Quick Pages review

Posted:
in Mac Software edited January 2014
Not at all comprehensive, this is just after having used it for a few minutes, wanted to get some first impressions down.



I?ve been a Keynote fanatic since 1.0 was initially released. I do presentations as part of the lifeblood of my career in academics, and PowerPoint had always caused me pain. I just hadn?t realized how much pain until five minutes after I first launched Keynote and had that Apple Epiphany Moment that they?re so well known for. Because of this I have been eagerly awaiting Pages, ready to finally ditch Word for those few layout-oriented documents I produce. (Most of my document creation is done in LaTeX and TeXShop, since I write technical papers with heavy use of equations and diagrams and the layout is decided for me by the journal I?m submitting to.) From what I could see, Pages shared a huge amount of DNA with Keynote, and I knew from my experience with Keynote, that that was what layout should be. Since I was going to be purchasing Keynote 2.0 no matter what, Pages was going to be just a nice bonus, a bit of icing on the cake.



I?d been reading the reviews, both positive and negative, and getting the sense that this isn?t really a word processing application at all, but rather a new breed of layout app with a good dose of the strong text editing and typography tools that Cocoa provides. Some hate the idea, wanting a tool that is primarily a text editor, but with a bunch of other widgets thrown in. In my opinion, there are a number of excellent text editors already out there that let you massage and work with the words just fine. BBEdit, SubEthaEdit, even TextEdit. They don?t do any layout, they are strictly content creation. We don?t need another text editor that is just playing at being a layout app, like Word. What we?ve needed is a low-end PageMaker, but with better support for basic text editing. Something like if Keynote and TextEdit had a beautiful baby.



I finally installed Pages, and I have to say that the result is a bit more like if Keynote and TextEdit had a bastard child after spending a night of passion outside Chernobyl. Yeah, it?s still their kid, but it seems a bit... wrong somehow. Something isn?t quite right.



All the tools I use and love from Keynote are there. Tables, charts, objects, images, all are still easily used and manipulated. Integrating media files has never been easier, and the hyperlinks are a nice touch I?m sure I?ll use often. (It would be nice if the Bookmarks tab in the Hyperlinks Inspector referred to Safari?s bookmarks, however.) The ability to select a theme and produce page after page of content placement and layout is wonderful. My family is going to love this for quick production of business documents and marketing pieces.



Ten minutes in, I was loving it, but starting to notice the occasional chromosomal damage. You can insert pages from the template theme, but you can?t delete them. You can?t change themes once you start using one. Content and the pages are dynamic, but somehow don?t interact quite the way I expected.



Then it hit me. I was expecting it to work like Keynote, with slides that you insert, delete, and thematically change on the fly. I could insert pages as ?objects?, I was expecting to be able to continue to manipulate them in the same manner. That?s not the case. Instead, a ?page? is a chunk of layout that you insert, but then can?t delete. But it?s not really a pure layout item either. Take a long section of text, say a chapter. You realize that in the middle of this chapter it would be great to have one page of a totally different layout, and lo and behold, your template has just such a page. You place the cursor in the middle of the text on the page after which you want the new page to appear, and insert it.



It?s now at the end of the chapter.



What happened? The long piece of text is considered one indivisible unit. I was expecting the new page to be placed in the middle, and the text to replace the dummy text on the new page, and then continue back with the old style. Nope. You have to manually place a section break to get it to insert the new page where you want it, then go back and delete the dummy text to get your text to flow back into where you wanted it, then you can take out the section breaks. Messy. I mean, I understand the mechanism, but it feels wrong. Section breaks and page breaks feel so... 1980s.



Instead, the rich and beautiful template pages that the application is named for aren?t really pages at all, they?re at best sections, and with the dummy text initially getting in the way, they feel more like just... chunks.



I guess calling the app Chunks didn?t fly in test groups though.



I?m starting to get the hang of this app, however, and it still has the great feel that I expected when it comes to the actual layout tools. As time goes on, I?m sure I?ll adapt, and I?m sure others will as well. It?s definitely an interesting approach to merging layout and text creation, leaning much more heavily in the direction of layout. Some may argue that this is against the spirit of word processing, but I would point out that word processors have long since left the realm of simple text manipulation behind, and are now more often used for basic document layout than just producing text. Pages looks to be just the next step in that evolution, making layout the primary function that it really should be, based on observations of how users actually work with word processors. That?s not to say that this step is without birthing pains, but I have hope that this baby will grow up to make its parents proud.



