While some won’t like us saying it, Microsoft rules the roost when it comes to word processing on the PC or the Mac. But then ruling the roost comes with a price tag of around £300 and if you are just after a package to write the odd letter to the bank manager or perhaps create your local club newsletter, you are going to have to look elsewhere.
There are plenty of alternatives on the Mac, especially the open source and free Openoffice.org that offers word processing simply and effectively without hassle.
However, Openoffice.org isn’t the most friendly of applications and it certainly lacks that consumer sheen that some readers may prefer.
Apple’s attempt is Pages, now in its second iteration and a part of the iWork suite that includes Keynote 3 for presentations.
The approach is very consumer focused, with a simple interface that is geared towards you typing letters rather than confusing you with options.
For the second outing Apple has tweaked and added new features, most notably 20 new templates for making newsletters and Autotext correction.
The templates are stereotypically American in there feel, but do allow you to get on with adding information quickly and easily. Media just as pictures can be changed and edited using the same picture tools found in iPhoto 5 and you can even add iTunes or iMovie files to your pages if you want.
The Autotext correction facility although new has a long way to go. Opt to automatically fix capitalisation at the start of a sentence and every time you write the word "may" in a sentence the application automatically thinks it’s a month and caps the “M”. Combine that with an empty auto-formatting list and those looking to get started straight away will be disappointed.
Now this might not sound like a big deal, but it you write a lot, then it's amazing how many times you might hit the keys in the wrong order or make simple spelling mistakes that you would want automatically corrected - like thier or peice.
Get past auto correction and iWorks allows you to save to a number of different formats as standard. PDF, word, html, RTF or plain text. In fact strangely enough anything but its own format. It’s certainly a nice move by Apple and one we were expecting.
As we’ve mentioned iWork isn’t just about Pages (thank God) and you’ll also get Apple’s presentation software - Keynote bundled in the box. It’s the same application that Steve Jobs supposedly uses to do his own presentations from and for that reason you know it's going to be good.
New to this version of the software are new themes, the ability to edit photos using the iPhoto image editing tools directly in Keynote and for those looking to impress their neighbours with a bunch of stats the ability to show off results in realistic and beautiful 3D-rendered charts.
In practice the software is a synch to use and whether it is importing movies or images it is child’s play.
iWorks 06 really is a package of two halves. If you are looking for a word processor to do the odd article then Pages 2 is adequate enough, but not brilliant.
If you are looking for that presentation package to impress the local bank manager or put some shazzam to your presentations then Keynote is the package to do it with.
However we are confused as to why Apple has put them together in the one package. It is as if it realizes that it has a really good package in the guise of Keynote and happy to give away Pages as a bonus.
Not one to opt for if you are looking for a word processor.