Keynote and Pages: Compress documents before sharing them by e-mail

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh, Pages
March 18th, 2005 • 12:41 am

This is an important piece of information for people who are experimenting with Pages and sharing their documents with other Pages users over the Internet.

If you want to share your Keynote/Pages documents with other people by e-mail, make sure you compress them first in the Finder, using the “Create Archive of…” command (which creates a Zip archive of your document). If you don’t, the recepient might not be able to open the document.

What Apple’s note doesn’t say is why. The reason is simple: Pages documents are not, technically speaking, simple files. They are actually bundles, which look like files in the Finder (and behave like files in most respects), but are actually folders containing multiple files.

One way to see this is to control-click on a Pages document with a file. In the contextual menu, you’ll see the “Show Package Contents” command, which you can then use to open the “file” as a folder in a separate Finder window. You’ll then see that your Pages “file” actually contains a folder called “Contents“, another one called “thumbs“, and a file called “index.xml.gz“.

If you send a Pages document as a regular attachment by e-mail without compressing it first, there is a risk (depending on the kind of mail servers that your e-mail goes through to reach the recipient) that some of this will be lost, resulting in an incomplete Pages “file” that Pages won’t be able to open.

I have experienced it myself already.

Of course, this whole thing raises questions for which Apple appears to have no answer at this point, such as: What happened to ease of use? Why should the user have to go through this extra step of compressing the document first, and then the recipient have to decompress the file first? This is hardly intuitive stuff. I am afraid a simple tech note on Apple’s support web site doesn’t cut it.

To Apple’s defence, solving this problem from a UI perspective is pretty tricky. First, there is no guarantee that people using Pages are also using Apple’s own Mail program for e-mail. If they use another e-mail program, then Apple has no control over how the Pages document is attached to the e-mail. So even if Mail was updated to automatically zip attachments when the attachments are Pages document (and automatically unzip them at the other end), it still wouldn’t solve the problem.

And it’s just as tricky to try and ensure that no mail server will destroy the integrity of Pages bundles. There are too many types of mail servers out there, many of which still use pretty outdated technologies.

So it looks like we’ll be stuck with having to zip/unzip our Pages documents manually for a long time — unless Apple decides to change the .pages file format itself, which is the most reasonable solution to me. Why not make the .pages file format a bundle that compresses/decompresses itself automatically? How many users actually need to be able to look inside the package in the Finder?

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