Wednesday, October 23, 2013

iWork ’13: A Huge Regression

Clark Goble:

Effectively AppleScript support is gone. Numbers doesn’t even have a dictionary. And Pages has had nearly everything removed.

I could go on about how almost none of the problems I’ve been griping about for four years in Numbers have been fixed. But what’s the point. Apple has spoken. It wants the OS X iWork to basically be the same as the iOS version and designed purely for casual use. By making it free they kill the market for any competitors other than Office. So if you run a small office, even if you hate MS-Office, there’s really no alternative anymore.


This isn’t just like Apple not upgrading the Mac Pro. This is like Apple not upgrading the Mac Pro for four years, then announcing that the Mac Mini is the new Mac Pro.

And it looks like the user interfaces are now full of gratuitous popovers. Dr. Drang says:

They’re leveling the playing field to make the OS X versions = the iOS versions = the web apps. Toys.

Apple simply doesn’t respect the workflows that pro customers build. This has been shown again and again with different apps, and it extends to the developer tools. Xcode 5 still hasn’t restored the AppleScriptability that Xcode 3 had, and there’s undocumented voodoo that you need to apply just so that previously working projects will continue to build.

Update (2013-10-24): Benedict Evans:

New version of iWork killed the ability to do a scatter chart with dates. Unimaginable Microsoft would do that.

Pierre Igot on Pages:

But Apple’s engineers appear to have chosen to keep the emphasis on “simplicity” at the expense of “power”. They have not just neglected to add features to bring the feature set of the application closer to that of a word processor like Microsoft Word. They have actually removed many features for no apparent reason other than to bring the application in line with its iOS counterpart, which is, inevitably, much less powerful.

Update (2013-10-25): Here are some Apple support threads about features removed from Keynote, Numbers, and Pages (1, 2). Macworld also has comments about the new Keynote.

Update (2013-10-26): Pierre Igot:

It is quite clear that, for people like me, the present situation probably means several more years of using Pages ’09 with not a single enhancement or bug fix. The best we can hope for from Apple is minor application updates to maintain compatibility with the OS or for security purposes. And even that is not guaranteed. It is very discouraging.


I know very well that it is not quite normal that I have ended up relying on Pages so much in my work. But that’s the way it is, but that’s the way the desktop publishing industry is. The so-called “industry standard” (Word) is junk, and there is no real competition that leads to better products for end users. Pages ’09 was a bit of a miracle, in that it was a well-designed (albeit far from perfect) piece of OS X software with quite a bit of power “under the hood”, if you were willing to spend a bit of time to scratch the surface — hence the attractiveness of the software for more advanced users like myself.

John Gruber:

The bottom line as I see it: you need to have clear priorities, and Apple’s highest priority here was clearly cross-platform parity for iPhone, iPad, web, and Mac. No other office platform in the world has that — complete parity between native apps for phone, tablet, desktop, and a web app. Other companies have different priorities; Microsoft, for example, has feature-completeness built into its DNA. A version of Microsoft Office for Windows that removed functionality to achieve parity with the mobile version is unimaginable.

Update (2013-10-30): Anxious Machine:

The difference is the motivation. Apple rewrote Final Cut from the ground up because they thought they could provide a better, more intuitive way of editing video. I'd argue that the magnetic timeline actually was a feature that deserved to have the app rewritten around it. By contrast, iWork on the iPad clearly was and still is an inferior experience to the desktop versions. Choosing to rewrite the apps around those inferior versions suggests that Apple misunderstands both the strengths and weaknesses of both its platforms, which is disheartening to say the least.

Update (2013-11-04): Joe Kissell:

And even though I rarely used most of the features that are now gone, I appreciate how upsetting it is to find that Keynote has profoundly broken a presentation that you crafted carefully.

Update (2013-11-06): Apple (via Dan Moren):

In rewriting these applications, some features from iWork ’09 were not available for the initial release. We plan to reintroduce some of these features in the next few releases and will continue to add brand new features on an ongoing basis.

Update (2014-02-21): Dan Moren:

This is the second update to iWork since Apple announced its plans to restore features dropped from the rebuilt versions of its productivity apps. In November, the company released updates that returned the ability to customize iWork’s toolbars on the Mac. But Apple’s self-imposed to-do list still has a few items on it yet, so expect to see further updates as 2014 progresses.

Ben Waldie:

The latest update of Numbers reintroduces AppleScript support in a big way. While Apple could have taken an iterative approach, reintroducing a few commands here and there, it chose instead to go whole-hog: The entire suite of scripting terminology originally supported by Numbers in the 2009 edition of iWork has returned.


Unfortunately, it does not appear that either of the other iWork apps—Pages or Keynote—have yet received the same infusion of AppleScript support.

21 Comments RSS · Twitter

Well the toolbar icons are ugly too.

I guess the new development method implemented at Apple is called: Regression.

My own experience: after struggling to get Papers to work with Pages via Applescript + AppScript, and indeed getting it to work on Pages 08 and 09 for the past 3 years, this is quite a blow indeed... I was hoping such support would not go away.

From the keynote, the one positive was the streamlined "inspector" (in previous versions, it's really annoying). And the live collaboration + web version is still a nice surprise. Trying to stay positive, but it's hard.

