Pages 5: An unmitigated disaster

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Pages
October 24th, 2013 • 8:45 am

Dear oh dear. They really have done it, haven’t they? They have taken what had evolved into a rather decent word processor / page layout application and have eliminated so many useful features that it effectively is now a piece of useless junk, and I honestly have no idea for whom this latest version of Pages is intended.

It certainly is not intended for people who, like me, appreciated the combination of simplicity and power that was the hallmark of previous versions of Pages. I realize that it must be hard to maintain the right balance between simplicity and power when you try to add more features, more customizability, and so on. But Apple’s engineers appear to have chosen to keep the emphasis on “simplicity” at the expense of “power”. They have not just neglected to add features to bring the feature set of the application closer to that of a word processor like Microsoft Word. They have actually removed many features for no apparent reason other than to bring the application in line with its iOS counterpart, which is, inevitably, much less powerful.

To take just one example, it appears to be no longer possible to assign shortcuts to paragraph and character styles in Pages 5. The ability to assign shortcuts to styles was woefully limited in previous versions of Pages, but at least there was one. Now, there is nothing. If you want to use styles, it’s clicks, clicks, and more clicks with the mouse. Each and every time.

To make matters worse, they appear to have completely broken AppleScript support in Pages 5, which means that my solution for customizing Pages with a combination of AppleScript scripts and Keyboard Maestro has also become useless. (Not that AppleScript support in Pages ’09 was perfect, far from it. But at least it was working to some extent. And bugs and limitations could be worked around.)

I guess that, in an era of mobile, touch-based computing, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for Apple engineers to understand that document writers spend most of their days with their hands on an actual keyboard, and providing easy access to functionality via the keyboard is particularly important for them.

But this is just one example. There are many, many more:

(And much more here.)

We Mac power users have been complaining about the “dumbing down” trend in computing that the mobile era has ushered in. Now it’s definitely come to hurt us in a big way. It’s as if the entire iWork team of engineers has been replaced by iOS specialists with little or no interest in the needs of “prosumers” and the like.

It is just profoundly sad and depressing. In spite of all its flaws, I have been using Pages as my main word processor for many years now. Meanwhile, Microsoft Word has just become more and more horrible to look at and to use. I guess that, for now, I will continue to use Pages ’09 with all the customizations that I have painstakingly created with AppleScript and Keyboard Maestro. But sooner or later, I will have no choice but to switch to something else. Imagine being a plumber or an electrician and discovering that your main toolmakers are no longer able to make tools that enable you to actually get your work done in an efficient and effective fashion. Who do you turn to? How do you maintain your own productivity? I really have no idea.

At least I didn’t to pay for Pages 5. For whatever reason, after I installed Mavericks, the App Store made it available to me for free, as an “update”. Ditto for Numbers and Keynote, which I have yet to look at.

But it’s so bad that I actually might have to erase it from my hard drive altogether, in order to avoid any confusion with multiple Pages file formats and the like. (Installing Pages 5 does not remove Pages ’09. At least it did not on my machine.)

22 Responses to “Pages 5: An unmitigated disaster”

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