XXBAD17 full review

Pages might best be described as a word-processor with page-layout skills, or a page-layout program with word-processing skills. It does quite a bit of both, and yet isn’t completely one or the other. While that may sound confusing, what it means is that you get a good word-processor that also happens to create great-looking page layouts.

The same team that developed Pages also worked on Keynote 2, the presentation application included in iWork. And if you’ve spent any time with Keynote you’ll recognize that fact as soon as you launch Pages.

At launch, Pages looks a lot like Keynote: pick a theme that you’d like to use for your document, and then work from that starting point to build the final product.

Pages isn’t a typical word processor. In many ways, it’s no threat to the dominance of Microsoft Word. It isn’t for you if:

  • You need a form letter to send to hundreds of contacts, with each contact’s name and address substituted into the letter
  • You often need to count the number of words in a selection of text (Pages will give you only full-document totals);
  • Multiple users update documents and need the ability to track the changes that each makes;
  • You’re an advanced user who relies on macros to automate your word processing tasks.

Working in Pages is much different than working in any other word processor. After picking a template, Pages will drop you into the first page of your document, where you might be surprised to find it already full of text and graphics. But everything on the page, including the images, is merely a placeholder – click on the NEWSLETTER heading, for instance, and it highlights. Whatever you type next becomes the headline.

Want to replace a graphic? Drag a replacement picture from the Finder or the Media window onto a current graphic, and drop. The new picture replaces the old. As you replace text and graphics, the page layout changes, re-flowing text around new graphics, moving chunks of text to accommodate longer words, and more. Everything on the page works in this same manner – headers, footers, text areas, and images all contain filler that you replace with your own content. Very quickly, you’ll turn the generic template page into something of your own creation.

Adding another page to your document is as simple as clicking on the Pages icon in the toolbar. When you do, you’ll most likely see a drop-down menu listing additional page designs. (Not every theme has more than one design.) Choose one, and it’s inserted below the current page in your document.

By using the templates, replacing text and graphics as you go, adding new pages when needed, you can very quickly build a professional-looking final document in minutes instead of hours.

Customizing Pages documents
Just like Keynote, Pages uses a floating Inspector window for making changes to the text and objects in your document. This screenshot shows the Inspector with the Graphics panel active; you can use the panel to control all aspects of a placed graphic’s appearance. The other panels of the Inspector handle things such as overall document information, text wrapping properties of placed graphics, text formatting, tables and charts, hyperlinks, and rulers and tabs.

By using the various Inspector options, you can really make what started as a standardized template into something that looks very different while retaining the benefits of the overall design of the template. When you’re done tweaking your template, you can even save it as your own customized design. Just choose File?Save as Template, and your custom design will show up in the Pages theme picker the next time you open a new document.

Work around a bug in Find and Replace
The Find and Replace panel in Pages suffers from a bug in Cocoa (the language Pages was written in). If you open the Find and Replace panel (press 1-F) and then enter words in both the Find and Replace boxes, and click Replace and Find, Pages will insert the “replace” word at the current cursor position. In addition, if you press this button after the last “find” word has been replaced, your replace word will be inserted over and over, each time you click the button. The solution? Hitting Next before using the Find and Replace button the first time will take care of the first glitch. For the second, though, you’ll probably only notice it when you see your replace word added for a second time, so just keep your eyes on the document window!

Working with media
Keynote’s new Media Browser window has also been incorporated into Pages. The Media Browser makes it simple to include photos, music, and movies in your Pages document. While direct access to iPhoto’s photo collection is definitely a plus, the benefits of placing movies and music in a Pages document are much less clear. Pages can only export to generally “static” formats: PDF, Word, HTML, RTF, and Plain Text. Audio and video support in these formats range from non-existent to fair, but none do a good job with embedded audio and video objects from Pages. In general, if you want to work with audio and video, you should probably be using Keynote, not Pages.

When placing images into a Pages document, they’re placed based on what you drag them into. While dragging the image, a blue border will highlight the “destination object” that will receive the dropped image. If you drop onto an existing image, it will be replaced with the new image. If you drop into a table cell, the image will be shrunk to fit into the available size of the cell. If you drop into a text field, the image will be placed within that field in what’s called “inline mode.” Inline images move as the text around them moves. The other option is “fixed mode,” in which the image’s position on the page never changes even as text is added and deleted.

To add a fixed image, drag the image into the white border area of the Pages document; you’ll see a blue border around the entire page when you’re in the right spot. Drop the image, and it’s now fixed on the page – adding and deleting text won’t affect the image’s position. (Only fixed images can use Pages’ cropping mode, which lets you hide part of a placed image.)

