Apple rolls out iWork for iCloud public beta - here's what to expect

Apple began inviting non-developers and the public via email on Friday to test iWork for iCloud beta, which include cloud-based versions of Pages, Numbers and Keynotes and features many of the suite's original functionalities as well as some caveats.

If you have received an invite to the public beta, here's a first look at the web suite and a rundown of what to expect.

What is iWork?

iWork is an office suite of desktop and mobile apps created by Apple. It's essentially the company's take on Microsoft Office and Google Docs. The desktop software - available on the Mac App Store for $19.99 (£13) per application - allows Mac users to create and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations with the apps Pages, Numbers and Keynote, respectively.

What is iWork for iCloud beta?

With iWork for iCloud, Apple has added the suite's core apps to the web, allowing customers to access Pages, Numbers and Keynote via the Safari browser or Chrome and Internet Explorer. The the web apps are called Pages for iCloud, Numbers for iCloud and Keynote for iCloud. All documents will sync with iOS and OS X versions of iWork, save to Apple's cloud storage service iCloud and always be available at iCloud.com.

As for the public beta aspect - that simply means Apple is still testing and developing iWork for iCloud and may even release more beta versions before the final product releases for consumers this autumn.

How do I access the beta?

Once you get an invitation to try the public beta, just sign in to iCloud's website with your iCloud Apple ID login. Click on Pages, Numbers or Keynote to get started.

What are the highlights of iWork for iCloud beta?

After opening any of the web apps, you'll see a range of pre-designed templates (including a blank page) - just like the desktop version. The apps themselves appear simplified, yet they are just as powerful as the desktop iterations.

Pages for iCloud offer many image and text-editing options; just drag page items around to see text wrapping around objects, or apply effects like drop shadows. You can even change the shadow's opacity and other visual elements. Oh, and there is formatting, style and 47 available fonts.

Keynote for iCloud handles slide transitions really well. They look and respond just as speedy as they would in the desktop app. There are many new live slide transition effects too, and users can set and adjust time duration and choose whether effects will apply automatically or manually. There are even options to preview the slide deck and export to Office.

Like Pages and Keynote, Numbers for iCloud is a strong web app. There are the usual pre-built functions, tables and formulas, and user can still drag in and edit Excel files.

What is missing in iWork for iCloud beta?

Collaboration tools. In Google Docs, users can share and work on a document with two or more people. This functionality does not exist in iWork for iCloud. However, the web apps will live-sync documents between browsers and apps. With that said, users tend to edit only on one device at a time.

Other missing features include ability to print documents, edit charts and tables, track version history and see Keynote presenter notes. Apple said these features are coming, though.

Keynote is missing at least one transition called Revolve. However, the app has quite a lot of responsiveness to make up for the reduced effect palettes. And there's no support for the Firefox web browser. The suite is in beta still, so Apple does have time to re-add and implement some of these missing features and support options.

What else is coming?

Aside from printing options and version history, Apple said the beta would eventually include the ability to send a link for a document.

How much free storage is available?

Users can control how much storage they want in their iCloud accounts. iCloud includes 5 GB of free storage for Mail, Documents including iWork for iCloud beta and your iCloud Backup. You can also buy additional storage space for an annual fee.

...And that's it.

Just remember that Apple designed iWork for Mac specifically to take advantage of Mac hardware and OS X. And iWork for iCloud is designed for the web. So, to make the web suite snappy and powerful, Apple had to cut some corners.

Still, to truly compete with Google Docs, Apple will have to introduce collaborative editing. Apple hasn’t mentioned that it will, but that's why the public needs to try iWork for iCloud beta and send the company some useful feedback.



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