Armen Chakmakjian

iWork ’09 and iWork.com (beta) Review

In technology, web 2.0 on January 20, 2009 at 4:52 am

So I’ve been playing with a trial of iWork ’09 and iWork.com. If you don’t know, iWork is apple’s replacement for it’s old Appleworks suite and is a would-be competition with Office. Because every Mac comes with a calendar and an email program, the Outlook or Entourage part of Office is sort of built in. So by buying iWork, you get Pages (Word), Number (Excel) and Keynote (WAY WAY WAY better than powerpoint).

Anyway I’ve wrote my book using Pages and as I said in a previous post, they have really cleaned it up. It no longer is just a version of Publisher, but is a true word processing tool. I love it and in some weird way evokes feelings of the old old framemaker (not sure why) that we used to write documentation back in the 90’s. It does the page layout of documentation generation way better than Word. And supposedly this version allows you to do the one Word feature that is a killer app, mail merge. Truly, at home, mail merge is a killer app because at Christmas, addressing 80 envelopes is a snap. Yes I know, with all the free services on the web, why am I sending cards? Because of tradition.

Numbers is a good spreadsheet, but the previous version was so feature/formula limited, I couldn’t really use it. I really would go to GoogleDocs or more likely Excel (if heavy math was required) to get the job done. In fact, I was taking a stats class this past semester and using Numbers to list my definitions of all the terminology and examples, but I could not use it to do the homework because it did not have basic statistical functions like binomdist and tinv. Well that limitation has been solved. They seemed to have tripled the number of formulas under the statistical tab. Now they don’t have the data analysis pack yet, which allowed you do do things like get all stats at once from a list of data, but I’m sure they’ll get there in Numbers ’10.

Keynote is Keynote. It so blows away powerpoint, I can start to tell you. Powerpoint is so lame and I have both Key and PPT on my mac right now (PPT07 is on my windows VM) I don’t want to elaborate. Suffice it to say that whenever I’ve needed to do a presentation outside of work (teaching my sunday school class or going in to do a “what’s it like to a be a manager at a sw company” at my son’s middle school) I use Keynote.

Strangely, Apple has yet to come up with something that is a mini Filemaker/Access for the iWork suite. I’d suggest, of course since I have a stake in it, that if you are going to need an online database that has full sharing and security capability, please use QuickBase. It’s awesome, I use it every day, and even if I had Bento or something, I still would probably have a hard time doing all I can do with QuickBase. But back to iWork (sorry for the egregious self promotion 🙂

So moving to iWork ’09 as some advantages (not the least of which is the price). But nothing is pulling me there. I really will continue to do homework in Excel for my Finance and Accounting classes because that is what they want. Pages is a fine editor, but the new version doesn’t seem to have any compelling reason for me to move.

What will make me move to iWork ’09? Well, depending on the cost of iWork.com when it moves out of beta, that will be the key. I’ve been playing with it for two days now. Not extensively, but enough to get a feel. As a collaborative tool for reviewing docs it is wonderful. I think it is a MUCH BETTER presentaiton that Groove, Sharepoint or GoogleDocs. Annotating shared information live works between mac and pc because it is all web based. Downloading works great in all formats. The killer app though is missing. Simply put, shared docs and annotation are cool, but until iWork allows you to edit a numbers spreadsheet collaboratively like GoogleDocs, it isn’t ready for prime time.

Now that sounds tough but the current features are actually pretty cool.

a shared keynote file

a shared keynote file

The picture above is a slide from a project we did in my Sunday School class a few years ago in Keynote.  As you can see, it shows you who posted the doc at the top right, has a notes cell on the side for general commenting.  There’s an add comment button so that you can attach a comment to any sentence, element or point you have selected on the screen in Pages or Keynote.  In numbers, you can attach comments to cells.  This is all real time.  I kept running from my desk to my wife’s office and making comments in the docs and they were there on the other machine’s browser immediately.  (btw, for those of you who want trivia, the slide above shows St. Bartholomew, one of the 12 Apostles and 1 of 2 that preached in Armenia…and got killed doing so, but we won’t go there)

For education document sharing, this is awesome.  I can see using this to put keynote presentation for my sunday school class. For example, I can post a presentatation, share it with the students during the week, and ask them to leave notes and add comments to particular elements like questions “what are you driving at here” for example. I think in that respect I can see how cool this could be. This could open a whole set of possibilities for educational purposes. Another area where this could be really cool? Well, if I were to share a doc that I wanted people to proofread and give me comments. I think it would be excellent for that.

Like I said sharing is one thing, but live collaboration is another. What I’m hoping is that by the time this transitions from Beta to live, that we see at least Numbers shared editing. Also the fact that you can’t actually change the doc/spreadsheet that is online (yet) means that you don’t have true sync functionality working. I can’t have someone add information (forget collaboratively, just shared for editting). They can download, but they can’t upload after edits.

So there you have it. Really cool, excellent presentation, ready for some time, maybe not prime time just yet though MS and Google should take note. This thing just WORKED “out of the box” as we used to say. I hear that microsoft is coming out with something to challenge this beyond Groove inside of Sharepoint. Knowing MS it will be full of functionality and capability and no one will be able to configure it right unless you do the most simple task. Just from my experience. My suggestion is that if you have a mac, go try the iWork ’09 trial just to play with iWork.com for 30 days. It works and it’ll be fun.

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  1. You mention in your review of iWork that “Strangely, Apple has yet to come up with something that is a mini Filemaker/Access for the iWork suite..” Are you aware of Bento 2 from FileMaker (we’re an Apple co.). It’s the perfect database compliment for iWork. More info is at http://www.filemaker.com/products/bento/overview.html?nav=products-bento

    Kevin Mallon

  2. I did mention Bento and some people I know swear by it. I was only making a shameless plug for my product QuickBase, which is an online database product from Intuit.

    The question though is why Bento is not bundled as a part of the iWork suite (as access is bundled with office).

    Bento though is a desktop app. I suppose to get the same effect as having an online database you can move to Filemaker Server.

  3. […] iWork ’09 and iWork.com (beta) Review January 2009 2 comments 5 […]

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