The hint's in the name, and Apple launched its new year with new releases of iWork and iLife - this time with the added '06 suffix.

iWork '06 includes major enhancements within Pages 2 and Keynote 3. These include 3D charts, built-in image editing and masking tools and spreadsheet-like tables.

Apple ready to rock

Apple CEO Steve Jobs glossed over the new productivity suite during his presentation - suggesting that Apple has several more tricks up its sleeve that it lacked time to reveal at the key Mac keynote.

"By leveraging the power of Mac OS X and seamlessly integrating photos, movies and music from iLife, iWork '06 brings productivity software to life," said Rob Schoeben, Apple's vice president of applications marketing. "iWork '06 offers even more ways to create, present and publish professional-looking documents and presentations."

Pages 2 and Keynote 3 offer users more sophistication than before, with features such as tables with spreadsheet-like calculations (which can be inserted within any document or presentation);  three-dimensional charts featuring realistic wood grain, metal and marble textures; image editing tools and the ability to apply freeform shapes and curves, including Bézier curves.

iWork '06 also adds the ability to include reviewers' comments to slides and documents without affecting the layout, in an attempt to offer a fillip to group working.

Turn a new Pages 2

Document templates include letters, invoices, flyers, school reports, scrapbooks, professional-quality newsletters and more. Pages 2 also adds a new integration temptation - the capacity to mail merge with Address Book. This means users can personalise documents with predefined fields within templates, and drag and drop individual contacts into documents. 

New thumbnail and search views also appear in this release, making it easier to find particular images or text in larger documents.

Keen on Keynote 3

Keynote 3 offers "more ways to create cinema-quality presentations and interactive slideshows with new features designed to bring those presentations to life," Apple said.

New transitions include vertical or horizontal blinds, revolving door, swoosh and others. The presentation application also offers more Apple-designed themes, including four designed for HD displays.

Also new is the Light Table view mode, which lets users take a look at an entire presentation at once. Within that view they can reorganise slides using drag-&-drop while flexible build animations provide more control of bullet lists, tables and charts including unique timing and sequence of individual bullets, rows, columns or series.

Format friendly while you iWork

iWork '06 supports a wide range of file formats, including PowerPoint and PDF: Keynote 3 imports and exports PowerPoint files and exports presentations to QuickTime, Flash, HTML and iLife; Pages 2 imports and exports Word, RTF, HTML and plain text files. Both applications export to PDF and import associated AppleWorks files.

The new software is available now through the Apple Store, Apple's retail stores and Apple Authorised Resellers. It costs £55 (including VAT). A 30-day iWork '06 trial will be available on new hardware and also with copies of Mac OS X and iLife '06 sold at retail.

iWork 06 requires Mac OS X version 10.3.9 or 10.4.3 or later, a Macintosh computer with a 500MHz or faster PowerPC G4, PowerPC G5 or Intel Core processor, 256MB of RAM (512MB recommended), 32MB of video RAM, QuickTime 7.0.3 or later. A DVD drive is required for install. iLife '06 is recommended.