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First look: Pages for iCloud
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Jul 3, 2013, 07:40 AM
Apple has made no secret about the pivotal role that iCloud has to play in its devices strategy. It offers a range of services, many of which are designed to work seamlessly in the background helping to keep user data backed up and synced in the cloud and across multiple devices. Additionally, it includes web app versions of Mail, Contacts, Notes, Calendar, Reminders, Find My iPhone and storage for Pages, Keynote and Numbers documents. Due this fall, Apple is set to update iCloud to include full web app versions of its iWork app suite including Pages, Keynote and Numbers. In the first of a short series looking the new beta versions of these applications, we take first look at Pages for iCloud beta.

If you think that Pages is just another web-based document editor like Google Docs (Drive) or Office 365, think again. Pages for iCloud is a fully-fledged web application that looks and functions just like a native desktop application. The layout and design of the app is slightly different to the look and feel of the iOS and Mac versions, although it is possible that both of those might evolve to look more like what Apple has planned for the web version. While the subscription-based Office 365 has a more 'professional' or 'polished' look and feel than the free Google Docs service (which is expected given that MS charges for it), Pages for iCloud makes both competing services look more like glorified text editors than full blown app.

A number of developers who have had early access to the new iCloud web based apps have had nothing but high praise for the new interfaces and the way that they work. While the Pages UI clearly has been designed with the goal of creating a native desktop application experience, it would mean little if it did not also function that way in all regards. Most importantly, and as Apple demonstrated during its brief demo of the new iCloud web apps at WWDC 13 a few weeks ago, users can seamlessly drag and drop pictures and other elements into Pages for iCloud in exactly the same way as they would for a native desktop application. To the same thing in Google Docs or Office 365 is much more clunky, requiring users to select 'Insert' and then search for picture or element. It might not seem like a big deal, but Pages has gone a long way towards elevating the status of the web app from 'poor cousin' to a desktop app, to its equivalent.

It's not as flashy as the iOS 7 update, or one of Apple's shiny new gadgets, but it is no less significant in terms of its impact on the way we are going to be doing things in the future. One of the other great benefits of web apps is the way that everything you commit to word is instantly saved in the cloud. It is also there whenever you want to access it from any one of your devices. Of course, any changes you make to that document can then be picked up on another device and continued with just as you would on your desktop with a desktop-like UI and functionality takes things a whole new level. If Google Docs and Office 365 are web 2.0, Pages for iCloud is putting forward a case for what a web 3.0 app could be like.

Added to this full-featured document formatting and editing. From your browser you have full control of editing documents in multiple columns as well as use headers and footers. Other formatting tools already included in the beta version of Pages for iCloud include changing paragraph styles, changing fonts, adjusting the color and size of text just as you would on a desktop app. Graphics tools allow you to manipulated images, add masks, resize them and add desktop-class effects including shadows and reflections. Rounding out the packages is instant access to a range of professional templates, but all based in the cloud and quickly accessible via a gallery.

Apple is still adding a range of feature enhancements to Pages for iCloud, which will debut when it goes live to the public in the fall. The most notable function that is missing at this time is the ability for multiple users to simultaneously collaborate on the same document. However, Apple is off to a great start. As far as web applications go, Pages for iCloud might be the first web-based word processor that might actually tempt all those users still clinging to their native desktop to actually opt for the web-based app first. It is the most fully realized vision for a web app that we have seen yet.

Tomorrow we will take a first look at Keynote for iCloud.

By Sanjiv Sathiah
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Jul 3, 2013, 09:04 AM
Do we all really want our work sitting on and dependent upon Apple's servers and web access ?
Appleworks & iWeb are recent examples of proprietary (if excellent) options where dependence faces real limits moving forward...
( Last edited by bobolicious; Jul 3, 2013 at 09:27 AM. )
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Jul 3, 2013, 10:39 AM
The thing I'm interested in is not mentioned here which is ... does Pages for iCloud have the full feature set of Pages for desktop?

One of the most frustrating aspects of using Pages for iOS for me is the fact that after all this time is still doesn't have feature parity with the original desktop version. For instance Pages for iOS does not allow ligatures to be used, and does not allow for hyphenation either. These are two things that most every writer uses for almost every document, but they still aren't there.

So is this, like Pages for iOS, just another incomplete "page-holder" app that will be finished sometime in the future? Or is it a real useable app?

More importantly, even if both this and the iOS app *gain* feature compatibility, when (the f*ck) is Apple going to actually give us an update to the original that adds in some functionality? For example, Pages is a template based app that gives you virtually no control over templates. It uses style's extensively, but denies you the ability to control your styles in any significant way. It also has some terrible choices in terms of UI that have never been re-thought, and cannot be changed, like the mysterious blue sidebar that appears on the left of all documents that use smaller than A4 type paper, that cannot be removed or moved out of one's way.

If Pages is really supposed to be Apple's alternative to Word, when are they actually going to get serious about making it a decent word processor? Currently they are the only word processor you can get for iOS, but if iOS is successful, that won't always be the case, will it? Do we really have to wait for a competitor just to get a decent basic product?
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Jul 3, 2013, 11:30 AM
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post
...If Pages is really supposed to be Apple's alternative to Word, when are they actually going to get serious about making it a decent word processor? Currently they are the only word processor you can get for iOS, but if iOS is successful, that won't always be the case, will it? Do we really have to wait for a competitor just to get a decent basic product?
Not sure what you're implying here but if you truly mean there are no word processors for iOS other than Pages, you'd be wrong. Try QuickOffice, Documents To Go, iA Writer, and dozens of other doc writers of various degrees, many which sync across devices and save in Word format.
( Last edited by pairof9s; Jul 3, 2013 at 02:38 PM. )
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Jul 3, 2013, 12:04 PM
Exactly how "web-based" will the app be? Will the app continue to function locally on a device even when internet connection is broken?
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Jul 3, 2013, 06:32 PM
No, that is why it is a web app. It needs connection to the internet.

