If the iPad wants be taken seriously as a business tool, it's going to need an office suite. So far, the best examples of same are Apple's own iWork apps - Pages, Numbers, and Keynote ($9.99 each, UK pricing to be announced). How much work can they really do? Here's a first look.
The suite look
While the three apps are sold separately, they share a common look-and-feel.
When you launch each app for the first time, you'll be welcomed by a "Get Started" guide in that app's native format (a document in Pages, a tabbed worksheet in Numbers, and a presentation in Keynote). Take a couple of minutes to run through them; they're good, quick introductions.
That done, tap the button in the upper left corner. It's called My Documents in Pages, My Spreadsheets in Numbers, and My Presentations in Keynote. In any app, that will summon the Document Manager screen. There you'll see all of that app's document files on your iPad, in a nice, side-scrollable thumbnail view.
If you hit the New Document button in the upper left of that screen, you'll be offered a selection of templates (16 in Pages and Numbers, 12 in Keynote). (You can also hit the plus sign at the bottom of the My Documents window, which will give you the option of creating a new document or duplicating the one that's currently selected.)
After you choose a template, you'll finally get to the app's editing screen. There's a toolbar running across the top of that screen. While some of the details change from app to app, the basic layout of it remain the same.
In the upper left, there's that My Documents button again, which will take you back to the Document Manager. Next to that is Undo. On the right side, you'll see four icons (five in Keynote).
The first of these is a standard Information icon; its contents vary by app. Next to that is Insert, which you can use to add photos, tables, charts, or shapes to your document. Next comes Tools, where you can search, find help, or turn edge guides and spell-checking on or off. Finally (in Pages and Numbers), there's an icon that switches you to full screen mode
Those are the common elements in each iWork iPad app. After that, they start to differentiate.
Working in Pages on an iPad isn't all that different from working in a desktop word processor: You start with a blank sheet, you type in some text, then you embellish it with typography and graphics. The difference is that your tools for doing all that on the iPad are curtailed.
Pages' editing screen changes depending on the iPad's orientation. In landscape mode, you see just a blank document and the iPad's virtual keyboard. If the iPad is turned to portrait mode, you'll see a toolbar at the top and the smaller version of the keyboard below. That makes some sense: Landscape mode is just for typing, so you want that bigger keyboard; when it comes to styling what you've written, you (most likely) want to see it in portrait mode, the way it will print, so that's where you get the page layout tools.
In Pages, the toolbar's Info button enables you to apply text styles (there are 13 to choose from), format selected text as a list, select the alignment, configure columns, and specify line-spacing. If you scroll down to the bottom of that style list, you can also open a Text Options screen, where you can choose from one of 43 fonts and set the size and color of the type.
On the Tools menu, in addition to the four standard options (search, help, etc.), Pages also gives you a Document Setup option; tap on that and you get a screen where you can apply document-wide layout settings.
Many of these same options are replicated in a formatting toolbar below that standard one. It has a drop-down style menu and buttons for character styles (bold, italic, underline) and paragraph alignment. The only unique setting here is a button that lets you insert tabs or line, page and column breaks. Below all that, there's a ruler you can use to set margins and indentation.
You get more editing tools by selecting and tapping on words. The iPad uses many of the same selection standards as the iPhone: Tapping twice on a word selects it; a pop-up menu enables you to cut, copy, or replace the word with one that's spelled similarly; paste previously copied text; or look up the word's definition. Tapping three times on a word selects the whole paragraph, with similar options.
No matter how much you select by tapping, you can select more or less using the drag handles in the corners of the selection box. A magnifying glass window appears above the text as you drag the handles, showing you where the selection point is.
If you touch and hold on the right side of the Pages screen, the Navigator appears; it lets you navigate through pages in your document quickly, showing page numbers and previews as you go.
While Pages have many of the most essential word processing tools, it obviously doesn't have them all. Its spelling tools are comparatively limited. If you misspell a word, it'll underline it in red; tap on underlined word and Pages will suggest some alternatives. But it doesn't have the extensive proofreading tool as the desktop version. You can't add complex document elements, such as tables of contents or footnotes. And It offers fewer fonts and styles than the desktop version.
But it otherwise has many of the features you'd want for everyday, basic documents.