Postscript: I just had someone say that they wish it had a template for making a birthday card style that his young daughters could play with to give to older relatives. It took me all of five minutes to modify the Announcement Postcard template, as a four-up page setup, into exactly what he needed. How? Simple, any object can be rotated, so I just flipped them into the orientation they needed to be in to be correct when the paper is folded. Text boxes, pictures, the works, all rotated around to be facing the right way. Simple, fast, elegant. Not bad for having only used the app to write this review.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    pubguypubguy Posts: 108member
    Thanks for the review. I also have Pages and have tinkered with it. My 12 year old son did a beautiful one page report flyer up for one of his classes...figured out how to use it all by himself. Impressive.



    A lot of people have mentioned not being able to delete a page. You can't delete a page in Appleworks and you can't delete a page in Microsoft Word. I don't understand why people think that Pages shoudl be able to delete a page. Yeah, I know Keynote allows it, but so does Powerpoint. I just don't see it as a short coming to a Word processor/Layout program. Remember, this thing only costs $79 for both Pages and Keynote -- for that price you can't expect all the possible bells and whistles in the world.



    Personally, I would like to see some open-source (read: FREE) extra templates that could be used. At first, the 40 sound great, but once you dig into them, some are pretty basic.



    I still am disappointed with the font panel. Yeah, I now its the system wide font panel -- but -- no matter what size you make it, it still gets in the way and you can't dock it to the application window. I guess it won't be so bad once I figure out how to easily make and use the styles. Oh well.



    Hey, is it just me, or is anyone else there disappointed with the included manual? The content is great, but why on earth did the make it so small? I was expecting a decent size manual, easy to read and easy to layout on a desk. What I got was almost a paperback book. It's small, smaller fonts, and doesn't layout well on a desk. They should have saved the paper.



    I really prefer manuals, especially with new software packages to learn the tricks that are not intuitively obvious. I sure hope Apple rethinks this new manual size (and yes, I sent feedback to Apple on this).



    Hey, this is not a critisim, just adding my 2 cents to the review.
  • Reply 2 of 22
    kcmackcmac Posts: 1,051member
    Good review Kickaha.



    Your thoughts mirror many here. Whatever your expectations, whether as a Word processor, page layout app or strong brethren of Keynote, Pages will initially throw you off and downright confuse you. Even irritate you. I started a thread on another site that claimed it as unusable based entirely on the delete page thing.



    Of course, I had a temporary attack of insanity and was healed by a good nights sleep and another attempt at Pages the following day.



    At some point, something kicks in and Pages starts to feel right. Sounds like you got a taste of this with the postcard.



    I use it everyday. Just love it. I don't use the Apple Templates. I make my own instead. Use it more like a word processor at the moment and have found that I edit many a word app to nail the styles and formatting before sending out the final document.



    Will be interested to see your thoughts as you use it more.
  • Reply 3 of 22
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,455member
    Great review Kickaha,



    I think you did a really great job of doing finding the good and bad about this app. This was especially hard after having to listen to me piss, moan and bitch about it so much.



    Nick
  • Reply 4 of 22
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,455member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by pubguy



    A lot of people have mentioned not being able to delete a page. You can't delete a page in Appleworks and you can't delete a page in Microsoft Word. I don't understand why people think that Pages shoudl be able to delete a page. Yeah, I know Keynote allows it, but so does Powerpoint. I just don't see it as a short coming to a Word processor/Layout program. Remember, this thing only costs $79 for both Pages and Keynote -- for that price you can't expect all the possible bells and whistles in the world.



    Personally, I would like to see some open-source (read: FREE) extra templates that could be used. At first, the 40 sound great, but once you dig into them, some are pretty basic.



    I still am disappointed with the font panel. Yeah, I now its the system wide font panel -- but -- no matter what size you make it, it still gets in the way and you can't dock it to the application window. I guess it won't be so bad once I figure out how to easily make and use the styles. Oh well.



    Hey, is it just me, or is anyone else there disappointed with the included manual? The content is great, but why on earth did the make it so small? I was expecting a decent size manual, easy to read and easy to layout on a desk. What I got was almost a paperback book. It's small, smaller fonts, and doesn't layout well on a desk. They should have saved the paper.



    I really prefer manuals, especially with new software packages to learn the tricks that are not intuitively obvious. I sure hope Apple rethinks this new manual size (and yes, I sent feedback to Apple on this).



