Pages for iPad

| In-Depth Review

Apple’s iPad is a great device for watching movies and TV shows, listening to music and playing games; and thanks to apps like Pages, it works great as a content creation device, too. Pages for the iPad is a slimmed down version of Apple’s word processor and page layout application, and it works surprisingly well for on-the-go document creation and editing.

Like its big brother on the Mac, Pages for the iPad includes a nice set of text and graphics tools for making your documents look sharp. Unlike the Mac version, however, the iPad version’s feature set is a little limited, which is no surprise considering the iPad’s smaller form factor and touch-based interface.

That said, Pages for the iPad includes tools for formatting text, applying text styles, placing graphics and applying effects, and building your own shapes and objects. The tools are surprisingly easy to use despite the fact that the only input tools are your finger tips.

Pages includes several formatting styles, and you can choose fonts and type sizes, too.

Pages includes a nice set of effects and tools such as drop shadows, the ability to control object opacity, image rotation and scaling, smart guides, and auto-wrapping of text around objects. Watching text reflow around objects and images as you drag them is fantastic, especially considering you’re working with a tablet device running iPhone OS.

Entering text with the on-screen virtual keyboard works far better than I expected, but using an external keyboard will let you type faster. Even still, the on-screen keyboard isn’t something to shy away from — at least when using your iPad in landscape mode — and it’s something I’ve already waxed poetic about.

The on-screen keyboard in Pages is surprisingly usable.

The downside to Apple’s well thought out virtual keyboard is that you lose the tool bar in Pages when your iPad is in landscape mode. That’s especially annoying because all of the formatting tools are available only from the tool bar, so you’ll probably end up spinning between landscape and portrait mode far more often than you like.

Presumably, Apple assumed most Pages users will rely on the iPad keyboard dock that holds the tablet in portrait orientation. That’s not much consolation when you’re working in a coffee shop or on an airplane where dragging along a keyboard dock is just a little cumbersome.

Using tabs in Pages is a little odd, too, if you’re using the virtual keyboard. Since the on-screen keyboard doesn’t include a tab key, you’ll need to look to the toolbar instead. Like the desktop version of pages, you can set left, right and decimal tab stops in the toolbar.

You can add images to your layouts with the Media Browser.

Pages also supports tables and charts like the Mac version, although your options are again pared down for the iPad’s touch interface. For example, you can’t select text and convert it to a table. Instead, you create a table then enter text cell by cell.

Building charts works the same way: Drop in a generic chart, then double-tap to add the data you want. You can’t, however, choose custom colors for charts, but at least there are several color combinations to choose from.


Pages includes several drop-in chart and table styles.

Creating a new document is a straightforward process in Pages, but moving documents from your computer to your iPad isn’t nearly so simple. Apple’s advice on moving files to and from your iPad is nothing short of a kludgy slap in the face considering the company expects us to accept email attachments as a perfectly normal way to handle regular document transfers.

The iPad also supports moving files to and from your computer via iTunes, but that’s still a cumbersome system and frankly I’m surprised Apple let the iPad out the door with such a hobbled file transfer system. If you aren’t sure how to use iTunes to share files with your iPad, check out my TMO Quick Tip on the topic, and be sure to check out Ted Landau’s take on the subject, too.

Pages includes a file export option that saves your documents for sharing with other devices as Pages documents, Microsoft Word files, or as PDF. This feature works just fine, but it stores documents in a sort of digital no man’s land and will likely confuse inexperienced users. Like the Mac version of Pages, the iPad version can open Word files, and imported files fared much better than I expected. Outside of missing fonts — which is a potential with any document in Pages since you can’t install extra fonts — documents looked as they should, complete with placed images and text formatting intact.

My Documents is where you open files, import and export files.

Once a document is finished and ready to print, you’ll have to get the document off of your iPad and back on your Mac. That’s another limitation of the iPad, and not a Pages-specific issue thanks to Apple’s decision to position the iPad as a content consumption device, but give us content creation tools. Hopefully Apple will address that shortcoming in a future iPad software update (Hint, hint, Apple: How about in the iPhone OS 4 update this fall?).

