PC Magazine reviews Apple iWork ‘08: In many ways an improvement over Microsoft Office

“With iWork ’08, Apple finally offers a software suite that presents Microsoft Office with a serious challenge for dominance on the Macintosh desktop. A brand-new spreadsheet program called Numbers joins new versions of the Pages word-processor and Keynote presentation package to create a low-priced alternative to the trio of Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. Unlike the freeware OpenOffice.org and NeoOffice, iWork isn’t an Office clone but a true alternative to Office—a graphics-centric suite in which all three programs are built on the same foundation, and all three are essentially graphics applications in which you position objects such as text, spreadsheet tables, and presentation slides on a drawing canvas. Apple’s suite can import Microsoft Office documents, including those created in Office 2007, and can export to the Office 97-2003 format, which Office 2007 can read,” Edward Mendelson reports for PC Magazine.

“Thanks to the graphics-canvas architecture of iWork, Numbers is the most significant new idea in spreadsheets in two decades. Unlike an Excel spreadsheet—essentially a grid with formulas in each cell—a Numbers document is a canvas that contains a many or as few tables, charts, graphics, text, or almost anything else as you care to add, in a layout that’s easy to tweak,” Mendelson reports.

“Numbers, at least in its first version, isn’t scriptable, which means that you can’t write simple or complex programs that automatically modify or create a table, as you can in Excel,” Mendelson reports. “Don’t be discouraged by these limitations, however, because Numbers has some impressive powers out of the box.”

“Microsoft Office 2004 for the Mac costs $149 for students and teachers, $399 for everyone else, and includes the Entourage mail client and PIM. In contrast, iWork ’08 costs $79 (direct) and works closely with the e-mail and information-management software already in OS X. I’m not sure that I could manage without Office on my Mac, but that’s because I do a lot of work with long, complex, automated documents. For graphics-intensive home, student, and small-office use, however, iWork isn’t merely a substitute for Office; in many ways, it’s an improvement,” Mendelson reports.

Full review (4 out of 5 stars, “Very Good”), including reviews of Pages and Keynote, here.


  1. Ray – type your documents in LaTeX if you need equations. M$ Word documents look horrid with math typeset. I used to be a college mathematics instructor and wrote all my own stuff because my administrative assistant only knew M$ Word with Mathtype.

    BTW, if you don’t want to learn all the LaTeX code for equations, you can use Mathtype to export the code for an equation of any complexity.

    Try LaTeX with TeXShop as a front end. After a bit of learning you’ll be making beautiful documents.

  2. Yeah, I think the next version of iWork will be killer, this is a good start, it’s really iWork 1.0 when you think about it. It wasn’t a complete suite until now.

    Now if they would just take some ownership of their redheaded step child in the attic called FileMaker and roll it up into iWork, small businesses would finally have an OS X answer to Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Access all in one $79 box.

    It’s a shame that Apple owns FileMaker but doesn’t take any pride in it whatsoever. The name “Apple” only appears on the FileMaker website once, in a tiny disclaimer at the bottom that says FileMaker Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Apple, Inc.

  3. Ladies and Gents,
    I had the pleasure to go out to the King of Prussia Mall last night and play around with iWork ’08 on a new iMac. My thoughts:

    iWork ’08 is a very worthwhile update – Pages and Keynote are faster and more refined than ever. Keynote now is almost like a animation program in some ways. The new themes are beautiful and seem to be based on some Pages templates. Very impressive overall. I didn’t try out Numbers, though.

    The new iMacs are beautiful! They look much better in person AND the aluminum looks much “whiter” than the TV commercial makes them seem – very close to the version of the iMac they are replacing, despite the different materials.

    The glossy screens are only a problem when you look at them from an angle. I also checked out the viewing angle on the 24 and compared to the 20 (because of posts in forums about a difference). There is a difference between the two, but not much. Glare from lighting reduces the viewing angle significantly, but when away from a direct light source the angle is almost 180 degrees laterally.

    OK, now the floor is open for questions.

  4. @Jim:
    I used to use Latex. It’s OK for academic situations but far from standard outside academia. Like it or not, Word remains the de facto standard for the exchange of documents in the commercial world. That’s OK – iWork can use this format – but the fact that it can’t handle mathematics renders it useless for any vaguely scientific application.

  5. Furthermore, the fact that Pages can’t do cross-referencing within a document, or properly handle footnotes, custom numbering, etc, etc, means it is no better than a toy in any serious report writing scenario. Fine for home use, nothing more. It’s an alternative to Microsoft Works, not Microsoft Office.

  6. How about this: One of the toilets here at work keeps flushing and flushing and it doesn’t stop. Right now it isn’t an emergency because the toilet isn’t overflowing. Anyway, I’m gonna have to make an “OUT OF ORDER” sign to put on the stall. Do I use Apple’s namby-pamby i(Don’t)Work or do I unleash the raw power of Microsoft’s fantastic PowerPoint or even Word to do the job right? I can make the font really big in either case. Suck it, MAC lemmings.

    Your potential. Our passion.™

  7. Maybe iWork 09 will finally have enough features to kill off the need for the Office abomination. I use Office2004 at work (required), but I literally do 99% of my text work in Apple’s TextEdit and save as RTF. Plus it opens Office “doc” files which keeps me from opening that “unclean” app.

    When I need something to open a 4-plus MB file as text, I turn to TextWrangler only ’cause it’s faster with large files.

    What would happen if Apple built a Windows version of iWork? Would the lack of the iLife suite under Windows be enough to keep iWork from being good enough? (ie; no iPhoto, iMovie to hook into, but you’d have iTunes at least)

    MW= “stood”, as in , Microsoft “Bob” stood for a quality product on the other side of the fence.

  8. I think iWork is great, but it does have a long way to go. In many ways, it reminds me of the infamous Zune. There really are some good ideas, but people are reluctant to give up what they know and love. But I can see iWork taking a significant part of the market in the next 5-10 years (I can’t say the same for the Zune).

  9. I’ve heard that one way to do equations is to use the OS X graphing caluclator. Copy and paste into the doc and you’re good to go. The only downside is that the equation is saved as an SVG graphic and isn’t editable after it is pasted into Pages.

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