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  1. Early Report on iWork '08

    brian on 2007.08.11
    at 03:25 am

    I ordered the office a round of copies for iWork ’08, due to arrive from Amazon early next week, but I couldn’t resist downloading the 30-day free trial copy anyhow, just to play with it for a while. (It has no restrictions on usage during the period. Only downside: nearly 500MB download)

    Initial reactions:

    Keynote

    • new transitions are nice, but some of them are a little too fancy for things I would create. New templates, two are really nice: Blueprint and Industrial. So far as I can tell, the new Keynote does not remove any of the previous effect, transitions nor templates.
    • The big thing I was excited about was animation or motion paths. I tested these out today and it only took a couple of minutes to get comfortable with how they worked. They operate in a very similar style to the existing build sequences, and in fact, inhabit the same pane of the Inspector pallet. Thumbs up.
    • The untested new feature with big potential: recording audio for self-running presentations. Look forward to trying this out. Screencasts come to mind.
    • Under the radar feature: Flash export. This has been around since Keynote 1 I believe. I tried it in Keynote 2, but the file didn’t work in the context I need them to. In my case that was to be used in the Adobe Acrobat Connect online web conference environment. Good news: I uploaded a test this morning to Connect, and it ran quick and flawlessly. I still have to test other features of Keynote within the Flash export, like hyperlinking and interactivity, but the animations and slide transitions, as well as looping, all worked as would be expected, which thrilled me. Look for a little Flash in the next UIE Virtual Seminar. Keynote as a Flash development environment? Tasty.
    • Run the tour when you launch iWork for the first time. It’s a self-running Keynote file, and it shows you a good example of Keynotes abilities.

    Pages

    People have been down on Pages. I warmed up to it in version 2, but it always felt a little bit off, unlike Keynote, which was hot from the start. When I finally figured out how it flowed objects, I was able to use it for basic page layout. Another (not closely guarded) secret was that Pages was just Keynote for paper, with some very-basic Word Processor bits hitched on for the ride. So when doing layout, if you just pretended you were in Keynote, you could get along pretty quickly.

    • Word Processing, I’m happy to inform you, now feels intentional instead of tacked on. Pages is now comfortable in its own skin. The context sensitive bar across the top changes based on what it thinks you’re likely to do next, based on what you’re doing now (text styles while typing, pull in a photo and it switches gears). It looks great, in its pro grey finish. Looks almost exactly how I’d want an Apple word processor to look.
    • Track changes – an unsung hero of this upgrade: Word-compatible change tracking. I had a chance to test this tonight, and it worked flawlessly. I’m also happy to report this removes the last barrier cajoling me to use Word for my own work. It will now be relegated to the task of testing documents that come through me for redistribution to others, where I need to ensure 100% compatibility.
    • Styles feel a lot stronger. I look forward to seeing if I can build and save style sheets for various purposes.
    • Layout: now lives in a separate mode. I have not had a chance to test his out yet. The change makes sense to me.
    • I really look forward to testing out the “instant alpha” masking which allows you to knock out the background of a picture, if it can figure out and remove it (it has to be someone contiguous, like a blue sky).

    In summary, I will now be using Pages as my grad school word processor, and I am happy about that. I had been planning to use Google Docs, but was hesitant. Not because it isn’t a killer web app, but because it’s all online. If I was somewhere without WiFi, no working on my papers unless I had downloaded a copy on last log out. Now I’ll just upload an exported Pages > Word doc when I need to share or collaborate.

    Numbers

    I saved the new app on the block for last. Because I haven’t used it yet. I hardly ever use a spreadsheet, and I’m proud of that. Most things I need that could end up in a spreadsheet, for me end up in Omni Outliner, one of my favorite apps. It can do about 70% of what I would ever need a spreadsheet to do, including basic math and sorting based on criteria. And I think it does those things in a far more intuitive way than Excel, which really belongs with scientists tracking data and bookkeepers. Needless to say, I don’t need a spreadsheet for much heavy lift, just organizing, and that’s what Omni Outliner excels at.

    However, next time I need anything remotely number driven, I’m going to launch Numbers. In fact, I think I’ll actually seek something out. Looks like it could really set spreadsheets on their ear for more users (who aren’t mentioned in the above two groups, who can probably justify the price of Excel). My last view spreadsheets were made on Google Spreadsheets, for what its worth. It did an excellent job. However, aside from the awesome collaboration and sharing abilities Google’s ‘Sheets offers, I can see from the demos how my spreadsheets would have been better served in the Numbers environment.

    Don’t miss the iWork ’08 tutorials on Apple’s site. They’ll give you a good taste of what’s in the package.

    Posted in: Apple · Software

     

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