It’s no secret that I love Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac, specifically Entourage, which I consider one of the best Mac applications ever. What about PowerPoint, Word, and Excel? Yes, they’re highly capable, complex, and very compatible applications. If you don’t have a need for Windows Office compatibility, there are alternatives. Apple makes one of the best.
‘i’Work, Therefore I Am
iWork ‘08 is a compelling suite of software for Mac users who don’t require the compatibility and complexity of Office, yet need similar functions.
To be fair, it’s not a fair comparison to put iWork’s Pages against Microsoft Word, or to pit Numbers against Excel. There’s more of an argument that can be made that Apple’s Keynote is what PowerPoint would like to be.
I use Office because it’s compatible with the rest of the known Windows PC world. I use Entourage for my email because it’s a remarkably powerful tool for managing mail, tasks, projects, something not easily done with Leopard’s Mail application.
Not to be overlooked is the value in Keynote, Pages, and Numbers, though I use the former far more than the latter two.
For the past week I’ve forced myself to use only iWork, and not Office 2008 for Mac, and I came away with mixed feelings. Keynote is a very good, often better substitute for PowerPoint.
Not so for Pages and Numbers, though both work quite well in their own world, not so much when required to mix and match files with the Windows Office crowd.
Excel is the defacto number crunching standard for businesses. Apple’s Numbers is a very attractive, though not very competitive, well, competitor.
Yes, as spreadsheets go, Numbers works well, is intuitive, easy to learn, has plenty of bells and whistles, and even sports slick looking graphics. To keep compatibility with Excel, I found I had to make simple worksheets in Numbers, and could not get too fancy with the layouts.
Excel is a monster with a hefty learning curve and about 666 more functions than the average user requires, and that’s the point of Numbers. It has what most of us need, including a measure of compatibility with Excel.
There’s no shortage of word processors for the Mac, though Word continues to be the 900-pound gorilla. No word processor has more features or a steeper learning curve. That’s the point of Pages.
Apple makes Pages for Mac users who obviously don’t need Microsoft Word, but need a very intuitive word processor that is broad in features (as opposed to broad and deep), yet can read and write many Word documents.
In my week of using iWork instead of Office 2008 for Mac, I found fewer issues of compatibility with Pages than I did with Excel. Word will read Pages documents, but mess up the formatting more often than Pages will mess up word formatting.
Still, Pages has a sophomoric attitude not found in Word. Word smells like business, tastes like complexity, and has the look of hard-nosed learning requirement. No so, Pages. It’s easy to set up a complicated document, easy to make changes and additions, including drag and drop.
Microsoft could learn a thing or two about drag and drop, as well as ease-of-use, but probably doesn’t care.
This is the gem in iWork ‘08. I plan to do an extensive ‘How To’ with each of the iWork components, but I’ll save the best for last.
There is little in PowerPoint that Keynote doesn’t do easier, faster, smoother, and with more confidence, so it requires a whole review to cover.
One thing that is curious is Apple’s iWork ‘08 pricing. It’s not that $79 is too expensive. It’s not. It’s attractive and a good value, considering how well the iWork suite works with OS X, iLife, and each component in the package.
Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac can be had for as low as $150, which, by itself is a good value, especially if compatibility is on your list of criteria. An extra $70 isn’t too much to ask, and buyers get Entourage, too.