It is so funny to hear all the complaints as the industry has already passed folks in making free apps available. Next we will hear how folks like their $600 desktop apps instead of free web apps. If you don't like the web apps, pay for the full blown apps. If you don't like a particular app, use another one.
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Jul 3, 2013, 07:05 PM
My feeling on this -- it's just a guess -- is that when this comes out of testing, the software-based iWork suite will be updated to match the changes/features/improvements. So good news for everyone who likes iWork, I think (Apple will *not* be making the mistake MS and Adobe are making, I believe).

To address Gazoobee's points:

1. Putting aside for the moment that ligatures are not needed in *word processing* and only become important in *layout/DTP* mode, yes you're correct. I think the root problem here is that you are perhaps misunderstanding Apple's initial view of Pages for iOS -- I think it was intended as a companion to Pages, not a replacement (at this point). As with Numbers and Keynote, they don't have the full feature set (which is in part a simple limitation of the platform they are on) and I believe are intended to allow you to work on documents while on the go that are then finished or more powerfully tweaked on the Mac version. That's always been my interpretation of it. With the web app and subsequent updates perhaps we'll get more, but I suspect that Pages for iOS will always be the "little brother" of Pages (etc).

2. Control over templates: this has not been my experience, but I haven't tried modifying templates in the iOS version. On the desktop version I can modify templates, styles and so forth quite extensively, at least to what I require. Pages for iOS doesn't yet support custom templates (but perhaps it will soon).

3. I have *no idea* what you are talking about with a "blue sidebar." I just created an odd-sized document in Pages (on Mac, saved to iCloud), opened it in Pages for iOS, no blue sidebar. I think that's something on your end. There is a blue border around documents you are trying to resize the printable area of, but that doesn't seem like what you mean.
Charles Martin
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Jul 3, 2013, 08:09 PM
I would just like to open my textedit docs. Why is iCloud so funky? photostream hardly instills confidence, Match likes to burp on artists, everything is proprietary rather than accessible anywhere. This is counter-cloud behavior.
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Jul 5, 2013, 01:37 AM
It seems everyone misunderstood me and for some reason the ability to reply to posts is not enabled (possibly it's tied to some tracking cookie I'm blocking). So to clarify:

- Ligatures are not just for layout, they are part of 'word processing." For instance whether ligatures are used strongly affects the auto-capitalisation in a very bad way. I'm a writer. I use ellipsis's all the time.

- re: "pages for iOS is a companion app" ... this is my exact point. It's not treated as a stand alone app for the new platform, it's treated as a *less* than full-featured companion app. Meanwhile, Apple claims the opposite.

- not mentioned, but also ... hyphenation is a very basic feature of all word processing apps, so far unavailable in Pages for iOS. I had hyphenation when I was using Word for DOS in the 1980's, it was a part of basic word processing then, and still is today.

- by control over templates, I meant the ability to make and alter templates. This cannot be done without huge effort in any version of pages, but pages for iOS doesn't allow any alteration of templates or including of new ones AFAIK.

- by control over styles I meant being able to make a document that contains the styles that I want to use and yet doesn't contain a long long list of styles that I never want to use. Currently impossible in any version of Pages.

- the "blue sidebar" only occurs in Pages for OS X. If yo curette a document that is less than A4 width, the program inserts a blue space to the left of the document to "fill in" to the A4 size. This is not negotiable, unremovable, and will show up (in grey instead of blue) even in full screen mode. I have no idea why it does this, it gets in my way, and it ruins my focus.

Because I use the iPad mini, I habitually use A6 paper size because it's the exact same size as the iPad mini screen and generally contains the same amount of words as the average paperback page so it's easy to see how many pages the final document will be without reformatting. It seems to be some random decision by the designers for some unknown purpose, but it's really irritating to me (more so because it seems to have no purpose).

In short ... like any other word processor I want to be able to choose my paper size, I want to be able to create my own templates (currently only "blank" is of any interest or use to me), create my own styles, and I want to be able to get rid of all the other styles and other templates that I will never, ever, use.

Finally, to the fellow that doesn't think Pages is the only word processor on iOS, you are wrong. There are some limited document editors that link to the cloud (QuickOffice, Documents toGO), but they use MS Word format so they are both no help with Pages as well as being limited editors and not stand alone word processors. There are also a plethora of "Notes" type applications for dumping text, most of which are pretty bad (I've tried them all), with iAWriter possibly being the best of that lot. iAWriter is not a true word processor however in that has limited formatting capabilities (by limited I mean less than Word for DOS which I'm going to use as a baseline), and suffers from the fact that the author of the app is some kind of old fashioned dude who purposely eschews touch controls and touch based editing for arrow keys. You can't place the cursor easily or properly in iAWriter for example like you can in Pages. You can't use italics or bold and you certainly can't use colours. iAWriter is a notepad type of thing more than it is a "Word processor."

Pages doesn't even use the same format for documents on iOS as it does on the desktop and it doesn't do it for a reason. They are different apps and one is just a subset of the other. Anyone who uses Pages on a regular basis knows that it seriously needs attention. It hasn't been updated in any significant way since before the iPhone and iPad even existed.
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