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.