Apple Pages '09 vs Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 vs Google Docs comparison review

Which is the best word processor software for Mac users: Apple Pages '09, Microsoft Word 2011 or Google Docs? Or another option entirely? We compare the features, price and usability of each office program in our comparison review of Apple Pages '09, Microsoft Word 2011 and Google Docs.

Apple Pages '09 vs Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 vs Google Docs comparison review

Apple Pages '09

Apple Pages '09 vs Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 vs Google Docs comparison review: Looks and ease of use

Apple Pages '09 is an attractive, clearly laid-out and user-friendly program. One feature that was added from Pages '07 was a full-screen mode, which removes all the clutter and furniture around your document but then brings back toolbars and menus when you move the cursor over them. Then again, Pages has always had an excellent interface.

Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 has the same look and feel as Word for Windows - an advantage for former or occasional PC users - and is in many ways better organised than its Windows sibling. Its Ribbon is an intelligent, customisable toolbar that provides a set of formatting tools suited to the current task. Working on a word processing document? The Ribbon displays a set of text formatting tools. Adding a table or a chart? You’ll find a complete set of tools for editing and formatting the same.

While the Ribbon may seem daunting to master, in practice we found we weren’t wasting time looking for the tools we needed. And because you’re able to hide the Ribbon, you can get it out of the way when all you want to work with are words.

Apple Pages '09 vs Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 vs Google Docs comparison review

Microsoft Word for Mac 2011's interfaces unifies the Mac and Windows versions and offers Spotlight-like find and replace tools

In terms of interface, Google Docs by default wastes valuable screen space by surrounding the menu and toolbars with large empty space, leaving you with less usable room to get your work done. You can change this behaviour in the settings - see 'Top 10 Google Docs Annoyances (and How to Fix Them)' - but you'll need to repeat the process for each document. Google Docs is otherwise a streamlined and easy-to-use service, if a little basic in terms of looks. Plus, what you see is what you get - you can save the document in multiple formats, and they'll be pretty faithful to what you've got on the screen.

Conclusion: Apple Pages '09 wins this one, with its attractive and easy-to-use interface.

More office software for Mac reviews

Apple Pages '09 vs Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 vs Google Docs comparison review: Features

Apple Pages '09 is a mid-level player in terms of office features. It's particularly strong on graphs and charts: its attractive 3D graphs will be familiar from the obligatory 'business' segment of Apple's keynote product launches. There's a good range of colour schemes, textures and decorative flourishes to jazz up dull reports. Another attraction is Pages '09's Mail Merge tool, which allows you to import data from an email address book or similar (now including spreadsheets) when creating a large number of mostly identical documents.

Apple Pages 09 mail merge

Pages '09's Mail Merge function in action

Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 has the most comprehensive feature set of the options here. Word for Mac is a powerful tool for creating personal and business documents and collaborating with others. More importantly, Word 2011 makes it possible to insert a Mac into nearly any business environment and offer Mac users the same set of features found in Word for Windows, without compromise.

Word 2011 includes support for Microsoft SharePoint, SkyDrive and simultaneous document editing, and offers the option to communicate with others while you edit documents together. It offers a large collection of professionally designed templates, as well as many more that are created by and shared with other Office users. There's also full-on Spotlight integration and a new Spotlight-inspired tool for finding and replacing text in a document.

Google Docs is an online service rather than a traditional desktop program. It's therefore easy to access your documents from any online computing device. Google also offers a streamlined collaboration experience for online users, with integrated chat panes and real-time updates - every user of a document sees the changes that other users are making, as they are made. It doesn't compare with Word or Pages' tools, the word processor in Google Docs has plenty of formatting tools, and hundreds of fonts.

Conclusion: A clear win for Microsoft Word for Mac 2011, although Pages is no lightweight and may edge the contest when it comes to graphs and charts.

For reviews of other products in Apple's iWork '09 range click one of these links:

Macworld's iWork 09: Keynote review

Macworld's iWork 09: Numbers review

Apple Pages '09 vs Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 vs Google Docs comparison review: Price

Apple Pages '09 costs £13.99 as a standalone download from the Mac App Store. It can also be bought as part of iWork '09, which also includes Numbers '09 and Keynote '09 and is available for under £50.

Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 must be bought as part of the Office for Mac 2011 set, which also includes Powerpoint and Excel. Shop around online, but it's likely to cost almost £100.

Google Docs is free to use. Google charges for additional storage, as well as for business accounts with superior security features, but consumers can get full use from the service without paying a penny.

Conclusion: It's hard to argue with the free-to-use Google Docs winning this one. (It could be argued that when you use free Google products you pay in other ways, mind you, since some people are uncomfortable about the amount of information Google has about its users, but that's probably a debate for another article.)

Additional office software for Mac options: Alternatives to Word and Pages

Mac office users have more options than these three services, of course. Here are some of the alternatives to Microsoft Word, Apple Pages and Google Docs:

OpenOffice, like Google Docs, falls somewhere between Pages and Word, lacking the simplicity of Apple's suite and the power of Microsoft's - but it is free, and deservedly popular.

Scrivener takes some learning, but is a rewarding piece of software and an essential writing tool.

Nisus Writer Pro is also a long-term project, but is a real power tool for office work.

And Mellel, meanwhile, has earned itself a dedicated group of users with its powerful cross-referencing and bibliography tools for academic users.

Apple Pages '09 vs Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 vs Google Docs comparison review

Scrivener for Mac

Apple Pages '09 vs Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 vs Google Docs comparison review

Mellel

Next: verdict and buying advice, on the next page of our Word vs Pages vs Google Docs review >>

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See also:

iMac reviews | Mac mini reviews | Mac Pro reviews | MacBook Air reviews | MacBook Pro reviews

Additional reporting by Ian Paul and Maria Korolov.

OUR VERDICT

So what's the best office software for Mac? Your choice here depends on what you need from your office software. Consider what your friends and colleagues use most often: sharing documents for collaboration is a lot easier if you're all on the same platform. In this regard Pages has the appeal of iCloud, which means you can easily sync the documents you've created on your iPad on to your Mac. Those who use their iPad to create documents on the go will naturally veer towards Pages on their Mac. Google Docs is terrific if your acquaintances are also Google-based. In many respects you need to weigh up price versus feature set. Google Docs is a free option but is relatively limited in what you can do - try it for yourself and you'll see what we mean. Nonetheless for everyday word processing this may well be enough. Pages is a little more expensive, but still highly affordable at £13.99. You get more comprehensive features for that money, including really nice 3D graphs and a beautiful interface. If you need the full monty, Microsoft Word for Mac may be the best option, but it's pretty expensive and not everyone likes the interface. And don't forget Nisus and Scrivener, which will require a little work to get used to but are great pieces of software.

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