    Hey, this is not a critisim, just adding my 2 cents to the review.




    You mention and seem to understand why people keep wondering about deleting pages in Pages. The slide organizer is right there in Keynote and since they obviously have so much in common people just wondered about the omission, especially since they seem to be including templates that encourage page management and page layout type functions.



    Nick
  • Reply 5 of 22
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by pubguy

    A lot of people have mentioned not being able to delete a page. You can't delete a page in Appleworks and you can't delete a page in Microsoft Word. I don't understand why people think that Pages shoudl be able to delete a page.



    Strictly because you can insert them. There's an expectation, at least in my head, that if I can insert something, I can then delete it later. That's not the case here, and it was a bit jarring until I figured it out.
  • Reply 6 of 22
    amorphamorph Posts: 7,112member
    It makes a certain amount of sense to able to do that, too. If you can select a particular page layout from a theme for a particular page, why can't you manipulate it afterward?



    Says the guy who's never seen the app in person.



    Still, the problem with adopting a metaphor and implementing most of it really well is that the parts you didn't adopt really stick out. It's one thing to encounter wonky or incomplete behavior in a Frankenstein monster like Word; it's another to encounter it in a lean and otherwise consistent application.
  • Reply 7 of 22
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by trumptman

    Great review Kickaha,



    I think you did a really great job of doing finding the good and bad about this app. This was especially hard after having to listen to me piss, moan and bitch about it so much.




    Well, I figured if I was going to defend the app, I might want to actually *use* it first...
  • Reply 8 of 22
    buonrottobuonrotto Posts: 6,368member
    Somewhere out there (Albequerque), Andrew Stone is relieved.
  • Reply 9 of 22
    hobbeshobbes Posts: 1,252member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Kickaha

    Ten minutes in, I was loving it, but starting to notice the occasional chromosomal damage. You can insert pages from the template theme, but you can?t delete them. You can?t change themes once you start using one. Content and the pages are dynamic, but somehow don?t interact quite the way I expected...



    Yeah, I'll bet "Chunks" got nixed by the marketing people.



    I had a very similar reaction with my first 30 minutes with Pages. There was at first this sense almost of dizziness, like vertigo, upon upon opening a blank document and there being nothing there -- no bar of (pretty useless) formatting buttons to ground you! Then one checks out the Inspector and sees how tidily all the options have been arranged, and plays around and sees what a powerful little creature Pages is, and then soon enough, what a linear creature it is. It's got nearly everything a modest, "lite" DTP should have, except the ability to delete and reorder the damned pages.



    At first, it seemed nothing more than a gaping hole left in a 1.0 version, but on second thought I began to wonder. If Pages did have a navigation pane as Keynote does, and you could delete a page, it'd complete its feature set as a DTP program, ideal for making newsletters, cards, etc. But how exactly would it coexist with its function as a WP? If you have a long text document, and delete "page 3", what happens? Or move page 12 to before page 11? Does simply nothing happen? Should it not be allowed at all?



    IOW, for the most part Pages breeches the territory between WP and DTP nimbly, but this is one area that, to my mind, is left unresolved. I like Pages too. But as it stands now, it's a very decent (if not business-level) WP, and an interesting (but well sub-professional, and sub-prosumer) DTP.
  • Reply 10 of 22
    buonrottobuonrotto Posts: 6,368member
  • Reply 11 of 22
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Hobbes

    At first, it seemed nothing more than a gaping hole left in a 1.0 version, but on second thought I began to wonder. If Pages did have a navigation pane as Keynote does, and you could delete a page, it'd complete its feature set as a DTP program, ideal for making newsletters, cards, etc. But how exactly would it coexist with its function as a WP? If you have a long text document, and delete "page 3", what happens? Or move page 12 to before page 11? Does simply nothing happen? Should it not be allowed at all?



    My opinion? Inserting/moving/deleting pages shouldn't effect the content at all, *just* the layout. If you have a long piece of text as three columns, and decide to stick in the middle a page with one column and a large picture, then the content should flow through that one column and then continue in the multiple columns afterwards. At least, that's what I was expecting.



    The problem, as I see it, is that you have to essentially create CSS-ish templates, saying "primary content goes *here*, secondary content goes *there*, *that* is a stand-alone text box, don't flow anywhere else..." which is pretty darned difficult to get across to most users. They're so used to having content and layout mixed in Word that they're ruined for any useful abstractions. \ (Also, the necessity of playing with Word documents means that you have to follow their conceptual model at least a little bit, which sucks rocks.)