Despite everything that Pages for the iPad is capable of, there are a few features I’d like to see added in an update, such as word count support and tracked changes, the ability to add hyperlinks to text, and the ability to create custom styles.

The Bottom Line
Pages for the iPad is a surprisingly capable word processor that could be far more feature-limited than it is thanks to its touch-based interface. The lack of built-in printing support, no support for adding new fonts, and the sometimes available tool bar may put off some users, but it shouldn’t. The app works great for on the go writing and layout, and its ability to import Word files makes it a perfectly capable business tool, too. In fact, Pages for the iPad is capable enough that I wrote this review with it.

Product: Pages

Company: Apple

List Price: $9.99

Pros:

Interface works well for touch-based input, imports Microsoft Word documents, includes slick text, image and object effects, on-screen keyboard is easy to use in landscape mode

Cons:

Tool bar is available only in portrait orientation, moving files to and from your Mac is a pain, no track changes or word count support, can’t create custom styles, no printing support

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13 Comments Leave Your Own

andyoops

Here’s an embarrassingly stupid question:  Does the Keyboard Dock work for typing without the charger being plugged in?

Boris Gates

Pages for iPad is a fail in my book.  I do not intend on creating whole documents on the iPad, but would like to edit them, esp. those of others that are sent to me for revision suggestions.  The iPad seems perfect for such a task.
However, Pages for iPad lacks the track changes feature, which is a key feature, esp. for such a limited document creations device, in my mind.
I hope Apple will step up to the plate and make the application worth while.  At this point, the $9.99 I spent on it, unfortunately, seem wasted, as I cannot use the iPad for my intended purpose.
I think there is a certain minimum of features that are required before an app is no longer is just a cute toy.  Pages, with all of it’s limitations, has not emerged from toyhood to useful application.
Apple, Steve, whoever, please fix and fill this void!

Jeff Gamet

Does the Keyboard Dock work for typing without the charger being plugged in?

Not a stupid question at all. You can use the keyboard dock without connecting to a charger. Of course, you won’t be charging your iPad, but no doubt you already knew that.

Signs

Thanks for this review. I’d however like to pose a question ... why should we think that the touch-interface per se is limiting? It just seems to me that our conventions for using it are not so developed - but assuming we get them in place it could take off quickly - the way Apple’s cut-and-paste implementation on iPhone did. Or?

At any rate, thanks for this review of the state of the art.

andyoops

Thanks Jeff, that is great to know.  It will be so convenient to be able to use the iPad 3G and Pages with that keyboard while commuting!

CharlieM

Boris-

I will make myself appear ancient, which I am. I remember the first MacWrite, on a 128k Mac. MacWrite was light years away from Wordstar the better part of thirty years ago, as interface and appearance went, but lacked the more detailed traditional page bells and whistles to which we have become accustomed to.  I can also remember when “track revisions” first appeared, and then looked for six virgins to offer as a sacrifice in thanks to the primitive software gods of that day.  Ah, but bloatware, such as MS Word, soon waddled in to fill most of the barn.

I’m a writer and a newspaper columnist.  I find the muse to produce a paragraph or more when I am not near my computer more often than I can count. Laptops were too big; netbooks were cheap, flimsy, and slow. Notes on a smartphone? Sorry, I’m not into that whips and chains stuff. The light, “instant-on” iPad is a winner in my book. I proof and format on my MacBook.  It’s the ideas that are perishable. iPad offers me the chance to not scribble notes on cocktail napkins, only to try and sort out what I meant in frustration the next morning.

Pages isn’t perfect, nor comprehensive.  The iPad just released. I’d like a revisions comparisons tool also, but I’d suggest we give it some time.

I remember a Word Perfect demo of an upcoming release of that word processor. The WP rep warned us that the version was still in Alpha…and it WOULD crash during the dog-and-pony show.  Upon final release, it was better and more stable, but I appreciated the advance look, bugs and all.

For $9.99, I’ll get that much and more out of the price of Pages in once-lost productivity the first use. I want apps tailored to the unique form factor of the iPad, not developers getting lazy and trying to stuff a desktop word processor in like the back row of the Redmond, WA Curves franchise. YMMV

YankInOz

I transfered a 79 page business plan (B/P) I am writing to my iPad using Pages and a 35 “slide” Keynote presentation.

