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Where to next for Pages / Keynote / Numbers

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Since moving to the Mac from Windows in 2008, I have been pleasantly surprised by iWork. Pages, Keynote and Numbers are all extremely good programs that offer excellent value. I find using them to be more intuitive than Word or PowerPoint. In particular, I like the fact that you can save files as MS docs. Frankly, who needs MS Office any more?

 

Actually, I do. Because still, there are things you can do in with Word and Powerpoint that you can't do with equivalent Apple software. The other problem for me is that Windows Office is so ubiquitous that I am too familiar with its overcrowded ribbon and general bloatware features.Though I'd much rather have a pared down piece of software with superbly intuitive controls, I find i like un-intuitive controls but only because i am so used to them. 

 

As things stand, i have installed both MS Office and Apple IWork on my Mac. I flit between them depending on mood. This made me wonder what Apple will do with iWork. Will it update it and give it the same level of ultimate functionality that Office enjoys, or will it leave it?

 

Personally, I'd love to see Apple bring the two suites even closer together so that the native file formats are the same and so that ultimately the only real difference is the user interface

 

Perhaps it would be good if Apple simply bought Microsoft! Not for its Windows operating system, but for Office. 

 

Anyway, what do the good and great here think Apple will do to update iWork if anything at all? And what are its prospects beyond what they are now?

post #2 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tailpipe View Post

Personally, I'd love to see Apple bring the two suites even closer together so that the native file formats are the same and so that ultimately the only real difference is the user interface.

I would like to see that too - they both use XML formats so it should be easy enough to have a common format that can be used without conversion in both. Due to the marketshare, the easiest route would be for Apple to save natively in .docx, .xls etc. Even if it takes a license from Microsoft, it would be a good move. The only problem arises when the formats don't support capabilities that Apple needs but there could be parts of the document spec reserved for custom features and the core of the documents work seamlessly on any platform while preserving the custom parts.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tailpipe View Post

Perhaps it would be good if Apple simply bought Microsoft! Not for its Windows operating system, but for Office.

Waste of money IMO. Microsoft's products are generally quite poor and Apple would have to employ the people who make them. Apple's strength is having the talent to make great products, if they took on a massive workforce from Microsoft, they'd have to haul a lot of weight. I think they did the right thing with iWork as it allowed them to have word processing on iOS without waiting for Microsoft but I do think the interoperability could be more seamless.

It's the same with anything though, Adobe and Quark could use a common format too, Apple and Avid could agree on a common video format (ProRes vs DNxHD), Logic/Pro Tools/Cubase etc etc. All competing apps where common formats would make life easy but it's easier for the developer to go with their own than follow someone else's rules (and the rules of a competitor no less).

You know what they say, "Standards are great, everybody should have one".
post #3 of 5

I cannot disagree more. First off, iWork documents are not flat files. They are ZIPped bundles. UnZIPped, they are very much like MacOS X applications albeit without the embedded executables files that are at the heart of application bundles. This means that there are practical and technical reasons for not converting iWork to an Office clone. The other reason is that it is simply a bad idea on several levels.

 

What seems unacknowledged in this conversation is that Office formats are crap. This is why it is so dangerous to move documents blindly between different versions of Office or between Office and other applications. Office's atrocious UI merely obscures the fact that the underlying document formats are also awful. Becoming yet another Star Office/OpenOffice.org/LibreOffice whose claim to fame is how good a clone of Office that iWork has become will do even more to enshrine Microsoft Office as the unassailable office productivity suite despite all of its faults.

 

Rather than cloning Office, we need a true competitor to Office--perhaps several. Twenty years ago, we had four or five full-function word processing applications (FullWrite Pro, MacWrite II, Word, WordPerfect, and Nisus Write, three or four major spreadsheet applications(Excel, Lotus 1-2-3, and WingZ), and at least two presentation applications (PowerPoint and Persuasion). Today, most users have no idea that it is possible for a developer other than Microsoft to produce software of this type. If that is not bad enough, most of the few who think that it is possible want Microsoft Office with a different splash screen.

 

The problem is that so long as you insist on using Microsoft's formats, then you will leave Microsoft in control. I have a different philosophy. When I need Microsoft formats, I use Microsoft software. However, when I don't need Microsoft's formats, I use something else. If more users did the same, then you could ween themselves off Microsoft's crappy formats and reduce the need for Microsoft's crappy software. Reducing the need is the first step toward ending the need.

post #4 of 5
Thread Starter 

Mr Me,

 

Thanks for a very interesting reply. Of course, you're right. Office file formats are less than ideal, or 'crap' if you prefer. As much as we may dislike it, MS Office is a de facto worldwide standard. The installed user base is so massive that you simply have to be able to interface reliably with the existing file formats of other users. A frequent frustration for me is exchanging files with clients who are still using a previous version of the software. I can read their files, but they can't read mine. I can't tell a major international organisation to go and buy 10,000 new copies of Office so we can work with them better. I can understand their reluctance to upgrade. Frankly, there are some features I'd like Microsoft to remove rather than adding to the suite's complexity. It really is bloatware, but that's another story. The biggest possible win for iWork would be to persuade Microsoft to switch to a new file format based on a mutually agreed new format that eliminates existing limitations. Is that going to happen? Sadly, i don't think so, but you can dream...

 

Many businesses, mine included, rely on Powerpoint to communicate data and ideas. We don't use it for on-screen slide shows but for creating complex printed landscape documents. Many pages are simply way too dense to ever be used in a slide show. Consulting firms like McKinsey, Bain and BCG rely on Powerpoint to communicate project work. Powerpoint transformed the consulting industry because it provided a much more graphical and engaging medium to impart key facts or to facilitate the making of key decisions. Despite its obvious limitations, the MS Office glass is half full not half empty. 

 

In fact, in terms of overall functionality, the various programs in Office are more capable than those in iWork. Just look at some of the object manipulation features in Powerpoint. It just does more. This is hardly surprising, because Office has been updated and refined much more than iWork has. Even without better file compatibility between office and IWork, I think it is high time for Apple to take Pages, Keynote and Numbers to the next level. I don't want just a simple upgrade, but a transformational improvement to the user interface and the way in which you create amazing documents. 

 

For me, the real issue is that Keynote and Powerpoint are fine for slide shows. In reality, millions of companies are using them as DTP software. We should be using Adobe InDesign or Quark Xpress instead, but these are way too complex. So I'd love to see Apple create its own programme in this space. The eBook textbook authoring software is a step in the right direction, but we need to be able to set columns, include complex data tables, highly graphical charts, images and build a compelling overall look and feel  much more easily and intuitively than we can do so at present. 

 

So, I think office software is ripe for re-invention and in a way that only Apple can deliver. 

post #5 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Me View Post

I cannot disagree more. First off, iWork documents are not flat files.

Neither are the default Office formats:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_Open_XML
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Me View Post

The problem is that so long as you insist on using Microsoft's formats, then you will leave Microsoft in control. I have a different philosophy. When I need Microsoft formats, I use Microsoft software.

I would agree with this but working with Pages files isn't very practical. You can't send a Windows user a Pages file and expect them to open it but they can send you a Word file and it will open in any number of apps. I don't think having native Office formats would encourage people to stick with Office at all. The Office Suite is a good deal more expensive than iWork, especially if you only buy one of the iWork apps.

For a small office, buying Pages alone for every machine can save a lot of money vs an Office license - it's about 1/10th the cost.
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