    Maybe in 2.0.
  • Reply 12 of 22
    hobbeshobbes Posts: 1,252member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Kickaha

    [B]My opinion? Inserting/moving/deleting pages shouldn't effect the content at all, *just* the layout. If you have a long piece of text as three columns, and decide to stick in the middle a page with one column and a large picture, then the content should flow through that one column and then continue in the multiple columns afterwards. At least, that's what I was expecting.



    The problem, as I see it, is that you have to essentially create CSS-ish templates, saying "primary content goes *here*, secondary content goes *there*, *that* is a stand-alone text box, don't flow anywhere else..." which is pretty darned difficult to get across to most users. They're so used to having content and layout mixed in Word that they're ruined for any useful abstractions. \ (Also, the necessity of playing with Word documents means that you have to follow their conceptual model at least a little bit, which sucks rocks.)/B]



    That's a good model; I like it. I believe Word allows for stand-alone text boxes, doesn't it? (As does Pages incidentally, along with crude but functional linking abilities -- you just have look for it.)



    I'd like to see Apple have a go at creating a super-user-friendly UI for inserting and managing content in Pages -- just typing vs. creating a text box, to boil it down -- and a more intuitive way of linking and unlinking. Right now they've buried those features -- not by accident, I bet. Maybe in 2.0.
  • Reply 13 of 22
    buonrottobuonrotto Posts: 6,368member
    Doesn't an abstracted CSS type approach also run in the face of WYSIWYG direct manipulation? There's the rub in my mind.
  • Reply 14 of 22
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    No, not really. You can plop a photo into the middle of a page of columns, and have them autowrap around it - that's layout. The actual text flowing around it is the content. The two *should* be kept distinct in my opinion.



    Think of it this way - you have this template, and each page layout has a 'primary path' of text boxes. If you insert that page between two other pages, then the text from the second page's primary path automatically goes into the primary path of the new page, then continues back in the second page's primary path. The photos, sidebars, etc in the new page are all separate content, and aren't touched by that primary path element. It really wouldn't require anything more than a tag for a text box on the page. If there are no primary path elements (a page of ads in a magazine layout for instance), then it wouldn't do anything with the text, it'd just bounce it to the next page.



    Now, you can insert, move, and delete the *layout* at a whim, just like slides in Keynote, but the *content* will remain flowing from one page to the 'next available' primary path. You could conceivably also have secondary paths, tertiary paths, etc, but the primary path would be the one with the most utility for most people I think.



    Pages is *almost* there. It just needs that last 5% to be an incredibly powerful DTP *and* word processing package.



    Edit: Hobbes, wait... there's text box linking already? Where??
  • Reply 15 of 22
    hobbeshobbes Posts: 1,252member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Kickaha

    Edit: Hobbes, wait... there's text box linking already? Where??



    It's there. My machine at work doesn't have Pages, but IIRC, under the Insert menu, you can insert a text box. Overflowing text boxes will have light blue handles. You then... click the blue handle and then click another empty text box to link to another box? Something like that. I had to look it up in the manual to figure it out, it wasn't super-intuitive.
  • Reply 16 of 22
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Yeah, I found it - it's strictly an at-creation thing, you can't relink existing text boxes to other boxes, the boxes have to be fixed in position on the page, etc, etc



    Pretty limited in UI and flexibility, *BUT* the core of something that could be exactly what I'd like to see for 2.0. That gives me hope.
  • Reply 17 of 22
    hobbeshobbes Posts: 1,252member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Kickaha

    Yeah, I found it - it's strictly an at-creation thing, you can't relink existing text boxes to other boxes, the boxes have to be fixed in position on the page, etc, etc



    Pretty limited in UI and flexibility, *BUT* the core of something that could be exactly what I'd like to see for 2.0. That gives me hope.




    Yep, it's quite crude. Didn't even notice that the boxes have to be fixed -- all the more basic.



    Some beefier, more intuitive text box + linking features would go nicely hand-in-hand with vastly improved page layout controls...
  • Reply 18 of 22
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Man, it really is like 95% of the way there, isn't it? *SO* close.
  • Reply 19 of 22
    hobbeshobbes Posts: 1,252member
    You know what they say about that last 5%.
  • Reply 20 of 22
    buonrottobuonrotto Posts: 6,368member
    <another shameless plug>

    Just buy Create and get on with it.

    </another shameless plug>



    OK, I stop now.
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