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First Look: beta, online file sharing

updated 09:45 am EST, Mon January 19, 2009

First Look

The iWork suite may be good, but it's not the most popular office suite for the Mac; many Mac users are forced to use Microsoft Office to maintain file compatibility with Windows counterparts. To improve iWork's file sharing capabilities, Apple is now beta-testing an online sharing site dubbed

The main idea behind the site is to allow users of Pages, Numbers, or Keynote to post their documents online. As a result, anyone with a browser -- including Windows and Linux users -- can view files, leave comments, and download items as well. Posting a file first requires an Apple account, which you probably already have if you've ever downloaded music from the iTunes Store, or set up a MobileMe account. If not, creating an account is free.

There are two ways to post a file: clicking on the icon in a toolbar, or choosing the Share via command. After entering your Apple address and password, a dialog box pops up so you can send an e-mail message (using Mail) to inform others that your document is available for viewing.

Within the dialog you can also define whether others will have permission to add comments or download a file. If you allow downloading, you can specify one of several file formats: iWork '08 and '09, Microsoft Office (e.g. Word or Excel) or PDF.

To view a document, other users must receive a browser link via e-mail. No one can edit a document online, so you don't have to worry about total strangers messing things up; a password or other security measure would be nice, however, to ensure that a link can only be opened by the person originally authorized for it.

This inability to edit online is a critical difference between and Google Docs. To modify one of the former's documents, someone must download and resubmit. If multiple people grab and edit a file, you'll wind up with several different versions. By not allowing modifications, iWork forces users to leave comments so a single person can decide direction.

In testing, viewing documents through Internet Explorer in Windows Vista displayed an error message, warning that only supports Firefox and Safari on the Windows platform. Documents loaded anyway though, so the warning is irrelevant. It's likely that Apple will include official support for Internet Explorer in the final version of the service.

The ability to download in Office or PDF formats ensures that people without iWork can collaborate. As with any file conversion, there will likely be minor incompatibility problems. Any features found in iWork that are unavailable in Office for example, such as Keynote's visual effects, won't appear in a converted file.

During its beta-testing phase, is free to use. The service is fine on that basis, but when Apple announces the cost of the final version, it may be debatable as to whether it's worth paying for filesharing instead of true online collaboration. If you want a simple service that allows others to view and receive documents or provide feedback, you might find intriguing.

by MacNN Staff



  1. imactheknife

    Joined: Dec 1969



    It's a shame that Apple has to allow IE POS to work when it's fairly obvious that MS does what it can to make safari non functional on many of it's webpages....arshole MS

  1. simdude

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I think the cost will be a key here. It would have been nice if they added this capability to MobileMe. I think Apple would benefit from some bundle pricing too (like the current iLife/Leopard). Right now, if I want to keep up today, I will need ( I use the family packs):

    1. MobileMe subscription ($149 for the family)
    2. iLife update ($99 family pack)
    3. iWork update ($99 family pack)
    4. (????)
    5. Snow Leopard when it comes out ($199 family)

    that's a pretty heafty $550 in software to keep up to date. Granted, the OS is not updated every 12 months and you can save a little with Amazon on the others, but now adding is just too much.

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Wait. WHAT?

    Wait. Apple is going to charge EXTRA for this thing??? It should be included FREE to anyone who buys iWork 09. Why would anyone in their right mind pay for something you can only post comments on? Google Docs is way better.

    Doesn't Apple have ENOUGH money already???? They are always looking to milk consumers.

    I, for one, will NOT be 'buying' this c***. I suggest you do the same.

  1. 64stang06

    Joined: Dec 1969



    You can cut some cost out of there by buying the iLife/iWork/Mac OS X bundle (Mac pack). It's possible Apple will do the same with Snow Leopard, making it $229 for all 3 products (Family Pack pricing), the same as it is now for the same package with Leopard.

  1. 64stang06

    Joined: Dec 1969



    You can cut some cost out of there by buying the iLife/iWork/Mac OS X bundle. It's possible Apple will do the same with Snow Leopard, making it $179 for all 3 products (Family Pack pricing), the same as it is now for the same package with Leopard.

  1. dwoodruff

    Joined: Dec 1969


    non editing online....

    Just my opinion:

    But, I don't want people editing my documents when they are sent for proofing. The ability to make comments and suggest changes is perfect.

    Allowing for changes is the worst example of editing; Editing by committee.

  1. niji

    Joined: Dec 1969


    its all about FTP

    we have tested the service.
    here is why our company will look forward to this service coming out of beta:
    we need a way to get very large files to our customers.
    these files are usually over 100MB.
    we have tried using our own FTP servers and our customers FTP servers. but individual users need to deal with their IT departments usually to use these.
    with the intended user gets the email link and can download large files at just a press of the button.
    sharing very large files is no more a problem.
    the other way we will use this is when we want to share info but not allow it to be downloadable, just viewable.
    its really perfect for small businesses that need to share info with their customers.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: its all about FTP

    Um, did it ever occur to you to post your files on a web server, and send them an http link to your files? Its certainly a whole lot easier than FTP, and tends to work better as well.

    As for sharing info with customers, again, never heard of a web site?

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: @simdude

    I wouldn't expect the iWork/iLife/Leopard bundle to update to Snow Leopard. There's no reason for Apple to do this. Leopard is fine, since its been out for well over a year, so its a way to basically say "Hey, for those of you neer-do-wells who haven't upgraded, we'll do a deal for you".

    I mean, they're basically giving leopard away with iWork and iLife.

    Plus, you know they'd piss a vocal minority off by basically forcing those who want iLife 09 to have to spend another $130 for Leopard.

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