is Apple’s Pages, part of iWork’s suite of productivity applications along with Numbers (spreadsheet) and Keynote (presentation). The suite is tagged at US$79 and available for 30-day free trial. While the price is far less Microsoft Office suite, paid is still paid. But I think Pages has great features that’s worth the look, even it’s only during the free trial.

The Power of Templates

At the most basic level, Pages is a word processor. So you can use it for your everyday word processing activities from creating a document, writing and editing the text, importing other elements like charts and pictures, to printing or saving the document as a PDF.

Pages can also open documents from many other formats including Microsoft Word documents. Your work from other computers under any other OS can be resumed on your Mac using Pages. The same thing goes for the other end, Pages can also save your work as Word documents. To reveal more saving options, click the little arrow beside the name field when you save your work.

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But the true power of this app lies in its beautifully pre-designed templates. Users can use these templates to quickly create professionally looking documents. As Apple puts it, “Even before you start writing, your document looks great.” This template-based method is also used by iWeb iWeb - Build A Quick, Easy & Beautiful Website [Mac only] iWeb - Build A Quick, Easy & Beautiful Website [Mac only] Read More , Apple’s webpage design application.

There are over 180 templates for you to choose from, divided into two categories: Word Processing (work-related kind of documents) and Page Layout (more to the ‘fun’ type of documents).

From the Word Processing category, there are Letters, Envelopes, Forms, Resumes, Reports, and Outlines; while from the Page Layout category, there are Newsletters, Brochures, Flyers, Posters, Cards & Invitations, Business Cards, and Certificates. Both categories also offer blank documents and miscellaneous templates.

You can add your own templates and they will appear in “My Templates”.

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Creating a good looking document using Templates

My first encounter with Pages was when my friend asked me to help him create a class newsletter. He was amazed at the stunning result that we produced in a short time.

And the process of creating that document required no rocket science. Here are the simple steps for creating good looking documents using Pages’ templates:

  1. Open Pages and create a new document.
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  3. Choose a template
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  5. Edit the text and replace the pictures
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  7. Add as many pages as you need
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  9. Don’t forget to save your document after you’ve done.

Each template listed in the Template Chooser comes with several types of documents and each document consists of several types of pages. Playing with the combinations will provide you with a large number of choices and could keep you busy – in a fun way – for quite a while.

But if you think that the pre-designed templates are not enough, you could add more templates – free or paid – from the internet. One of the recommended places to get free templates is iWorkCommunity.

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You could just open the downloaded templates, but if you want them to appear in Pages template list, you should put them inside this folder:

~/UserFolder/Library/Application Support/iWork/Pages/Templates/FolderName

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Creating your own templates

But why stop at using templates from others? If you think you have an artistic side that you could be proud of, or if you think that you will consistently use a series of layouts over and over in your project, you could create your own templates, either for personal use or to be shared with others.

You could start building your template from a scratch by opening a totally blank page or you could also do it by modifying another template.

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If you are starting from naught, you’d want to add elements to your documents like text boxes, and shapes. This can be done by going to the “Insert” menu or by clicking the icon in the toolbar.

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To fill in the text boxes, you could generate some “Lorem Ipsum”s from Lipsum Generator.

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To add pictures, open Media Browser from the View –> Show Media Browser or by clicking the toolbar icon.

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Then insert some pictures by dragging and dropping the items from media browser to document.

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Every element of the page can be edited by selecting it and open the Inspector (View –> Show Inspector or Command + Option + I or the Inspector toolbar icon).

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Add more pages according to your needs and repeat the steps.

Once the layout process is finished, you should enable every element of the page(s) as a placeholder. This way, you are able to customize those elements later when you use the pages you’ve created as template.

To do this, go to “Format –> Advanced –> Enable Placeholder Text Authoring” menu. Then select the text and choose “Format –> Advanced –> Define As Placeholder Text”.

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To do the same with images, click on the item but choose “Format –> Advanced –> Define As Image Placeholder” instead.

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The final step is to turn your document into template. Choose the thumbnail of a page and go to “Format –> Advanced –> Capture Pages” menu.

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And name the page.

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Repeat the process to other pages.

You could manage multiple pages in a template from “Format –> Advanced –> Manage Pages” menu.

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Then use the arrows to rearrange the order and the minus (-) button to delete the pages that you don’t need.

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If you want to share your creations, they are available in the same location as your other imported templates: ~/UserFolder/Library/Application Support/iWork/Pages/Templates/

So far I haven’t found any free Mac alternatives for template-based word processors similar to Pages. But if you know any, share using the comment below.

  1. Ishan@ILoveFreeSoftware
    October 22, 2009 at 11:50 am

    This indeed looks pretty cool (like all other Apple software). But the price will keep me away from this. I did not even purchase Microsoft Office - my Open Office is keeping me pretty happy.

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