Pages

January 31st, 2005

I’ve been playing with Apple’s new Pages word processor for less than an hour, but so far, it’s very nice!

It has opened every Word document I threw at it, including some fairly complex ones, and preserved formatting and underlying structure to a greater degree than I remember seeing in any other Word processor. The docs I’ve tried exporting in Word format and opening in Word have come across beautifully.

The templates supplied are beautiful and the overall template system is very simple and works well; it’s very easy to create your own templates and the ‘placeholder text’ concept is efficient and easy to understand.

I like the fact that the underlying document format is a package (a directory) containing XML files and any images, rather like OpenOffice’s. I was able to unzip the XML within a Pages document, change some text, re-zip it and open it again in Pages – everything worked fine. Pages can even produce quite reasonably HTML, though it isn’t really designed with this as an emphasis.

There are, of course, lots of features that Word has and that Pages doesn’t, but I consider myself to use quite a few more features than the average user, and I haven’t yet seen many things that I would miss. I certainly appreciate the fact that I can get it with its Powerpoint-like companion for only UKP 49; less than a quarter of the price of Word alone. It does like a pretty speedy machine, though; users of older Macs may find it rather sluggish.

At the very least, it’s a good option for somebody not sure whether they want to splash out on Microsoft’s offering. I’d certainly recommend it for anybody who isn’t sure they need Word. The fact that Word has crashed numerous times in the last few days for me makes me more receptive to alternatives. And, of course, Pages is much nicer to look at….

Follow-up: My friend Hap has pointed out the missing feature most likely to be a problem for us when it comes to corporate use: the lack of a ‘track changes’ facility. If this, or similar features like automatic cross-referencing, are likely to be something you need, then you may need to stick with Word. If you don’t like or can’t afford Word, then NeoOffice/J, the Mac version of OpenOffice, is becoming really quite good. Not so pretty, though! I’d still rather use Pages for most things.