Deleting images from table cells
Images dropped into table cells are treated differently than images dropped into other locations. It seems they lose their “object” status when dropped, and are instead converted into a background “fill” for that cell. As such, you can’t just click the image to select and delete (or move) it. Instead, you need to use the Graphic tab of the Inspector, and set the Fill pop-up to None. When you do this, the image vanishes. If you just wanted to move it elsewhere, you’ll first have to re-add the image.

Trouble with getting the words out
Pages includes a number of export options for sharing your final work. Depending on the template in use, you may find that most of the export options create unusable final products. For instance, we started with the Family Newsletter template, and then just exported the unmodified template to each format. Comparing the original to the exported versions (PDF, Word, HTML, RTF, and Plain Text), it’s clear that only PDF mode keeps the template’s layout intact.

Even with PDF exports, though, you’ll have problems with drop shadows on objects – although they show and print fine in Preview, they won’t display or print in Adobe Reader on either the Mac or the PC. That is, you’ll have these problems unless you happen to own the full version of Adobe Acrobat. If you do, you can print the Pages file and choose the Adobe PDF printer. When you do, the resulting PDF is truly cross-platform and complete with drop-shadows.

But if you’re using Apple’s provided Export feature, you’ll l
ose the drop shadows in Reader on both Macs and PCs. This can be a big problem in certain templates, as the drop shadows add definition to both text and images and help set objects apart from the background. If you don’t have Acrobat, there’s not really a good way to share your Pages output other than via printed copy. Hardly the ideal solution.

Should it be called ‘OnlyAddPages’?
Pages works really well as a mixed page-layout and word-processing program. That is, it does so right up until the point at which you wish to remove a page from, or reorder the pages within, your document. There’s no easy way to delete an entire page from, or to rearrange the order of the pages within, your document.

But Pages is also a page-layout program. And page layout programs, such as QuarkXPress and InDesign, have simple methods of both deleting and reordering pages. Typically, an “overview” drawer shows an iconized view of a project, with an icon for each page. Want to delete a page? Highlight it and hit Delete. To reorder the pages, just drag the icons into a new order.

Pages doesn’t have these features. So if you’ve added a page to your document, and you later wish to delete it, you have to do quite a bit of work, and even then, it may not always work (depending on the template in use). The basic process is this: go to the page you wish to delete, and start selecting objects on the page – text blocks, tables, charts, and graphics. Once selected, press Delete to remove that object from the page. You may have issues if the objects are on the “master” level of the template. In that case, you’ll need to enable Format?Advanced?Make Master Objects Selectable, and then make sure that the objects are unlocked (select the object, then choose Arrange?Unlock). At this point, they should be deletable.

If you’ve removed everything from the page, hopefully the following page will just “slide up” and take its place. But this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes only the text will move up, or the text and some but not all of the graphics will move. In short, deleting pages is far more trouble than it should be.

A page-deletion workaround
Since deleting pages is so difficult, it means you basically have to build a perfect document on your first try, as going back is very difficult. Since none of us are perfect, you might wish to use a simple “versioning” system as you build your Pages document.

Instead of using File?Save to save your progress at certain points, consider using File: Save As each time you’re about to add a new page to the document. Name the files with the number of pages in each version, something like “MyPhotos_1,” “MyPhotos_12,” “MyPhotos_123,” etc.
Now if you make a mistake and want to delete a page, you’ll be able to return to the “prior” version that has one less page, and start over at that point.

The missing (Keynote) link
To solve the page-management problems, Pages really needs to take advantage of a key Keynote feature: the slide browser. Keynote’s left-hand-panel uses a thumbnail view of every slide in your presentation, along with thumbnails of the “master” slides used to build each slide. Notice the indented slides, which are associated with the one directly above.

This same metaphor would work quite well in Pages – substitute “Master Pages” and “Pages” for “Master Slides” and “Slides,” and you’ll get an idea of how simple page management could be. Drag-&-drop to reorder; highlight and press delete to remove. Given that Pages was developed by the same team that wrote Keynote, it’s surprising that some form of this feature isn’t already present. It would change page management from a difficult and frustrating task to one that’s as simple and elegant as is slide management in Keynote.

Pages truly has the ability to redefine what a word processor should be. Its seamless integration of page-layout and word processing features makes creating brochures, reports, flyers, and other well-designed documents a piece of cake. With literally no training, anyone can create professional looking output with a minimum of fuss.

