Pages full review
There’s actually not one, but three virtual keyboards. In order to fit the keys in there is the regular key for letters (which includes basic punctuation such as full stop, comma) and pressing a button marked ‘.?123’ brings up numbers and more punctuation. We found it somewhat annoying to have to reach for this second keyboard to access quotation marks and brackets, but it’s understandable given the limitations of the screen estate. A third keyboard (accessed by pressing the 123 key, and then a #+= key brings up rarer punctuation such as square brackets.
The keyboard can be accessed in both portrait and landscape mode, and it’s the same keyboard layout with slightly smaller keys. Unless you have cocktail stick-sized fingers you’ll find yourself using the landscape mode 99 per cent of the time.
Where Pages becomes less convincing is in the menu structure, or more accurately it’s replacement for the traditional menu bar found on a Mac. This resided at the top of the screen and consists of buttons for familiar styles, such as bold, italics, underline and justification options. Above that are four buttons an ‘i’ button that opens and inspector-style drop down menu, an image button that accesses your image library, and Tools icon (Document Setup, Find, Help, Edge Guides, Check Spelling options) and a button to remove the menu and display the full screen.
While Apple should be rightly applauded for completely rethinking how a menu works. there’s a big fail here. The menu bar only appears when you hold the iPad vertically, in portrait mode, turn it sideways and it disappears. That’s a fail because you’ll spend most of your time typing in landscape mode, and will have to flip around the iPad to access the menu. Every time you want to bold out some text, enter a tab, or do even the slightest bit of formatting you rotate the iPad, press the button, then rotate it back again to carry on typing. And it turns out you do this an awful lot during the course of creating the typical document; typing in Pages feels like a remarkably weird game of spin the iPad sometimes.
Aside from that (and we hope Apple fixes that issue in an update) the menu system does a remarkable job of cramming lots of functionality into a logical and easy-to-understand system. There is a learning curve here, as the menu structure is so unlike anything you’ve used in Mac OS X, but it’s logical, well though through, and quickly becomes easy to use.
As well as text, there are comprehensive options for working with images and charts in Pages. Images are fairly straightforward, you can either import them from the photos on your iPad, or copy and paste them into the document. Images can be resized using the drag handles on the edges, and like Mac OS X they click and align to nearby objects (or areas of the page). Double-tap an image to bring up a mask option and use the slider to zoom in an area. And you can use two fingers to quickly rotate images. Clicking the ‘i’ inspector button enables you to add styles, change the arrangement and adjust text wrapping options.
You can add shapes to a document too and there are comprehensive options for changing colours, adding opacity and shadows, and so on. There are also options for tables and charts. Charts, for us at least, seemed to be the one area that Pages started to feel clunky. While it’s possible to add, and edit, data; and create nice looking charts and graphs, the process felt less intuitive than everything else. We haven’t yet tested Numbers to the same depth as Pages, but we do feel this might be the one area of the iPad that we’re less comfortable with; further testing will tell.
If you’re completely unfamiliar with iWork, it’s important to know that it’s much easier than Microsoft Office to use, and it’s easy to create really stunning-looking documents. Honestly, if you ever want to impress somebody with a report fire up iWork instead of Microsoft Office.