Reviewed the B/P and found it to be almost identical (Pages for iPad collapsed the 3-D charts) and the Keynote needed to have the TIFF images converted to jpg, which was quite easy - I just imported the jpgs into a file on iPhoto and synced it.

This was on day two of ownership of the iPad. I went to a meeting and gave the Keynote presentation to a group of interested investors and it made the day.

I am impressed. I do not have any unrealistic expectations of any application written for the iPad to replace the computational capabilities of my MBP or my MacPro…

I see it for what it is - a tool that is easy and fun to use. Pulling out an iPad to give a presentation or review notes or write on the train (or plane) is very easy and my laptop will be riding baggage class from now on. 

Limitations - for what it is intended - I do not see any.
Potential - I will have an iPad for every employee in the company. For meeting notes, lab notes, trade publication reading (as they come on line. I have already talked to some and they see the “reach” potential). Obviously, presentations. And initial “napkin notes” as CharlieM mentioned.

Thanks
Cheers from Downunder

CharlieM

Go ahead, rub it in, having an iPad in OZ…. tongue laugh

To swipe (and parody) one of His Steveness’ famous Keynote lead-in lines:

“And one more thing….”

Is the iPad back curved so we won’t be tempted to confuse it with a bev napkin late at night? Or become a new “skill game” if we become that confused?

At least most of the naysayers outgrew the feminine hygiene jokes…school recess must have gotten over.

Bors Gates

Boris-

I will make myself appear ancient, which I am. I remember the first MacWrite, on a 128k Mac. MacWrite was light years away from Wordstar the better part of thirty years ago, as interface and appearance went, but lacked the more detailed traditional page bells and whistles to which we have become accustomed to.? I can also remember when ?track revisions? first appeared, and then looked for six virgins to offer as a sacrifice in thanks to the primitive software gods of that day.? Ah, but bloatware, such as MS Word, soon waddled in to fill most of the barn.

I?m a writer and a newspaper columnist.? I find the muse to produce a paragraph or more when I am not near my computer more often than I can count. Laptops were too big; netbooks were cheap, flimsy, and slow. Notes on a smartphone? Sorry, I?m not into that whips and chains stuff. The light, ?instant-on? iPad is a winner in my book. I proof and format on my MacBook.? It?s the ideas that are perishable. iPad offers me the chance to not scribble notes on cocktail napkins, only to try and sort out what I meant in frustration the next morning.

Pages isn?t perfect, nor comprehensive.? The iPad just released. I?d like a revisions comparisons tool also, but I?d suggest we give it some time.

I remember a Word Perfect demo of an upcoming release of that word processor. The WP rep warned us that the version was still in Alpha?and it WOULD crash during the dog-and-pony show.? Upon final release, it was better and more stable, but I appreciated the advance look, bugs and all.

For $9.99, I?ll get that much and more out of the price of Pages in once-lost productivity the first use. I want apps tailored to the unique form factor of the iPad, not developers getting lazy and trying to stuff a desktop word processor in like the back row of the Redmond, WA Curves franchise. YMMV

I am glad to hear that you are not as disappointed as I am.  Esp. as an investor this is music to my ears.
I suppose the point is that Pages for iPad does not serve up the functionality I imagined would let me benefit from my iPad for work related things.  Not being so much a creative who wants to jot down things, but more of a supervisor and editor of manuscripts (scientific), the needs diverge…

I, too, remember Macwrite, and then having to use some Wordstar (with visible control characters for the formatting, shudder) or something like that on my first computer, an Osborne, anyone remember those suitcase “portable computers”?  Different time, different needs.
I am still disappointed in Pages for iPad, and agree with some of the posters that is seems like a rush job.  The interface is great, but a lot left out out under the hood that I consider key in 2010.

