Review: Apple's iWork for iCloud is elegant but limited
Apple's online productivity suite is exceptionally polished and easy to use, but lacking in word processing and spreadsheet featuresFollow @woodyleonhard
Usability, in a word, is excellent, in no small part because the general approach is the same in all of the apps. That coherent design is reflected in the interface itself.
However, Apple has built a retaining wall around iCloud, with high partitions in between, and dealing with it can be frustrating. Instead of doing like Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive and offering a simple click-and-drag interface with deep Mac or Windows File Manager integration, iCloud only accepts files through its browser-based interface, and it stuffs them into strictly cordoned off areas for Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.
If you want to edit a Word document in Pages for iCloud, you have to direct your browser to iCloud, flip to the Pages app, then drag the Word document from your Mac or Windows PC into the landing area inside the browser. If you want to edit a spreadsheet, flip to Numbers, then drag and drop your workbook into the browser. There's no easy way to move a file from one bucket to another, no way to group files by, say, project instead of file type. All of your file manipulation has to take place inside that browser window. It's frustrating and slow.
As with Office Online and Google Drive, iWork for iCloud has a printing capability. Click the Tools menu (the wrench icon) and click Print to have iWork generate a PDF file. You can then click on a button to open a PDF, your browser's PDF viewer kicks in, and usually you can print to anything, anywhere.
Unlike the other two suites, iWork for iCloud will open password-protected Microsoft Office documents. Even Office Online won't do that.
Pages for iCloud
For word processing, Pages for iCloud includes more than 60 popular typefaces, similar to Word Online but less than the nearly unlimited number in Google Docs. Predefined paragraph styles can't be modified, but individual paragraphs can be centered or bulleted, and their line spacing (before, after, internal) can be changed. You can draw on full find and replace, page numbering, and footnotes, and you can insert fixed-size tables and wrap text within cells and include a wide array of mathematical functions. In fact, tables inside Pages docs are functionally identical to tables inside spreadsheets -- a remarkable concept, well executed. Text boxes can have paragraph styles and variable alignment, and there's a small number of pre-defined shapes and arrows.
Pictures can be resized and relocated, and you can make use of an extensive array of picture-handling features, including cropping, rotation, shadows, opacity, and even reflections. There's adjustable text wrapping around pictures. Pages will check spelling as you type, but I found that it flagged relatively common technical terms such as "taskbar") as misspelled, and there's no way to train the spell-checker.
Sharing and collaboration are easy, with unique cursors and selection colors for each collaborator and real-time updates of modified elements (shown in Figure 1) -- much the same as Word Online and Google Docs. But only iWork supports collaboration among its online, iOS, and OS X apps: If you have the same doc open in Keynote for iCloud and Keynote for the Mac and Keynote for iPad, for example, changes made in any one of the three show up more or less immediately in all the others.
Figure 1: Changes made by collaborators are updated on all copies of the document more or less immediately. The location of the collaborator's cursor appears as colored wedges.