If you have begun to detect moisture dripping from your cable modem, it may be because Apple’s servers are perspiring heavily as they deliver gigabytes of software updates to Mac and iOS users. Among these are six different updates for the iWork apps: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote; that’s three updated apps for the Mac and three more for iOS. These updates are mostly in the service of OS X 10.10 Yosemite, iOS 8.1, and the iCloud Drive service that binds them together (see “OS X 10.10 Yosemite, iOS 8.1, and Apple Pay Have Arrived,” 16 October 2014, and “Moving to iCloud Drive,” 15 October 2014).
So, what hath Cupertino wrought?
iWork for Mac -- Here’s what Apple has highlighted in its “What’s New?” notes for the three Mac iWork apps:
Common to them all: All three Mac apps offer a new Yosemite-based design, the capability to switch between Mac and iOS versions instantly using the new Handoff feature, iCloud Drive support, better bidirectional language support, usability enhancements for positioning and resizing charts, and a revised file format that won’t cause problems when transferring files with services like Dropbox and Gmail.
Pages 5.5: The word-processing and page-layout app has grown a sidebar for displaying comments and tracked changes, and you can filter those comments and tracked changes by author. Pages also lets you insert inline images into headers, footers, and table cells. Also added are alignment guides for inter-table alignment and other table enhancements. Though Mail Merge has not yet returned as a user-facing feature, the update does claim to provide AppleScript support for it.
Numbers 3.5: The spreadsheet app features a new Transpose feature that you can use to switch table rows to columns and vice-versa. Floating comments can now be printed. And, like Pages, Numbers offer alignment guides for inter-table alignment.
Keynote 6.5: The presentation app has added features you can use to resize and move items on the presenter display. For instance, you can choose whether or not to show a timer and also control what the timer displays (such as elapsed time or time remaining). Additional presentation improvements include the capability to pair your Mac with nearby iOS devices over Wi-Fi using Multipeer Connectivity as well as Bluetooth. Enhancements that make tables easier to select and move have also made it into the app. Finally, a new Trace animation has been provided.
The updates to all three Mac apps are free to existing users.
iWork for iOS -- The iOS apps, which all hit version 2.5 with this update, have received a number of similar improvements, including support for iCloud Drive. Though not obvious from the Documents screens in those apps, tapping the + button on the toolbar presents an import menu with a new entry: iCloud. Tap that and you can roam around the folders of your iCloud Drive to bring in files.
Other features common to all of the iOS apps are support for third-party storage providers like Dropbox, improved file formats, Handoff, better bi-directional language support, a new custom color mixer on the iPad, and the capability to use your device’s camera to add photos to a presentation, spreadsheet, or document.
Individual app enhancements include the following:
Pages for iOS, like its Mac sibling, now provides inline images in tables, headers, and footers; it displays inter-table alignment guides; and it provides for the printing of floating comments. Additionally, tables in Pages now support column and row labels. And, for those who make ebooks with the app, Pages for iOS can export EPUB files that contain videos.
Numbers for iOS also offers the row/column Transpose feature found in its Mac counterpart, and you can print floating comments from the app just as on the Mac.
Keynote for iOS shares the new Trace animation found on the Mac, as well as the floating comment print capability. As in Pages for iOS, tables in Keynote can now have row and column labels, and inter-table alignment guides and other enhancements make positioning tables and charts easier. The app also features new presenter display layouts.
Like the Mac apps, the upgrades are free for all current iWork for iOS users.
In Short -- The vision of cross-device compatibility via iCloud that drove last year’s retooling of the entire iWork suite has been refined on Yosemite and iOS 8, after a disconcerting month when the lack of iCloud Drive on Mavericks made such interchanges problematic.
If you liked the apps before, there is nothing but good news in the latest set of upgrades. If you found the iWork apps seriously lacking compared to what the apps offered before last year’s retooling, you may not find these updates any more compelling. Nonetheless, all the apps are deeper than a cursory examination might reveal, and the enhancements that Apple has just delivered are real improvements to a suite that was already surprisingly capable.