To this day, “doesn’t build platforms except by accident” remains the best one-line summary of Jobs’/Apple’s mentality I’ve ever seen.

Ben Thompson has basically reiterated that point in

Apple has been on a relentless drive to iOSify everything. I don’t see how their OS X apps, or OS X itself, can be an exception in the long term.

For now, after a decade on Linux, I’m enjoying OS X while it lasts. I fully except to one day have to put Linux on my machines again. I just hope there’ll be (non-headless) hardware around on which I can do that…

I'm trying to understand the rationale for removing the ability to put images in headers and footer in Pages. Am I the only one who wants a logo to go there? Now all my Pages templates are broken. I guess I'll stick with the old version of Pages for some time.

Numbers is an improvement for me because the old one would freeze a lot when recalculating things on complex spreadsheets. Now I'm editing a cell and because of the lack of a small pause after editing I'm left wondering if it registered the change or not (old habits).

It's fortunate I don't use AppleScript.

To me it looks like they did a complete overhaul when they made iWorks for iOS, and now they're brining that code back to the Mac. It makes sense, as you don't want to maintain two code bases that do the same thing and keep them in sync and likely the iOS backend was better built in order to work with underpowered hardware. Hopefully they'll continue to improve it now; having a single code base to maintain should make that easier... assuming the company will keep some people assigned to it now that it shipped.

Apple is a mass-market consumer products company and has been for some time. Crowd-pleasing novelty, rapid flux and out-of-the-blue "One More Thing..." suprises are their forte, turning them from industry joke to global leader in less than a decade. So they've far better things to do with their time than chase after niche professional vertical markets with their highly variable requirements, inherent conservatism and limited growth potential.

Professional users who blindly entrust their entire livelihoods to Apple technologies really haven't been paying attention. Sure, the pro markets (e.g. print) saved Apple's bacon back in the 90s when all others were jumping ship, but they shouldn't think for one moment that Apple owes them a single goddamn thing in return. Apple is beholden to itself and its stockholders - nobody else.

Sure the new "professional" Mac Pro is real purty to look at, and I know Tim Cook likes to whisper gently in pro users' ears how he will love them forever. But look at Xserve, look at FCP, Shake, MacRuby, and so on. If you genuinely think the business minds driving Apple forward won't happily dump all over your most beloved technology the first moment it suits them to do so, then please do give me a call as I've a honking great bridge^D^D^D^D^D ten-color press I'd really like to sell you.

Reinard Schmitz

Exactly.They regress a OS to a toy...

The lack of usability in Xcode 5 confounds me, particularly the doc browser, which has the most worthless search feature I've ever seen. I'm just waiting for them to integrate Xcode into iTunes…they look the same, and suck the same, but iTunes has better scripting support.

I think has (above) did have a bridge to sell us. AppScript was and is better than Scripting Bridge, and it's a shame to see what Apple's done with scripting support in their applications over the years. They're clearly focuses on the iOS/toy market, and the Mac "Pro" without expansion bays is yet more evidence of it.

Curious what things people did with AppleScript support in iWork. What things do you do with it?

@Pat as I mentioned above, it is used by Papers (via AppScript at the moment) to format citations and bibliography.

You can not even customize the toolbar anymore in Keynote. Good that they give it away for free because for professional needs it is not worth money anymore. Workflows are totally broken.

Keynote has been despite it's limitations a wonderful presentation tool. It is really sad.

On the other hand, Apple has added features to AppleScript in 10.7:

I keep expecting AppleScript to (sadly) disappear. But these are mixed signals.

Pat, I don't script Pages nearly as much as I script Numbers. However in Pages I had some more complex mail merge scripts. My employees (primarily in sales) could write a document in Pages and it'd fetch data from databases, Address Book, and so forth. I could sync with SalesForce but do more efficient scripting tied to invoices and the like. I also had a script that took the created documents and pasted them into Mail and email them automatically. It was quite useful.

The real tragedy is Numbers. I think it goes without saying scripting in a spreadsheet is much more important.

I know the current apologetics on this is that it'll be like the old iMovie transition or FCPX. Well with FCPX we got an announcement they were adding features over the next year. They reiterated their commitment to pros. I've not seen or heard anything akin to that from Apple. Given that you'd have to be an idiot to use it hoping Apple will eventually see the light. Instead unless Apple communicates something you have to assume this is by design and they want more causal use on OSX and feature parity between the two.

This makes little sense to me since it loses the very things that make OSX better than iOS for so many users - I'd expected more differentiation with OSX becoming the "truck" and iOS the "car". Instead we're getting a lowest common factor situation.

For me, mail merge is a must. Losing the capability in Pages will necessitate me sticking with Pages 09, and most likely a move to other software at some point in the future. "Dumbing down" the software to meet iOS specs is a move that will have negative ramifications for me.

"Apple simply doesn’t respect the workflows that pro customers build."

OTOH, I spent a couple of weeks learning a very little bit of very simple WordBasic and crafting macros and various templates to make the exact word processor workflow I wanted in 1996 for Microsoft Word for Mac.

And guess what? 17 years later, all those macros and templates still work. The precise word processor workflow I want still works. A couple of weeks of pain for 17 years of productivity. What a concept!

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