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Pages, Keynote, and Numbers Receive Minor Updates

With the October 2013 release of Pages 5, Keynote 6, and Numbers 3, Apple radically revised its iWork suite (see “New Free iLife and iWork Apps Share across Devices and Platforms,” 22 October 2013). But these major updates were not so much improvements as rewrites meant to bring the Mac apps into lockstep with their iOS versions and with the new iWork for iCloud beta.

Previously, although it had been possible to share documents between the Mac and iOS versions, various aspects of your documents could be lost in the transition. With these rewrites, Apple pivoted the problem. iWork documents can now round trip between Mac OS X, iOS, and iCloud without problems, because Apple changed the underlying file formats and removed the offending features from the Mac versions of the apps.

Once this strategy became apparent, it was met with screams of outrage from users who relied on the missing features. (To its credit, Apple didn’t replace the iWork ’09 versions of the apps with these new ones, so people could continue relying on the more capable previous versions if necessary.) Several weeks later, Apple released an uncharacteristic public acknowledgement of the feature losses and a promise to bring back some features.

In rewriting these applications, some features from iWork ’09 were not available for the initial release. We plan to reintroduce some of these features in the next few releases and will continue to add brand new features on an ongoing basis.

Let’s not be too congratulatory here — it’s a support document, not an apology from Tim Cook. Plus, Apple was responding to public criticism, not proactively addressing concerns. And Apple’s promise itself, while better than the previous silence, basically reiterates the status quo — just about any program from any developer receives new features over time. That’s how the software business works. What we’re now seeing now are the first updates that start to bring back earlier features.

So what’s new? The main change in Pages 5.0.1, Keynote 6.0.1, and Numbers 3.0.1 is the capability to customize the toolbar with the tools you use most often. (That was first on the list in the support document; I wonder if Apple will update it.) Pages 5.0.1 also now has center and edge guides turned on by default. Keynote 6.0.1 adds seven transitions and seven builds (some of which are returning from the grave; others appear to be entirely new). And Numbers 3.0.1 once again remembers window size and placement on save and lets you set the default zoom in the preferences, both of which are basic oversights that worked fine in Numbers 2.3.

All the updates also promise “Stability improvements and bug fixes,” and all three are available from Software Update. Here’s hoping we see additional updates soon.

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