iWork -- But Not Too Hard


Not so beautiful, if you have much heavy lifting to do.

In my glowing review of OS X Mavericks, I missed one tiny little detail about the upgraded iWorks suite.

In some ways it’s actually a downgrade, and a pretty serious one for power users.

Apple promised you would have full productivity across all iWorks platforms — desktop apps, mobile apps, or web browser. When they said that, I assumed they had found some clever way to include things like scripts, right there in the browser, or on your iPhone.

But no.

They achieved full compatibility by removing things like scripts, even from the desktop apps. Read:

Dear oh dear. They really have done it, haven’t they? They have taken what had evolved into a rather decent word processor / page layout application and have eliminated so many useful features that it effectively is now a piece of useless junk, and I honestly have no idea for whom this latest version of Pages is intended.

To take just one example, it appears to be no longer possible to assign shortcuts to paragraph and character styles in Pages 5. The ability to assign shortcuts to styles was woefully limited in previous versions of Pages, but at least there was one. Now, there is nothing. If you want to use styles, it’s clicks, clicks, and more clicks with the mouse. Each and every time.

To make matters worse, they appear to have completely broken AppleScript support in Pages 5, which means that my solution for customizing Pages with a combination of AppleScript scripts and Keyboard Maestro has also become useless.

Hat tip to Nigel Warren, who thinks he sees what lies ahead:

The fact that iWork on the Mac has lost functionality isn’t because Apple is blind to power users. It’s because they’re willing to make a short-term sacrifice in functionality so that they can create a foundation that is equal across the Mac, iOS, and web versions. It will take time to bring these new versions of iWork up to parity with what the Mac used to have. In the meantime all platforms have to live with the lowest common denominator.

That’s still a real slap in the face to power users, and I’m thankful I’m not one of them. My word processing needs are simple, and my spreadsheet needs aren’t much greater — so I never noticed that Pages and Numbers had been hobbled. Although I should add that Keynote is still hands-down the best presentation software for any platform.

So what’s a power user to do? It must be said that there probably aren’t all that many power users of iWorks. Apple’s move isn’t like Microsoft amputating big chunks out of Outlook or Excel; this is more like taking the back seat out of your four-cylander Toyota Camry — you weren’t doing that much with it to begin with.

The question isn’t if power users will abandon iWork; they will. The question is if they will ever come back once Apple restores the lost functionality, even though the apps are all free.