Apple's iWork '09 ($79) is an excellent investment for Mac users who need a well-designed and easy-to-use productivity suite. Though iWork doesn't offer an integrated business e-mail solution such as Microsoft Outlook, it does include a core group of apps-- Keynote, Numbers, and Pages --with plenty of intuitive features like interoperability across apps to make that absence easy to overlook. Apple has significantly updated all three products to enhance and streamline workflow with numerous interface tweaks and feature enhancements. Like previous versions--to calm Windows-to-Mac switcher anxiety--iWork files are fully compatible with its Microsoft Office counterparts.
iWork '09 also introduces iWork.com public beta, a new Web service. This fledgling sharing site lets you share documents online, invite viewers who can make comments, and allows for downloads in iWork, Microsoft Office, and PDF formats. Sadly, it does not let you edit online, so true online collaboration is unavailable. The beta is free, but Apple gives no word yet on the pricing structure once iWork.com reaches release status.
Setup and Interface
As in the previous iWork installment, you won't need the latest and greatest Mac to run iWork '09. At minimum, you'll need an Intel, PowerPC G5, or G4 machine with a 500MHz or better processor, plus a minimum of 512MB of RAM (1GB recommended) running OS X 10.4.11. Installation was seamless in our tests, taking just under 10 minutes.
iWork's appearance hasn't changed much since iWork '08. The minimalist layout and easy to navigate toolbars remain; home and small business users will find the suite accommodating. The iWork '09 toolset still outmatches online solutions (minus collaboration abilities) such as Google Docs and Spreadsheets, ZOHO, and ThinkFree, so Mac users will have more functionality firepower than the common online offerings. Smart tools in iWork like the Contextual Format Bar in Pages and Keynote's new Magic Move features are the type of the things you won't find in online favorites.
Past versions of Keynote have always won us over, and new features in Keynote '09 only make iWork better. Easy-to-use graphics tools and a variety of animation effects help you make eye-catching presentations, and a slew of new transitions and intuitive animation effects add to this presentation program's appeal.
The new Magic Move tool lets you automatically animate images, graphics, and text by choosing from several preset slide transitions. Keynote will automatically resize, rotate, and change the position of objects between slides with one of several 3D effects. We especially like the options for text animation, which let you make creative transitions by switching letters from one slide into a new message on the next using unique new visual effects such as Sparkle, Anagram, and Swing.
New styles and animations are available for 3D charts in Keynote '09, letting you make graphs with beveled edges, cylinder shapes, and 3D textures. We like that the new build effects use 3D motion to animate your charts, making them more eye-catching, too.
To reduce file size for your presentations, Keynote '09 has implemented a way to optimize video files. Now you can clip your videos to just the segment you want, and Keynote trims any unused video frames. You also can easily convert images to slide resolution to trim even more.
Pages '09 offers feature-rich word processing and layout tools alongside intuitive graphics features to make your projects both easy to make and easy on the eyes. Though not as deep as Microsoft Word for formatting and layout options, Pages now offers even more variety with 40 new templates, including stationary sets and a variety of newsletter designs. Added support for EndNote X2 (sold separately) makes adding bibliographic references to your project extremely easy, and new support for MathType 6 (sold separately) makes adding mathematical equations a snap.