Saturday, November 29, 2014

iWork ’14 Review

Iljitsch van Beijnum:

One thing hasn’t changed: like iWork ’13 before it, iWork ’14 creates files that previous versions of the suite can’t open. The file format hasn’t really changed, it’s just that Apple decided against using packages. A package is a folder that holds multiple files and folders but looks like a single file in the Finder. However, if you tried to transmit it over the Internet in the past, you’d possibly run into trouble. So the new versions of Keynote, Pages, and Numbers helpfully compress all the files that are part of a document into an actual single file.

At first blush, this seems utterly perplexing, because this is exactly how iWork ’09 worked. The disadvantage of the ’09/’14 single file method is that even a small change to a document requires the whole thing be written to disk in its entirety, including potentially large images and movies that are contained in the document. That may not be so bad on a Mac with a fast SSD, but it can make iCloud syncing a lot slower. Of course Apple also knows this, so the iWork ’14 apps only use the single file method when saving a document locally on a Mac. The package format is used when saving to iCloud.


The big advantage of the apps’ iCloud versions is live collaboration, and we’re very disappointed that this hasn’t been extended to the native apps. There are some oddities with that arrangement, too. For instance, tracking changes is not supported in shared Pages documents, so it’s either work with others on the same document in real time or see who changed what after the fact—you can’t have both.


Apple did bring back some features that were excised from the initial iWork ’13 release over the course of the year, but it doesn’t look like it’s full steam ahead on that revisionary front. For Keynote and Numbers that’s fine: Keynote remains best in its class while Numbers has no such pretensions but serves users with modest needs well. Pages, on the other hand, leaves too wide a gap between vision and execution.

Nick Heer:

It’s incredible just how much of a feature regression Pages experienced in the ’09-to-’13 update, going from an easy-to-use page layout machine to a barely-cutting-it word processor. It still doesn’t support page numbering on alternating sides, full OpenType features, or a useful contextual menu.

Update (2014-11-30): Accidental Tech Podcast discusses iWork.

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