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First Look: Pages '09, word processor

updated 09:40 am EST, Fri January 9, 2009

First Look Pages 09

Pages has always been a decent word processor, but it's never been powerful enough to replace Microsoft Word. Apple has, fortunately, boosted Pages '09 with more features in order to make it a better word processor, and an easier desktop publishing program. It may still not match Word feature-for-feature, but that could be a good thing, as what it does offer may be what you really need.

Continuing an emphasis on improving word processing abilities, the latest version of Pages offers a new full-screen view. Rather than just expand a window, the full-screen view completely fills the screen with your document, and blocks out toolbars, program windows, the Dock and even pull-down menus. This lets you focus on writing without any visual distractions.

Another new feature is the outline mode, which lets you organize thoughts into headings and subheadings that you can drag around with the mouse. Even better is that if you're creating a large document, you can link text to these items. If you rearrange an outline, you thus rearrange the text as well.

If you need to share documents with others, the program includes a new Share menu, which links directly with the Mail program. Just choose Share --> Send via Mail, and you'll have a choice of sending your document as a Pages, Word, or PDF file within a Mail message. Since most people choose Word documents, you'll be happy to know that this latest version can open and save documents in Word's recent DOCX format. (If you have any ancient files saved in the AppleWorks format, you can open these, too.)

To help you design documents, the program includes over 180 templates, 40 more than found in Pages '08. One particularly handy feature is the way in which templates are displayed. In previous versions, a list of templates would appear as static images, showing only the first page of each. With Pages '09, you can point the mouse over a template and gently slide the mouse across to reveal different pages, without opening them up first.

To make editing different parts of a document easier, the Format bar automatically changes depending on the object you've selected. Click on text, and the text Format bar appears; click on a picture, and the picture Format bar appears. The same concept applies to tables and charts.

Most other changes to the program include minor improvements to existing features. The program's mail merge feature has been updated, for example, so you can now import data stored in a Numbers table as well as names and addresses kept in Address Book. The paragraph and character styles, meanwhile, appear on the left side of the document window instead of the right. Defining a new style is as easy as modifying the text, and clicking on a style name to save the new formatting.

Pages '09 is still a work in progress, despite being a part of the $79 iWork suite. It still can't beat Word in a head-to-head comparison of features, though with its simplified interface and streamlined commands, Pages '09 has become easier to learn and master. Its latest features make it trivial to create simple desktop publishing projects, particularly using its many templates. Anyone currently tied to Word may not want to switch, but those looking for a capable word processor with desktop publishing functions should be more than satisfied with Pages '09.

by MacNN Staff



  1. JuanGuapo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    About Word...

    Not that I have any great love for Microsoft or Apple, and while I do like what iWork offers it will not replace Office (at least on my desktop) anytime soon.

    Word '08, for instance, has more of what Pages doesn't have than the other way around. Something as simple as an Autosave function has been around since Word 6.0 on Windows--Pages still lacks this function.

    As a college student, I am constantly using MLA citations in essays and reports for various classes; Word includes a tool that makes it super-easy, Pages does not.

    Word has a built-in basic Equation editor, Pages has Grapher which is powerful but not integrated. Equation Editor in Office is very watered down compared to MathType but if you need to add a simple equation that looks decent then Office can't be beat.

    I guess I still see iWork as a desktop publishing tool rather than an Office competitor. Pages makes beautiful documents (esp. resumes) and Keynote trounces Powerpoint, but Word and Excel are still the bread/butter of most peoples' desktops.

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    better than you think

    I am a Pages user slowly weaning myself off Word and IMO this release is the one where one can successfully leave Word behind. Word is a bloated program, like most of the older software around today and while Pages cannot match it "feature for feature" it doesn't have to in order to be a better, more powerful program.

    One of the biggest things missing from Pages in terms of it being a Word replacement at my work was it's inability to do mail-merges, which (although not noted by the author here), is now included in Pages 09. Also, as a writer, another major problem that stopped me from moving to Pages entirely so far was the lack of any way of dealing with large documents and the associated table of contents, also now fixed in Pages 09.

    I could go on about a lot of other minor improvements all mostly targeted directly at Pages previously perceived weak points but I don't want to use up too much space. Overall, I would say this is a good basic review, but IMO, (and I am sure many many others), Pages already was a viable alternative for some Word documents. With the Pages 09 version, it has "pulled ahead" of Word for me, especially given the long history of buggy code and twisted features Word has. It may be missing the odd "advanced" Word feature here and there, but then it's missing all the cruft, bugs, and other problems Word gives you as well.

  1. starwarrior

    Joined: Dec 1969



    When to run an application requires more training than what to turn off rather than what to turn on it becomes useless to the creative or any other type person. Office pasted that point long ago.

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Bye Bye M$Word

    As a lawyer that spend most of my time writing legal documents, I always thought that M$ was adding to much things into word, like they was loosing focus and trying to make it become another thing instead of a good, efficient word processor. When pages came out, I jumped into it and now I cannot look back, since word was the last piece of M$ c*** that still on my computer. The only feature that I miss is a database of text/images that I use often, so I can insert then on my docs just by typing a few letters. For those people who cannot make the jump because of a few missing features, NeoOffice and now Sun's OpenOffice are a nice alternatives too.

  1. mjtomlin

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Word has been around for almost 25 years now. It had damn well be the "Gold" standard for word processing. Microsoft has bolted new feature after new feature onto the thing. Very little has changed after all that time, so people become accustomed to doing things a certain way. So of course it takes a company like Apple to come along and create a different way to accomplish something. Features don't mean c*** if they're cumbersome or hard to find or just flat out buggy and don't work correctly.

    To me, Pages feels like the offspring from two of my favorite programs (back in the day), WriteNow and PageMaker - back when things were simpler but still powerful. And that's what I see happening with Pages, a straight-forward, intuitive application that's also becoming more powerful without losing ease of use.

  1. JeffHarris

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Pages is Great

    The only problem I have with Pages '08 (and Numbers '08) is that it doesn't always open AppleWorks files with embedded graphics or the old AppleWorks mini spreadsheet objects... I guess they'd be called tables now. I have tons of old AW files with both and it can be pretty spotty opening them.

    I hope it's fixed with Pages '09.

    Formatting documents with Pages can be a bit cumbersome with the Inspector palette, but the results are excellent. And it's SO much easier than trying to deal with Microsoft's ever-changing "interpretation" of interface design.

    As for Office? Never needed it or wanted it.
    MacLinkPlus always did what I needed: Open and Save Office format files. iWork '08 does a great (and seamless) job opening and saving them. I'd assume that iWork '09 improves upon that.

    starwarrior: Huh? Translate, please.

  1. Dan Robinson

    Joined: Dec 1969


    TextEdit 90% Good Enough

    For 90% of what I need, even Pages is overkill. Text Edit pops up instantly and reads and writes Word Documents.

  1. Dan Robinson

    Joined: Dec 1969


    TextEdit Does 90%

    For 90% of what I need, even Pages is overkill. Text Edit pops up instantly and reads and writes Word Documents.

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I love when people say - oh, it can't replace Word because it doesn't have the 'suck my d***' feature. I'm sorry, but 90% of people who need a "word processor" just need to type letters, simple documents and the like. So just shut up about "oh, I need this feature" -- and use the software you need. It's like saying, "Oh, I don't like your car, because I need to have a backhoe on my vehicle." Well, then don't use a car.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: features

    90% of the people could use TextEdit or (for Windows) WordPad to do what they want. All free and built-in.

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