Time to turn iWork into a true Office 'killer'
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Time to turn iWork into a true Office 'killer'

I love Apple's iWork apps: Pages, Numbers and Keynote. I use them whenever possible instead of Microsoft Office, and I know of several other folks who prefer Apple's own software titles. So now it's time for Apple to concentrate on making iWork a true Office "killer."

Of course, Pages, Numbers and Keynote aren't going to truly "kill" Word, Excel and PowerPoint. However, they could offer more serious competition. After all, Microsoft's Office software is bloated and hasn't been updated to take advantage of the features of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, much less Mountain Lion. As for Retina display support, well, according to Microsoft, you shouldn't hold your breath.

The last update to the iWork apps came in 2009, so it's time for some revamping. For one thing, the apps -- especially Pages -- could load faster. As Alexis Kayhall so eloquently put in in a "Mac360" (http://macte.ch/ElLsn) blog, "I use Calendar to time how long it takes for Pages to load up on my Mac."

In addition, an even better ability to import/export Office docs would certainly make the iWork software titles even more successful. Gene the "TechNightOwl" Steinberg writes (www.technightowlcom) says that "the real issue with Pages is the fidelity of translation with Office documents."

"Text documents seem to go back and forth without serious glitches," he adds. "But writers will rely on Track Changes to keep tabs of ongoing edits. Publishers generally insist on full Word compatibility, and sometimes provide Word templates or macros to ensure that the copy you prepare is correctly formatted. The Track Changes feature in Page is passably accurate. Macros simply won't work, but that's mostly true even for other Office alternatives, such as OpenOffice. If you need Word or Excel macros, you pretty much forced to stick with Microsoft."

He suggests that Apple get on the ball and enhance the ability to create sophisticated documents, improve mail merge capabilities and make iWork more compatible with Office. Gene is right. Those changes -- and beefed-up iCloud integration -- would certainly increase iWork sales. Especially since the apps are reasonably priced (US$20 each) and have iOS counterparts.

Some folks think Apple just doesn't want to start a battle with Microsoft. However, I've never known Apple to be scared of picking a fight. If a serious overhaul of the iWork apps offered Office some serious competition, that would be great for everyone. And if it spurred Microsoft to Lionize/Mountain Lion-ize Office, that's also a "win-win" situation for end users.

-- Dennis Sellers

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