There are plenty of lightweight and easy-to-use text editors for Mac users, including Ulysses, Byword, and Simplenote, but for projects requiring desktop publishing features, Apple’s recently overhauled Pages ($19.99) is still a good solution.
This past October, Apple overhauled Pages and its other iWork office suite applications, Numbers and Keynote. iWork comes pre-installed with new Macs purchased after October 1, or existing Mac owners can pay $19.99 for each from the Mac App Store.
The new version of Pages will be pretty familiar to previous users of the software, but the application’s user interface is more streamlined and seems easier to use. It’s also worth noting that some features that appeared the previous version have been removed, causing many users to give program a low rating in App Store reviews. Let’s take a look.
Getting Started With Templates
Pages comes with over 60 old and new templates for a variety of text and design projects, including newsletters, flyers and posters, and stationery. The templates can be useful time savers in that they include professional layouts and fonts, and users can easily customize text, images, and styles. We’ve already publish an article about using templates to create impressive documents in Pages.
Smart Inspector Panel
What I like most about Pages 5.0 is the new Smart Inspector Panel which changes according to the item selected in a document. As an example, when an image in a document is selected, the Inspector switches to three panels of tools for editing the style, arrangement, and exposure settings of the selected image.
The Inspector no longer floats off to the side of main document area, but instead can be hidden so the focus is put on writing and layout. The app’s toolbar also includes most of the same tools in the Inspector, and additional items can be added from the Customize Tool menu.
As for formatting styles, all the previous features are still present in the Inspector, so you can apply existing styles to text, or create new styles based on the current text selection. The Inspector panel will also change according to which formatted text — body text or text header — is selected. Inspector’s new behaviour is a nifty timesaver that many users will welcome.
Many traditional Pages tools and features are still present in the new version, including thumbnail view of document pages, the zoom tool, the shape, table and chart creation features, item arrangement tools, the media browser for inserting photos, music, and video, and auto-text wrap for images.
Though the new version of Pages has been streamlined and its user interface is arguably easier to use, there are features in version 4.0 (commonly called Pages ’09) that are absent in version 5.0. The biggest missing feature, in my opinion, is the outline view.
Most writers depend upon outlines to help structure and manage long documents. The previous version of Pages (screenshot below) even had templates for different types of outlines, and headings and subheadings could be easily moved switched and updated.
Also, because Pages is a useful desktop publishing program, it’s odd that the Two Up page view was left out of the new version. This view presented pages in a document side by side as they would appear in a book or newsletter spread, enabling users to see how headings and photos lined up to one another.
Other noticeable missing features include mail merge, linked text boxes, contiguous text selection (which are also important to using the program for desktop publishing), and significant AppleScript support. If you have the older version of Pages installed on your Mac, you do get the option to keep it along side the new version. On my Mac, the older version was moved to a folder called iWork ’09. To be on the safe side, you might save your previous version of iWork applications to external drive before you download the new versions.
Collaboration and iCloud
Tracking changes and inserting comments in documents is still in the Mac version of Pages, but now those same features are also part of the iOS and online iCloud Beta version of Pages. Changes made to documents saved to iCloud Pages almost automatically appear on all platforms.
Note: Your iWork documents saved to iCloud do count against your 5GB of free iCloud storage space, so be sure to archive documents outside of iCloud when you no longer need them.
In addition, Pages documents saved to iCloud can be accessed and edited in most web browsers, on a Mac or PC. In each version, documents are automatically saved, and the feature for browsing previous versions of a Pages document is available in File > Revert to…> Browse All Versions.
You can read our article about the new iWork for iCloud Beta for more details.
Worth the Upgrade?
Compared to Microsoft Word, the new version of Pages is seriously less cluttered, and the user interface and features are pretty consistent across the iCloud and iOS versions of Pages. For simple school and office text document and design projects, users may find Pages very accessible, especially for writing and editing documents across different platforms. However, some of Pages’s missing features, which I’m sure will be added back in future updates, may be important enough for some users to stick with the iWork ’09 version, or at least save a copy of it.
Download: Pages for Mac ($19.99)
Let us know about your experience with the new Pages program. Do you find it worth the upgrade, or is it more like a downgrade for you?