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iWork: Apple's Alternative to Microsoft Office?

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Want an alternative to Microsoft Office? Apple thinks that it has the contender. Matthew David gives you a first-hand look at Apple's new iWork software: a presentation tool (Keynote 2) and a document design application (Pages). Does iWork cut the mustard, or is it just an imitation? Check it out.
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2005 is looking to be a banner year for Apple. The iPod is selling in the millions; iTunes is set to break the one-billionth downloaded song by the fall; and Macs are selling like they have never sold before. Yes, sir, things are looking good. What is coming to be called the "halo effect" of people buying Macs because they purchased an iPod is encouraging stronger innovation and sales in software. But one of the reasons why people buy a computer is to help organize their digital life. Part of that life is work, and Apple thinks it has another winner with a new productivity package called iWork.

What Is iWork, Anyway?

Office suits and products are not new to Apple. Over the years they have dabbled with a number of products, but each time Apple was not able to deliver products that customers wanted. Microsoft and other companies, such as Lotus, were able to displace Apple's own software. Has that changed with iWork?

Two products, Pages and Keynote 2, form the new productivity suit from Apple dubbed iWork, which is designed for office workers who want to give their paper work a little more flair. Pages is a word processing package, and Keynote 2 is a presentation software package.

It is almost impossible to review these two products without having to cast an eye at the competition. In this case, here are the three products that compete heavily in the office productivity space:

  • Microsoft Office
  • Open Source project Open Office
  • Corel WordPerfect

Apple has tried to not "overbloat" Pages and Keynote with hundreds of features that are seldom if ever used. (When did you last construct a form and connect it to a database in Word?) The focus is on keeping the products lean and mean. Get in, get what you need done, get out, and make it look cooler than all heck.

What Apple has done is to focus on what it is good at: cool. Both Keynote and Pages come with tools that claim that even the visually impaired can make cool, beautiful, and stunning presentations and documents. Keynote uses themes, and Pages uses templates. But, is cool enough to buy this product?

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