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
This is the second in a series of three reviews covering the major online productivity apps -- Microsoft Office Online, Apple iWork for iCloud, and Google Drive (aka Google Docs or Google Apps). Welcome to iWork for iCloud and its three component apps: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote for iCloud.
Perhaps the most striking thing about iWork for iCloud is that unlike Office Online and the Google Drive suite, it has clearly been built as a whole from the ground up. Office Online inherits its DNA from Microsoft Office, which itself grew in Frankenstein fashion over many years. The Google Apps resemble Office 2003 in an uncanny way; they, too, have odds and ends grafted on the side. Both remain saddled with old-fashioned interfaces, and even old-fashioned notions about what constitutes a document or a spreadsheet or a presentation. With iWork, Apple takes a fresh approach.
[ Also on InfoWorld: Review: Office Online is great for Word and Excel, not PowerPoint • Hands on: Office 365 on the Mac and iPad. | InfoWorld dishes on must-have iPad office apps,essential Android productivity apps, androad-warrior standbys. Start downloading! | Get the latest insight on the tech news that matters from InfoWorld's Tech Watch blog. ]
Unlike Microsoft and Google, Apple doesn't draw a distinction between personal and corporate use of its online suite. If there's a way to actually pay for iWork for iCloud, I haven't found it. Apple used to sell iOS and OS X versions of the iWork apps, but as of September 2013, they're free for those who buy new Apple mobile devices or computers, respectively. Also unlike Microsoft and Google, Apple notes that its online apps are currently in beta.
Getting started with Apple's iWork for iCloud is much like with Office Online and Google Apps. Just go to icloud.com and log in with an Apple account (7GB free iCloud storage for signing up). Like Office Online and Google Drive, iWork for iCloud officially supports all four of the major browsers.
How iWorks hangs together
More than any other suite in these reviews, iWork for iCloud has a very coherent, uniform design -- the apps hang together well. Even the icons at the top of the window (see Figure 1) are identical in all three apps. They have a minimalist feel, but cover all of the bases. The zoom box at the top makes it easy to grow or shrink the visible area.
All of the iWork for iCloud apps have spacing and centering grids, invoked under the wrench icon. They all insert text boxes and shapes and pictures in the same way: If you learn how to put a table in Pages, for example, the same precise method works in Numbers and Keynote. Formatting panes, with tabs, on the right are nearly identical in the various apps.