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iWork has long been considered the inferior option to Microsoft Office. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint form the industry standard office suite, and that’s just what everyone expects to use. But it’s time to give iWork another chance.
Many long-time Office users will be unwilling to transition away from the apps they’re so used to working with. Whether you’re an Office veteran or a complete newcomer to these types of apps, iWork may deserve another chance. Let’s take a look at why.
1. It’s 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, this could be a pretty big deal.
A new copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2016 is $100, which is a significant amount of cash for something you probably don’t need. A 12-month subscription to Office 365 will actually cost you $100 per year, which can really add up.
Of course, Office 365 does offer you access to a number of other apps, including Outlook, Publisher, and Access, but these are niche apps that many people don’t need anyway.
iWork comes with every qualifying Mac purchased after October 2014 for free. It’s hard to beat that. If your Mac is older and you need to download the suite from the App Store, you’ll pay $20 per app for a total of $60, still cheaper than Office. Most iPads and iPhones get iWork for free, too.
2. Cleaner Interface
Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are very powerful tools, and their interfaces are absolutely jam-packed full of options and menus. If you’re a power user, this can be a good thing; you have quick access to all of the myriad settings you could want.
But the majority of users don’t need all of the options that are available. Managing references, text elements, and mathematical equations aren’t common concerns among most office suite users. I’d be willing to bet that at least 95% of Word users have never needed to adjust the hyphenation zone.
iWork gets rid of a lot of this clutter in favor of a cleaner interface, which eliminates distractions and provides a more peaceful productivity environment. As with many Mac features, this contributes to increased ease of use.
The top of the Pages window, for example, has Insert, Table, Chart, Text, Shape, Media, and Comment buttons. That’s pretty much everything you need for word processing. Both Numbers and Keynote are similarly sparse when it comes to menubar options.
You can see in the comparison shots above and below just how much cleaner the iWork apps are. Seeing the Office apps next to them makes it obvious just how much clutter Microsoft’s apps have.
If you’re thinking to yourself “But I always need to adjust the Style settings in Word!” then you might not be a good candidate for switching to iWork. There is a sacrifice in power that you’ll make for these cleaner interfaces.
But for the majority of people, the tools available in the iWork apps are sufficient, and this makes them easier to use. There are many other options available through the menus, so it’s not like you’re giving up every customizable option. Just most of the ones you don’t need.
3. iCloud & Mobile Integration
There are tons of great cloud storage services out there, but iCloud has the advantage of being deeply integrated into every Apple product, from software to hardware. Being able to quickly and easily save your office documents to iCloud is a handy feature that can save you time if you come to rely on it.
By keeping all of your documents from Pages, Numbers, and Keynote saved in iCloud, you can work on them from any computer connected to the internet. You can even work on them from your iPhone, or non-Apple devices via iCloud.com.
Having access to mobile versions of these apps is also a big benefit. You can use Microsoft Office for free on your 9.7″ iPad, but on a Mac it requires an Office 365 subscription. Apple’s office productivity suite may be less powerful, but it’s also more financially viable if you don’t need all that power.
The mobile versions of iWork apps are also free provided you have a recent device, and they’re well-optimized for mobile work. Even writing on your phone isn’t too bad. Using an iPad or iPad Pro is even better, though.
4. Collaboration and Sharing
Once you upgrade to macOS Sierra, iWork is able to support real-time collaboration between colleagues via iCloud. This means you’ll be able to easily work on a document with a number of other people, much like you can currently do with Google Drive apps.
This may not be a big deal to many, but if collaboration was the one thing tying you to Google’s solution then it could make all the difference.
iWork already has some cool sharing features built in. The Share menu lets you share iCloud links or send the document via Messages or Apple’s built-in Notes app. Again, these might not seem like a big deal, but if you work with a lot of people who use Macs, you’ll likely appreciate it.
5. Microsoft Office Compatibility
Using anything besides Microsoft Office always comes with the worry about compatibility. How will it deal with DOC and DOCX files? This used to be a big count against using anything besides Office.
iWork apps have come a long way in their compatibility, and can now open, edit, and save files in standard Office formats. While the default is still the iWork file extension (PAGES, KEY, NUMBERS), you can save files in DOC, DOCX, XLS, XLSX, PPT, and PPTX, as well as a few others like PDF, CSV, and HTML.
While you may encounter an occasional difficulty with formatting, you aren’t likely to run into any serious problems. You don’t have to worry about your colleagues who use Microsoft Office having difficulty with your files.
Will You Make the Switch?
If you haven’t tried iWork in a while, I strongly recommend that you give it a shot in the near future. Unless you’re a serious power user of Microsoft Office, you might find that the cleaner interface and the better integration with the Mac operating environment makes it a winner!
Do you use iWork? Or will you be sticking with Office? What made you decide either way? Share your thoughts in the comments below!