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The Mac Guy: iWork '08 offers sweet office suite

2007.10.11. 16:44 AdSafari

Web Posted: 10/06/2007 09:00 AM CDT
San Antonio Express-News Apple announced the latest version of their office suite, iWork '08, in August. This package now consists of three applications useful in a general business environment: Pages, Keynote and Numbers. I have installed iWork '08, and here is the rundown of the new features.

This is the third version of iWork, originally released in 2005, and the suite has matured nicely, becoming an alternative to the likes of Microsoft Office or NeoOffice. Benefiting from Apple's tireless design and integration efforts, iWork '08 gives users an easy, intuitive interface, beautiful templates and tight integration with Mac OS X and iLife.

The biggest feature in Pages '08 is the incorporation of a separate word-processing mode distinct from the standard page layout mode. This allows users to concentrate on their text without focusing on layout. Another great new feature is the contextually sensitive formatting bar; you get different formatting options if you have text selected than you do if you have an image or table selected.

Pages '08 automatically can track changes by you or others working on a document. These are highlighted in the text and are represented as color-coded bubbles in the Comments pane. List formatting happens automatically in Pages. If you type a bullet or number at the beginning of a line, Pages will continue the formatting on the subsequent lines.

There are new image editing tools in Pages. You easily can mask a photo to make the edges look torn or taped onto the page; you even can use the new Instant Alpha tool to remove the background of a photo.

Like all automatic masking tools, there are some limitations; some photos will work better than others. And, of course, there are more Apple-designed templates for common documents such as newsletters, brochures, fliers and business cards. There are also new stationery sets that have complementary designs for letterhead, business cards, envelopes, invoices and fax cover sheets.

Pages is turning into a very capable word-processing program, a quite viable alternative to Microsoft Word. You needn't sacrifice compatibility; Pages can read Word 2007 documents and export in Word format as well.

Keynote '08 is the fourth version of Apple's presentation package, and Apple keeps making it better. You will find a lot more animation features this time around. Keynote '08 has a series of new animation and transition effects that will dazzle your audience.

Build effects include "Comet," where a glowing ball flies across the page revealing your text, and "Flame," where your points burn onto the screen. These effects are stunning. Keynote also has new Smart Builds that let you drag-and-drop images into zones to achieve some very sophisticated effects.

Keynote now supports recording a voiceover directly within the program. When you have your presentation complete, with one click you can you can send it to iDVD to burn a disc, to iTunes as a PDF or QuickTime movie for inclusion in a podcast or to present from your iPod, or export it to YouTube (www.youtube.com). If you don't have a YouTube account, Apple will walk you through the steps.

As you would expect, there are new themes for Keynote as well, 36 in all. You no longer are limited to just one theme for your presentation. You can mix-and-match as desired. Keynote '08 also sports compatibility with Microsoft PowerPoint and the new PowerPoint 2007 format.

The newest component in iWork '08 is the much-anticipated spreadsheet application, Numbers '08. Numbers is an easy program to use if you have used any other spreadsheet program. It is designed intelligently from the ground up. If you ever have had one of those experiences fumbling around trying to navigate workbooks and worksheets in a program like Microsoft Excel, Numbers '08 will seem brilliantly elegant.

The program lets you have multiple tables on one page, and they do not have to be on the same grid. Apple calls them Intelligent Tables, and it's hard to argue. When you drag across multiple cells to select a range of data, Numbers shows you a summary of that data. You then can drag the summary buttons into cells to make calculations easily.

You can turn a row or column into a header with one click. Then when you add a formula to a cell, it uses the header text to describe your data instead of cryptic numbers and letters. Numbers supports more than 150 calculations and logical operations, and they can be linked between tables on the same or different pages.

It is also easy to change the formatting of your table. Each table displays handles when is selected that allow you to fluidly drag the table out to add more rows, columns or both. Adding pop-up menus, sliders and steppers to change the data of a cell is a one-click process.

The interactive Print View lets you see how your spreadsheet is going to print, which parts may be off the page, and then fix them by moving and resizing elements with the aid of alignment guides.

Like the Pages and Keynote, Numbers has the new image editing and masking tools as well as some attractive template styles for your data.

Apple's iWork '08 is available now and costs $79. You will need a Mac with at least a 500MHz Power PC G4 or Intel processor, 512MB RAM, Mac OS X Tiger 10.4.10 or higher, QuickTime 7.2 and a DVD drive. This suite is a worthy upgrade for previous users and for those tired of waiting for a new version of Microsoft Office.

User Group Note: The MacApple Users of San Antonio will be meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Colonies House — 3511 Colony Drive. We'll be discussing iWork '08 and the iPhone. Check the group's Web site for details (www.macappleusers.org). Hope to see you there.

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