iWork '09 boxPages and Numbers, the core applications of iWork, are now at version 4 and deserve a new review. Is the Apple Office suite ready to compete with the top tier of the market? When Pages (Word replacement) and Numbers (for Excel) were added to Keynote (for PowerPoint) to form iWork, the comparisons were not favorable, although Keynote was superior to PowerPoint in many respects from the start.  Pages and Numbers were more like a modernized version of AppleWorks split in two, minus the drawing tools. The combo didn’t feel like a real Office contender.

You might not do away with MS Office yet, but there are many solid reasons to use Pages and Numbers. Both applications offer an excellent selection of templates. Numbers’ invoice template, for example, displays well the main advantage of the application over Excel: you can place and lay out tables in your Numbers document the way you like, while still keeping the power of calculation, sorting and other tricks that may or may not exist on Excel. Pages works like a simplified, yet powerful, layout program, loaded with complex and beautiful templates. The latest version even adds a cool Full Screen feature that obliterates all distractions while you write. iWork ’09 introduces live update of data copied from Numbers into Pages.

In most respects, iWork does everything Office does, and does it better. Still, documents that have complex formatting in Word will not come out unscathed from their conversion to Pages; Pages can open all versions of Word but only export to .doc and not .docx.; and of course Pages is not compatible with Wordfast nor with any other translation tool. So, hold on for dear life to your version of Word 2004 for the sake of docx and Wordfast, and if you don’t need Entourage, you may skip Office 2008 completely and upgrade to iWork ’09. YA

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