November 22, 2013

Discussing iWork

Worried about the recent iWork updates? Don't be.

There have been quite a few posts about the new iWork updates and I unfortunately cannot link to all of them. I am admittedly late to this party, but my thoughts are echoed by quite a few people, so I thought them important to share.

Though I have only used the new software only a few times1, I have been pleasantly surprised by the updates from what I have seen. After watching the press conference, I immediately installed the updates. Cleaner designs, better-thought-out layouts in each application, and easier-to-access power features, in some cases, made me think that these were great updates to applications that definitely needed attention. In addition, I was happy to see the newfound level of compatibility with the iOS versions, especially when using iCloud between platforms, and the added capabilities of the iWork Beta online.

Even if you only focus on the addition of a feature like collaboration, no one can deny that it shows that Apple knows what they need to do to make iWork more of a value proposition. Take then Ben Brooks’ ideas about iWork’s new state as a free software and I start to realize that Apple is playing a longer game than what is currently known or can possibly even be fathomed outside of those in the know. Ken Segall agrees with me in his post, entitled Apple & the art of blowing things up in which he discusses Apple’s modus operandi with regard to moves such as this and why he is more trusting than others.

In other words, I have read and understand the complaints; if a feature that someone depends on has been moved or removed entirely, it can hurt a person’s workflow and even be detrimental to the output of an application. Apple must have foreseen the difficult transition, as the company left the old versions of the applications installed to allow the use of features that were to be nixed in the name of compatibility. Keep in mind, of course, that Apple has done this in the past (with Final Cut Pro and iMovie) and I cannot help but believe that if iWork is to succeed in the future, a reboot was needed. Apple needed to take a difficult step back to create lines of compatibility that would otherwise not be able to exist in the attempt to move further forward.

Look at the recently released support documentation on the subject and you will realize that the future is bright for iWork. For an application set that many feared had reached a point where Apple no longer cared about it, this is a comprehensive list of future iterations that will make the applications better than ever. Or in Horace Dediu’s words:

Some say new iWork is not powerful. I must be using it wrong.

— Horace Dediu (@asymco) November 15, 2013

Nick Heer of Pixel Envy has a good look at the new iWork file format, which might clue us into possible reasoning behind the changes and lack of features. After reading the update section appended to the end, which existed by the time I actually read the article, what I understand is this: each iWork file is broken up into much smaller and more efficient pieces than before, which assist in sync and collaboration operations. My assumption is when new features are added to the software now, more small and efficient pieces with be added to account for these features when in use. In other words, iWork will be able to be more powerful without the worry about bloating the individual file sizes too drastically, which provides happiness for local file storage and iCloud’s storage needs.

Finally, I wanted to give a shout out to Rands in Repose, who posted another fantastic thought provoker, called Desk or Garage Design?, raising the question of where iWork fits into Apple’s lineup of softwares. Is iWork a consumer or prosumer software?

As an avid user, I desperately want [Keynote] to be prosumer because a prosumer application grows with you. The more you ask of it, the more the application reveals well-designed complexity.

I, too, hope that Apple will provide that well-designed complexity that allows an application—a new toy if you will—to never grow old because it continues to grow with you. Perhaps I am being naive, but I think iWork is still a work in progress that now has a foundation to become better than before.

UPDATE: Of course, like any blog post that takes time to write, I was met with a number of wrenches in the works as I was in the final stages of editing this post. In this case, Apple released updates to their iWork suite just yesterday with some of the missing features” already fulfilled. I rest my case.

  1. I have little reason to use the iWork applications on a daily basis because my work does not need much in the way of layouts, spreadsheets, or presentations. 

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