CharlieM

Boris-

I imagine, then, you know well how “mainstream” word processors either didn’t handle, or at the least required add-in apps to address mathematical and scientific documents.  Hey, I’ll admit I took limits on blind faith that would have put the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta to shame, only to hit the wall at the definite integral. There came a little soul searching over a cold beer about my future in science.  My Veterinarian is my “science guy”, which pisses off a multitude of physician specialists (Aren’t the all ‘specialists’, these days?). My family practitioner was smart enough to see the ‘patient information sheet’ in front of her, noting “New York”, and realized I was a wise guy.

At the 27 January unveiling, I took it that Steve Jobs was mentioning “writing your War and Peace” on the virtual on-screen keyboard in jest.  Not a serious typing tool for anything more than a paragraph or so, but it’s there if one is able to recognize the inherent compromises.

I hope Pages for iPad develops to include more tools we’re learned to take for granted, until they’re not there.  I also don’t want Steve Ballmer cramming the bloat of Word into this form factor. There are things I can live with in Pages that others cannot.  There’s no snoozing at One Infinity Loop in Cupertino just because 3 April is astern of us.

The Osbourne? I had a Kaypro 2…some cans of green and earth tone spray paint was all I would need to transform it into a MilSpec item, had I that urge.  We’ve come a long way, and this is an industry which readily separates the “quick” from the “dead” in short order.  The lead of the iPad is entirely Apple’s to win or lose at this point.

A decade and a half ago, Newton handwriting recognition woes spawned the Palm OS.  Thank goodness the computer trade isn’t requiring us to relearn how to write the alphabet….

Chandra Coomar

They say patience is a virtue. And Apple has always rewarded patience. It’s here. It will improve rapidly.

JodyArmstrong

I need a pretty basic question answered, which I just can’t find anywhere (so far) on the Internet.

Is it true that Pages (for iPad) does not have a “Save As” feature?

My second day of iPad ownership, I began working on a word processing project (one of the main reasons I purchased an iPad).  (I’d hoped to be able to do this basic task from anywhere, given iPad’s ultra-portability.) 

I noticed that the pre-formatted templates in Pages are far too limited for my tastes.  (I was a graphic designer and had my own web development company for several years, before retiring.  As such, I don’t need pre-set templates.  I prefer to make my own.)  That didn’t really bother me, since I knew I’d be working almost exclusively in plain, ol’ black & white text for this project (and others).

Getting back to my situation…  I typed away, that second day with my iPad, to the tune of about 5 or 6 pages of original content.

I’d already read online warnings about creating a new copy of a document before opening it, to edit it.  But when I opened this new, 6-page document, I was only looking to see if I could add page numbers.

Not being familiar with Pages, it didn’t take too long to figure it out.  I was happy, until I scrolled through my document, only to find I’d lost all but the first paragraph I’d typed.

I tried ‘Undo’ but that didn’t make the text reappear.  I tried ‘Redo’ without any luck.  All my work was gone.  (The iPad nearly sailed out the window, at that point!)

Now, if I’d been in MSWord and encountered the same problem, I’d have simply used the ‘Save As’ command to save this (corrupt) document as a new one, which would leave the original document I started with, intact.

No such luck, it seems.

As far as I can tell, if you make any changes to an existing document, you’d better be able to ‘Undo/Redo’ unwanted changes, or you’re f***ed.  (And by the time you find out you can’t ‘Undo’, you’re f***ed anyway.)

It can’t possibly be the case that I have to make a new copy of my documents each and every time I go to open them “just in case” I might make a change and something goes wrong.  That can’t conceivably be how any program should work, right?  I have to know, in advance, that I’ll make changes and/or some problem might arise?  ...That all files must be duplicated before opening, “just in case”??????

There HAS to be a ‘Save As’ function for ANY word processing program, right?  ...Just for this exact kind of situation, right?!?

Please, if anyone knows how I can confidently work on existing documents on my iPad (in Pages or any other word processing program) please let me know.

I have literally lost at least a couple of week’s worth of working time because I’m too terrified to begin new work on my iPad, yet I don’t have another portable device (and don’t have the level of personal security/privacy on my main computer that I need for this task).

I’m just baffled.  Is there a proper word processing program for iPad that allows me the freedom to ‘Save As’ versions of my work as I make changes??????  Help!

Hannah Liscomb

Can you print from this app?

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