Mossberg: iWork '08 Nice, Innovative, but Numbers Wimpy

by , 4:10 PM EDT, August 16th, 2007

Apple's new iWork '08 is a nice product, has some refreshing innovations, but Numbers is wimpy compared with Microsoft Excel, according to Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

Mr. Mossberg tested iWork '08 to see if Apple could really take on Microsoft in the category of productivity software -- where MS Office rules even on the Mac.

The verdict was: "iWork 08 is a nice product, capable of turning out sophisticated and attractive word-processing, presentation and spreadsheet documents. It can even read Microsoft Office documents, whether created on the Mac or on Windows computers, and can save documents in Microsoft Office formats so they can be opened in Office on the Mac or on Windows."

However, Mr. Mossberg concluded that iWork "Work simply isn't as powerful or versatile as Microsoft Office, especially when it comes to word processing and spreadsheets. And it suffers from a design that places far more emphasis on making documents look beautiful than on the nuts and bolts of the actual process of writing and number-crunching." [Emphasis added by TMO.]

Even though the Numbers application has some "refreshing innovation" is very approachable, has sliders for changing values, and has better sorting, it is missing some important features and is "wimpier than Excel," according to Mr. Mossberg. Numbers has about half the functions of Excel and has no pivot tables.

Pages was noted to be more of a page layout tool than a writing program, something that is well known. Finally, Keynote was lauded as the strongest part of the trio.

"If youre a Mac user with basic word-processing and spreadsheet needs, and a strong emphasis on design, iWork is good choice, especially if perfect compatibility with Microsoft Office isn't a high priority. But for office-suite users more concerned with function than form, Id recommend sticking with Office," Mr. Mossberg concluded.

TMO notes that the design of iWork is intentionally different than MS Office and caters to a different kind of customer. However, comparing the products is useful for those Apple customers who just don't want to (or can't) pay for both, need to learn more, and need to decide which one meets their needs better. In that sense, Mr. Mossberg's comparison was valuable and well executed.