Only days after Microsoft announced that the new version of Microsoft Office won’t be available until next year, Apple rolled out iLife '08. Fully compatible with the Intel Macs and now featuring a spreadsheet application called Numbers, iLife now makes a tempting alternative to Office for small business users and professionals. For one thing, it’s a lot cheaper, coming in at a mere $79 compared with the $400 price tag for Microsoft Office.
Still, switching from one office suite to another is something of a leap of faith. You have to unlearn existing ways of doing things and learn new ways of doing them. If writing is critical to your business or profession, switching costs time and money. Understanding Pages and its limitations is crucial to deciding whether to stick with Office or make the jump to iLife.
Another issue with switching from Word to Pages is the loss of a certain degree of compatibility with any Word-using colleagues and collaborators. Pages isn’t designed to be a Word document editor. Apple doesn’t intend for Pages to go head-to-head with Word, but rather to cater to that segment of the market for which Word is too expensive or too complicated. Word shines as a tool for collaborative writing within organizations, but for the person who largely works alone and just needs word processing to handle things like writing letters, printing envelopes, and drafting newsletters, Pages makes a compelling alternative.
It’s for those users that I’ve written this article. I’ll show what you can expect when switching from Word 2004 to Pages 3.0, what traps to look out for, and what tricks you can use to improve your productivity.
Figure 1 Compared with the infinitely configurable Word interface, Pages has a similar but simpler toolbar attached to each document, onto which a selection of buttons can be added as required. However, no options are available for creating toolbar buttons or keyboard shortcuts for commands that don’t already have them.