Unfortunately, the lack of a page-management system within Pages means that using the program is more frustrating and troublesome than it should be. In addition, the bugs in Find and Replace and PDF Export, along with the generally limited capabilities of the Export feature, make using Pages a bit frustrating. As good as all the other features are, these Version 1.0 bugs and missing features may make Pages unusable for many people. It’s a shame, too, because it’s a great program. Hopefully a version 1.1 update will address the general bugs and page management features.

Keynote 2

When it came on the scene two years ago, Keynote was really the first viable presentation tool alternative to Microsoft’s PowerPoint on the Mac. In its second incarnation it adds even more functionality, slick style and ease of use.

Themes have always been a strong point of Keynote; they are very well designed, and help even the most completely inartistic create visually stunning presentations. Apple has added ten new themes to Keynote, while removing Leather Book and Sandstone. Some of these themes have been designed to work with other new Keynote features to help create “non-standard” presentations. For instance, you could use the Portfolio theme and the new hyperlinking features to create an archive of your paintings or photographs that visitors could simply click through to view.

Animation of both objects and text has improved greatly. In the first release, there were just nine options for types of “builds,” which is a shortcut term for animating the text and graphics on your slides. In the second release, there are 26 different techniques, including choices such as iris, twirl, pop, and cube. In addition, some of these build types work on individual words or characters within a line.

In the first generation of Keynote control over builds was minimal. The new version lets you specify, down to hundredths of a second, precisely how long each build should take. Even more important for those creating complex presentations, a new automatic build tool lets you control exactly how subsequent builds are added to the slide – either via a mouse click, or automatically after a given delay, as seen in the screenshot. This gives the presenter a great deal of flexibility in building complex self-building slides.

The original version was best known for its rotating 3D cube transition, whereby one slide seemingly rotated around a cube to the next. The new version adds a very elegant page-flip 3D transition, and seven additional 2D transitions, including a cool pond ripple effect.

Media darling
You can easily set a song to play as a background track for your entire presentation (this wasn’t easily possible in the previous version). A new Media Browser makes it easy to integrate pictures from iPhoto, music from iTunes, and movies from your Movies folder. Saving even more time, large images can be masked directly in Keynote, letting you decide just which portion of the image will be visible on the slide.

Text handling has also received some attention in this update. New features allow you to set extra space before and after paragraphs, and bullets and numbering now have their own tab for easier distinction from text-handling features.

You can also embed Web pages directly into presentations. Instead of shooting a picture of a Web page and pasting the image, just insert a Web View, and you’ll have the actual page – and an Update Automatically option will make sure it’s always the latest view.

There are also six new shapes you can add to slides, including two different arrow styles, a diamond, floating “cartoon-style” quote bubble, and an octagon. There is also full control over fill colour or image, transparency, and line type.

You can also easily add text directly to an object; the previous version required adding a new text layer and positioning it on top of the existing object. Now a simple double-click on an object puts the text insertion point in the centre of that object, and you just start typing.

One area where Keynote trailed PowerPoint was in tools for presenters. The previous version could show your presentation on the projector while you watched a view with notes on your laptop’s screen. But that was it. The new Presenter Display option gives you complete control over what you see on your laptop’s screen. You can see some or all of the following: current and next slides, your notes, as well as a clock and a timer counting either elapsed or remaining time.

The new version of Keynote has a few neat features that make it suitable for more than just standard “person talking to crowd” usage. First off, you can set any slideshow to automatically enter Play mode when it’s opened, and you can put it in loop mode, so it just repeats over and over.If you also set the presentation mode to Self-Playing, then the entire presentation will run without any user intervention – all builds and transitions occur without any intervention, with the timings that you set for them. But if you had them set to happen on a mouse click, then you’ll also have to set the two new top-level settings for Build and Transition delays; these timings will then take the place of the mouse click. When combined with Keynote’s amazing 3D transitions and great handling of images and movies, you can create a self-playing photography portfolio, a display of your sketch work, or collection of classic movie clips – all of which will just be shown to passersby without any intervention on their part.

The other cool new feature in Keynote is the ability to make anything a hyperlink. You can hyperlink any text or object to an external Web page, to an email message, or to one of a number of slide options (previous, next, first, last, last viewed, or a specific slide number). You can even hyperlink to another Keynote presentation. Using these features together with a new Hyperlinks Only slideshow mode, you can build interactive presentations.

Presentations often need to be shared. The new release adds two new ways to export presentations – Flash, for easy Web display, and Images, which saves each slide as a separate image file.

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