On the same day that Apple took the wraps off the original iPad in 2010, it also unveiled mobile versions of its iWork applications for the tablet. It wasn’t until May of this year, however, that the company updated its mobile iWork apps for the iPhone and iPod touch. We asked our experts to put these through their paces and find out what you can expect from the 1.4 versions of Apple’s mobile office tools.

Keynote

Apple touts Keynote for iOS as a way to view and edit Keynote ’09 presentations. However, the mobile app has struggled to keep up with its more capable desktop sibling.

What’s changed on the iPad  The initial release of Keynote for the iPad did a terrific job of translating the desktop application’s presentation functions to the tablet’s multi-touch interface, though the iPad imposed limitations that made it less than ideal for creating or editing presentations on the go. Subsequent updates remedied some of the app’s shortcomings, such as adding support for presenter notes, object grouping, AirPrint and improved PDF export.

The iPhone’s small screen limits the size of the slide navigator and canvas in Keynote, restricting you to about four slides on the smaller iOS device

As in earlier versions, Keynote 1.4 doesn’t support all the desktop program’s features, including Smart Builds, audio tracks, object hyperlinks and some animations. The lack of Move actions, which in the desktop version let you choreograph complex movements of slide objects, is frustrating.

The latest version introduces two new features. You can now organise presentations in folders by dragging them on top of each other, just like you can drag-and-drop apps on the iPhone or iPad. The app also supports Apple’s 69p Keynote Remote App for controlling a slideshow on one iOS device from another via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

Keynote on the iPhone  You’ll notice interface changes designed to accommodate the iPhone’s much smaller screen. There’s no toolbar icon on the iPhone for animating objects; instead, you tap on the Tools icon and select Animation Mode from the list of options.

On the iPad, the slide navigator has room for eight complete slide thumbnails, compared to barely four on the iPhone; these thumbnails are smaller as well. Because there’s no slide sorter, it’s hard to obtain an overview of a presentation.

The bottom line  As long as your presentations are relatively simple and don’t rely on features that aren’t supported on the iPad, Keynote mostly lives up to Apple’s promise. On smaller iOS devices, the small screen will remain a substantial hindrance until fold-out displays appear.

Numbers

The original iOS release of Numbers was great for creating spreadsheets and for working on Numbers-native spreadsheets from your Mac, but fell short in areas that the latest version aims to address.

What’s changed on the iPad  Numbers can now export in Microsoft’s Excel format; previously, it could read, but not write, Excel files. You can now create folders in the spreadsheet browser mode in the same way that you create folders for apps.

Numbers still can’t import hidden rows or columns, or merged cells – two features that many spreadsheets use extensively. In particular, not being able to merge cells (and having merged cells break on import) will cause layout headaches. You’re also still limited to the relatively meagre font collection on your iOS device, and headers and footers won’t survive the transition to mobile.

Numbers on the iPhone  Full-screen mode and landscape view won’t work on the iPhone or iPod touch. The lack of a landscape mode is particularly irksome; viewing a super-wide landscape spreadsheet on an iPhone in portrait mode entails a lot of finger swiping.

The bottom line  Depending on the complexity of your spreadsheet needs, iPhone support may be a key feature, though, for our tastes, there wasn’t enough screen space to work productively on the iPhone. It’s the other features that make the mobile app worth consideration.

Pages

It’s hard to imagine using Pages on an iPhone or iPod touch – that is, until you actually give it a go. The iPad version remains a solid word-processing tool, though with one notable shortcoming.

While the idea of page layout on the iPhone seems improbable, Pages makes it easy for you to work with images and text on smaller iOS devices

What’s changed on the iPad  While Pages has added WebDAV support for better file sharing, it still lacks support for true file syncing.

Pages on the iPhone  What makes Pages a worthwhile writing tool on a small iOS device is the Smart Zoom feature, which zooms in on the text you’re currently editing before zooming out once you’ve finished to give you a full view of your document. Pages on the smaller iOS devices provides every feature you have at your disposal when using the app on the iPad, though the app looks different. The iPad version offers a full menu bar, complete with a new button for changing fonts, as well as all the other formatting tools that have always been available in Pages; however, because of the smaller devices’ tinier screens, Pages has to keep these tools hidden until you need them.

The bottom line  Pages is an amazing word-processing and page-layout application. It’s even more remarkable when you realise that all its power is packed into a device that can fit inside your pocket. While it needs true file syncing to make it a really great program, Pages is nonetheless a very impressive app.