Pages for iOS review: More features for iOS, still lags behind on the Mac

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The Good Pages has new useful features that work with iOS 8 and Yosemite, a more efficient interface, and is a free upgrade to people with new iOS devices or older versions of the app.

The Bad Using the app on the iPhone feels very cramped. The Mac version is still not on par with iWork '09.

The Bottom Line With more templates and a streamlined interface, the latest version of Pages is an improvement on iOS, but the Mac version is going to need more time to catch up.


7.7 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 7
  • Interface 8
  • Performance 8

Editors' note: This review was updated October 22 with new information from the latest update.

Pages (iOS|Mac) , Apple's word processing app, got a complete redesign for iOS 7, and Apple has continued to add features over its lifespan. Now, with iOS 8 and Yosemite available, it gets even more, with handoff features and the added ability to use AirDrop between iOS devices and Macs. The only drawback since remaking iWork from the ground up with feature parity in the iOS and Mac versions, is that Mac users lost out on features they had in iWork '09.

Before I start, know that I did most of my testing on the iPad. You can get Pages for your iPhone (just like the rest of the iWork apps), but the smaller screen makes it much harder to create and edit documents unless you're on an iPhone 6 Plus. You don't lose any functionality by using the iPhone version, and it will come in handy in a pinch, but Pages on the iOS devices with larger screens is a much better experience.

Starting in 2013, Apple announced iWork is free to anyone who buys a new Apple device. And when you add in the collaboration tools across all three iWork apps, Apple's productivity suite is getting closer to competing with what Google has to offer. But taken as a whole -- with the Mac version of the apps -- Apple's solution feels unfinished, making Google Docs the better solution, especially for desktop users.

Clean look and layout

In making version 5 work better for touch screens, Apple put the most-used tools in different locations depending on whether you're using an iPhone or iPad. With the iPhone's smaller screen, touching the top of the screen is not such a hassle. But when on the iPad, instead of using buttons at the top for fonts, style, and formatting, Apple has moved these buttons to the top of the keyboard. Having the tools at the top of the page was something I always found awkward on my iPad, so I like this small but more convenient change.

If you want to change Web standard heading and text sizes, highlight the text in question, touch the paintbrush button, then scroll through the available options. This particular set of menus is where you'll find text alignment as well as useful tools for creating lists and other layout options. As an alternative to the font and format settings on top of the keyboard, fonts can be changed at the top of this same menu.

Like earlier versions of Pages, you also have the ability to add charts, graphs, images, and more to your documents. When you know where you want to place an object, you can touch the plus sign in the upper right and choose an image from your photo library, or select from tons of premade charts, graphs, and shapes in several colors. When you've made your selection, it will show up in your document, and you can then touch and drag it to whatever position you want, while the text automatically wraps around it. It's a really neat feature that will allow you to be creative with your documents, giving you almost limitless possibilities.

When you create a new document you'll get several templates to choose from. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Collaboration and iCloud Drive

With all three iWork apps, you can invite up to 20 people to work on the same document simultaneously, and you'll see other users interacting with the document in real time. The app color codes each user so you know who is working on a particular section. People also can make comments on sections, which then show up for all people sharing the document.

Another useful feature that comes with making the iOS and Mac versions the same is that your work is synced across all devices through iCloud Drive and you don't lose your formatting or layout when switching. This means that changes you make to a document on your iPad will be reflected in the same document on your Mac, iPhone, or even the Web version of Pages you can access on any platform with a Web browser. It also means that if you're running iOS 8 and Yosemite, you can switch devices on the fly with handoff features.

Great starting points with templates

The latest version of Pages includes 60 different templates on the iPad with several common document types that will be useful to just about everyone. The iPhone version only offers eight templates, but you can import documents with different templates you started on your iPad or Mac and you don't lose any of the formatting. Each of the template types are categorized so you can browse to the Reports section if you're looking to write an essay, project proposal or term paper, as examples, or you can select from several different layouts in the Resume section. The iPad version also has templates for making business cards, flyers and posters, greeting cards and both personal and business letters. When you want to mail a letter, you can choose an envelope template, add in your info, and then print it on an envelope via AirPrint for a more professional look.

You can add an image from your library, then touch and drag it into place while the text wraps automatically. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

What about the Mac version?

All of the iWork apps including Pages, Numbers and Keynote, were rebuilt from the ground up to share the same features across Mac and mobile so you could do the same things on any device, but in that process, the Mac version ended up with fewer features. There are already a ton of complaints on the Web specifically from Mac users and they have a point: Ever since Apple updated all the iWork apps in 2013, the Mac version doesn't have as many features as it did in iWork '09.

Though it's of little consolation for Mac users, what's most likely going to happen is that Apple will add in new (and old) features that make sense on each platform. In an attempt to keep users of the older versions happy, Apple has left iWork '09 alone (not replacing it with the upgrade), so if you miss certain functionality, you can still use the older version. Obviously, it's not an ideal situation for users, but there are going to be some growing pains for the time being after making the apps on both platforms share features and functionality.

New features in the latest version

Since its launch in 2013, Apple has been adding new features (and some old ones) to bring the Mac version closer to what it was in iWork '09 and making the iOS versions stronger. The vertical ruler (that was in iWork '09), improved alignment guides, and keyboard shortcuts for styles have all been added as new versions roll out.