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Inside Apple’s iWork

The new edition gives Microsoft Office a run for its money on the Mac desktop

Step aside Microsoft Office for Mac, there’s a new software suite in town. Apple Inc. has released its new iWork ‘08 office suite, aimed at the traditional Microsoft Office Mac user, including its all-new Numbers spreadsheet tool program.

Included in the new iWork suite, which retails at $79, are Keynote, Pages and Numbers, three programs designed for the home office and business user. Alternatively, a family pack of iWork can also be purchased for only $99 and includes up to five household licences.

The iWork Keynote program is a comprehensive and easy to use presentation tool that features 36 different themes and templates, including a blank document option for those who want to design slides from scratch. Different themes included in the program feature anything from scrapbook-style layouts to textured designs such as blackboard, notebook and watercolor templates.

When comparing Keynote to Microsoft PowerPoint, a unique feature that really stood out for me was Keynote’s Smart Builds icon option, which lets users customize how text and images are displayed within a slide. Since the Smart Builds icon is located directly on the toolbar, there’s no need to search around for hidden tabs to make any format enhancements.

With Pages, Apple’s alternative to Microsoft Word, users can choose to work in either word processing or page layout mode. Both modes have different document styles that include, blank documents, newsletters, business cards, envelopes, and card and invitation templates, just to name a few. These templates make creating projects easy because all users need to do is just point and click the mouse to input their own desired text and/or ­images and any further designing is then left up to the user.

When users need to track changes, multiple authors can be colour-coded to help distinguish who is recommending what change. The only thing I found in Pages that didn’t quite stack up to Microsoft Word was that basic editing tools such as wordcount and thesaurus options were not available. From a toolbar standpoint,

I also found the layout is not nearly as detailed and comprehensive in its offerings as Microsoft Word’s standard toolbars.

Lastly, rounding off iWork ‘08 is Apple’s new Numbers program, aimed at Microsoft Excel users. Out of all of the iWork programs, I enjoyed this one the most. I’ve used Microsoft Excel before and thought that Numbers would work in relatively the same manner, but as soon as I opened the program, I began to feel and think otherwise.

Like Keynote and Pages, templates are also included in Numbers for convenient and efficient use. There are ready-made templates for event planning, home improvement planning, travel planning, invoice documentation and even grade book record keeping. I thought this template option was really neat because I never would have thought that entire travel plans could be organized and managed through a single program such as this. For the person who prefers to work with a more traditional spreadsheet-type of document, Numbers also gives users this option as well.

While the set up and general commands of iWork differ from Microsoft Office and the programs take some time getting used to, I found that generally speaking, Apple’s iWork ‘08 is a good fit for designing creative and detailed projects. Also, with its affordable price point of just $99 and under, Apple’s iWork ‘08 program is an ideal tool of choice for all Mac home and office users and furthermore, for anyone else looking to switch to an Apple software solution.