Apple’s iWork suite is often overlooked in favor of Microsoft Office. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint form the industry standards; they’re the apps everyone expects to use. But that doesn’t mean Microsoft Office is necessarily better than iWork.
In fact, the Apple office suite offers some huge benefits over Office. It’s free, easy to use, and syncs over iCloud. Whether you’re an Office veteran or a complete newcomer, iWork is well worth your consideration.
Let’s take a look at why we need to look at a face-off between iWork vs. Office.
1. iWork Is Free
This might not matter if you get to use Office for free through your university or workplace, but to freelancers, hobbyists, and anyone else who uses these kinds of apps on a regular basis, the price could be a pretty big deal.
Microsoft does offer its apps for free, but they often have limitations. For example, if you download Microsoft Word on your Mac you can’t edit or create new documents; you can only read existing ones. To unlock everything, you need an active Office 365 subscription, which starts at $70 per year!
Of course, an Office 365 subscription also unlocks access to other apps such as Outlook, Publisher, and Access. But most people don’t need these niche apps anyway.
In contrast, the iWork suite is absolutely free and unrestricted on any Apple device. There are no limitations and Apple even offers free downloads of iWork to owners of older Apple products.
2. iWork Has a Cleaner Interface
Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are very powerful tools, and their interfaces are jam-packed full of options and menus. This is good if you’re a power user since you have quick access to all the myriad settings you could want.
But most of us don’t need all those options.
Managing references, text elements, and mathematical equations aren’t common concerns for the average Office suite user. And all those extra features result in a messy and distracting user interface.
Apple iWork gets rid of a lot of this clutter in favor of a cleaner look than Microsoft Office. Eliminating all those distractions creates a peaceful environment for productivity and makes the iWork suite just as easy to use as everything else on a Mac.
The top of the Pages window, for example, has Insert, Table, Chart, Text, Shape, Media, and Comment buttons. That’s basically everything you need for word processing. The Numbers and Keynote apps are similarly sparse.
Looking at side-by-side comparisons of Apple iWork versus Microsoft Office, it is quite startling how big the difference is. iWork is so much cleaner and pleasing to look at. What’s more, many of the same settings are still available in iWork, they’re just kept out of sight in the Format sidebar.
3. Sync to iCloud and Handoff to Other Devices
Microsoft OneDrive and Apple iCloud have a lot of similarities. They both let you sync your Office or iWork documents so the latest versions are always available online. You can then access them using any device or over the web. But iCloud has the advantage of being deeply integrated into every Apple product, from software to hardware.
Not only can you keep all your Pages, Numbers, and Keynotes documents in iCloud, but you can handoff your documents from one Apple device to another. That means you can handoff from your iPhone to your Mac , and then to your iPad without having to skip a beat. You don’t even need to click Save.
This seamless integration is far more difficult for Microsoft to replicate because there’s no telling which devices you could be using or trying to handoff between.
Many of us work across various different devices these days, so having the ability to effortlessly switch between them is a big deal. It’s just another one of the reasons iWork is a more user-friendly office suite than Microsoft Office.
4. Collaboration and Co-Authoring
Both suites offer real-time collaboration, so you can work on a document with other people remotely. When it comes to Apple iWork versus Microsoft Office, it’s hard to say which app comes out on top since the features are so similar.
In either office suite, click the Share or Collaborate button from the user interface to send a document invite to one of your contacts. That person can then make real-time changes to your document, which shows up on your screen.
This is a valuable feature and it’s useful to know that you won’t sacrifice it by switching to iWork. That said, whoever you want to work with needs to use the same app as you. You can’t collaborate from iWork to Office, for instance.
Since iWork is available free on any Apple product, that might actually make it easier to find people to collaborate with.
iWork has lots of other sharing features built in, too. The Share menu lets you create iCloud links, send the document via Messages, or transfer it to another device using AirDrop. These might not seem like a big deal at first, but if you work with a lot of people who use Macs, you’ll definitely use it.
5. Microsoft Office Compatibility
Using any apps other than Microsoft Office always comes with the worry of compatibility issues. Everyone else is likely to still use Office, so how will your app deal with .doc and .docx files? This used to be a big count against Apple’s iWork suite.
But not anymore.
iWork apps have come a long way in their compatibility. These days, they can open, edit, and save files in standard Office formats. By default, they still use iWork file extensions (.pages, .key, .numbers), but you can also save files as .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, and .pptx, as well as a few others like .pdf, .csv, and .html.
While you still come across some missing fonts or formatting discrepancies, you aren’t likely to run into any serious problems. You can even use Pages to add comments to a .docx document, which Word users can still read in Microsoft Office.
The big advantage iWork has in this respect is that unlike Office, it also has the option to save them in the iWork format. That means you can always share your files in the most convenient format for whoever you’re sending them to.
Will You Make the Switch?
If you haven’t used iWork before—or if you haven’t used it in a while—you should definitely give it a shot soon. It’s cleaner, more compatible, and easier to use across multiple devices than Microsoft Office. And unless you’re a real power user, you aren’t even going to miss any features.
There are lots of hidden features in Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. If you do decide to make the switch from Microsoft Office, make sure you learn all the best tips for using Apple iWork instead.