Apple Pages 5.6 for Mac review

Welcome to our Apple Pages 5.6 for Mac OS X review, updated 4 Feb 2016. Original review by Lou Hattersley.

Apple has been priming Pages for success for a few years now, quietly chipping away deadwood here, and sculpting new features here. Progress hasn't always been smooth, though, and the last major update to Pages, back in 2014, upset the proverbial Apple cart by removing a number of features from Pages, Numbers and Keynote in order to bring the Mac versions of these apps more closely in line with their iOS counterparts. 

But towards the end of 2015, Apple released new versions of all the iWork apps for both OS X and iOS. The Mac versions primarily added support for El Capitan, but there were a number of other welcome new features and improvements too.

Read our other iWork reviews: Numbers for Mac review | Keynote for Mac review | Pages for iOS review | Keynote for iOS review | Numbers for iOS review

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Apple Pages 5.6 for Mac review: New features in version 5.6

Pages for Mac review

The most important update for Pages in recent months came in October 2015, with the release of Pages 5.6. Despite the modest bump in the version number - from the previous version 5.5 - this update did include quite a few new features. Version 5.6 was quickly followed by the inevitable bug fixes in 5.6.1, which is the current version now available on the Mac App Store.

Pages 5.6.1 supports features such as the new Split View mode that was introduced with El Capitan. However, Pages 5.6.1 will still run on Yosemite (OS X v10.10.4), so you don't need to upgrade to El Capitan in order to use it. 

Pages 5.6.1 also supports the Force Touch trackpads used in the latest MacBook models (for more on that, see 13 ways to use Force Touch on the new MacBook), as well as the updated Magic Trackpad that was introduced at the end of 2015. This allows you to 'force-click' on an image in a Pages document in order to quickly edit it. 

The program's typographical tools have been beefed up too - compensating for the loss of a number of typographical features from Pages 5.5 - with improved support for type effects such as small-caps, contextual fractions and glyphs. Another welcome improvement is the ability to import old files from Pages '08 and '06.

Apple also continues to improve its VoiceOver accessibility technology, and Pages 5.6.1 now allows you to use VoiceOver to add comments to your documents, and to track changes as you work on a document.

Apple Pages 5.6 for Mac review: Sharing and collaboration

Pages for Mac review

One of the great strengths of Pages is its ability to automatically sync your documents on all your Macs and iOS devices. That ability was enhanced with the arrival of iCloud Drive on Yosemite, and Pages 5.6.1 also now allows you to preview shared documents in a browser on iOS devices - and even on Android too. 

Another big change here is the fact that the iCloud version of Pages has finally progressed from being a pre-release 'beta' version and is now ready for serious use. Pages for iCloud has its own long list of new features, but the official arrival of Pages, Keynote and Numbers on www.icloud.com finally gives Apple an online suite of apps that can compete with rivals such as Google Docs.

Admittedly, the more mature Google Docs still has an edge in some areas, such as its powerful contextual spell-checker. However, Pages provides far greater creative power than Google Docs. Apple's layout templates are more varied, and Pages' tables, charts and media options enable you to create visually arresting documents quickly and easily, whereas Google Docs seems mainly focused on straightforward text-editing.

Of course, many people will still prefer a high-end wordprocessor such as Microsoft Word - which, of course, received its own update with the recent release of Office 2016 - but the latest version of Pages is more than strong enough to warrant serious attention as an alternative to Word for many users.

Download Pages for Mac from the Mac App Store.

OUR VERDICT

We're impressed with the latest version of Pages for Mac. There may not be any headline-grabbing new features, but the improved typographical tools, and the ever-closer integration with the iOS and iCloud versions of Pages will be very tempting for people who need to share documents across multiple devices.

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