February 3rd, 2006 • 4:28 pm
I am mostly interested in Pages (part of iWork) as a word processor, i.e. as a replacement for Microsoft Word. I have no use for it as a page layout tool. When I have to do page layout, it’s usually at a professional level, and I do it in InDesign.
As a word processor, Pages 1 was a pleasant surprise. Behind a clean interface, Apple had managed to include a great number of advanced features that made it a viable alternative to Microsoft Word as a word processor.
Still, there were a number of rather basic things that were missing in that first version, and I was really hoping that, after one year of user feedback, Pages 2, included in iWork ’06, would include substantial bug fixes and improvements.
Sadly, I have to report that, as a word processor, Pages 2 features almost no improvements of interest to me, and that most of the issues that I had with Pages 1 remain.
As a long-time user of Spell Catcher X, I have absolutely no use for yet another application-specific automatic completion/correction tool. I don’t need mail merge. And the availability of endnotes in addition to footnotes is just one of those things that should have been there from the start.
Meanwhile, most of the existing problems with Pages remain:
- The bug with font smoothing is still not fixed, as we’ve seen earlier.
- You still cannot assign keyboard shortcuts to styles. Since Pages’s Styles drawer cannot be accessed using Full Keyboard Access, the only way to apply styles is with the mouse! Given that, in a word processor, most of the time is spent entering text with the keyboard, this is highly unfortunate. It’s not like Apple has to include a complex keyboard customization feature either. All they have to do is ensure that paragraph, character, and list styles are available as menu commands in a submenu inside the “Keyboard Shortcuts” feature in System Preferences. But in Pages, styles are not available as menu commands. They are only available through the drawer. No changes in Pages 2. ” menu in the menu bar. As long as styles are available as menu commands, you can assign application-specific keyboard shortcuts to them using Mac OS X’s built-in “
- The “Replace All” command in the “Find/Replace” window still ignores the current selection. This means that “Replace All” automatically applies to your entire document. It’s an unacceptable limitation. There are numerous situations where you want to do a find/replace operation that only applies to a section of the document.
- You still cannot use table cell borders thinner than 1 point. In Pages 1.0, you couldn’t go lower than “1 pt.” Now in Pages 2.0 you can go down to 0.25 pt, but instead of making the border thinner, it turns it into a 1-pt border in light grey! What the hell is that good for? Geez.
- You still cannot choose a zoom value by typing a specific percentage. I want to use 175% as my default zoom value. I cannot.
I could go on… I am afraid that, as a word processor, Pages 2.0 is not really worth the upgrade price. On top of it, it introduces a new file format and you have to use a special option if you want to save a copy of your Pages 2 document in a format that Pages 1 users will be able to read—even if your Pages 2 document does not use any of the new features that, presumably, justify the file format change.
It’s all quite disappointing. I am simply flabbergasted that Apple has not even fixed the font smoothing bug. After a whole year, they still haven’t read the bug reports and noticed that Pages fails to use the font smoothing style selected in “Appearance” in System Preferences? Unbelievable. The only rational explanation is that they somehow “forgot” to take the system’s font smoothing style into account when they first created the text rendering engine used in Pages, and now they would have to redo that text rendering engine itself in order to make it compatible, and they have just decided that it’s not worth the trouble. That doesn’t make it any less scandalous. First of all, how could they neglect to use the system’s font smoothing style in the first place? And now, how can they justify forcing users to cope with text in the wrong font smoothing style, especially given than most recent Macintosh computers use flat panel displays?
This is not about esthetics. It’s about on-screen readability and eye strain. It’s a fundamental issue when working with text!