Once Office for iPad was announced, I couldn't wait to stage a bare-knuckled battle with iWork, the productivity suite that's held down the fort on iPad for four years. I pitted Apple's Pages, Numbers, and Keynote against Microsoft's Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps, respectively, to determine which better provided all the tools one would need in at typical work environment.
For each of the comparisons, I first evaluated each app on its own merits. Then, because Microsoft Office is the de-facto standard for most workplaces, I saved an iWork file in its equivalent Microsoft Office format, opened and edited it in Office for iPad, then sent it back to iWork to see how well file fidelity would be maintained during collaboration.
Word vs. Pages
I started by creating a text document in Pages. The app offers all the tools you need for creating and editing content on an iPad, but you have to do some hunting to find them. Basic functions like tab, text justification, and font type/size; and formatting such as bold, italic, and underline, are all available in plain sight above the virtual keyboard.
More advanced features, though, are accessed via a row of icons at the upper-right of the display. Tapping the paintbrush icon opens formatting options such as headings, strikethrough, numbered or bulleted lists, and line spacing. The + icon lets you add elements like images, tables, charts, and shapes. And Pages has a small wrench icon that provides access to general document settings and enables you to turn on things like change tracking.
Pages includes a variety of pre-formatted templates for different types of documents like flyers, newsletters, invoices, and more. However, I chose a blank document. I wrote some text, turned on change tracking, made some small edits, and added comments. When I tried to share a link to the Pages document through iCloud, however, Pages informed me that I can't share a document while change tracking is enabled. Instead, I sent a copy of the file — saved in Word DOC format — as an email attachment, and opened it in the Word for iPad app.
The Word app looks and feels almost exactly like Word 2013 on a desktop, with menu tabs for Home, Insert, Layout, Review, and View across the top. I prefer the layout in Word, because both simple and advanced formatting options can be quickly accessed from the ribbon rather than requiring you to access a sub-menu.
When I opened the Word DOC I created in Pages, things looked wonky. The image I had placed on the far right was in the middle of the text, and the text was a bit jumbled. It seems Word was at fault, though, because that was only true in the initial Read Mode. Once I enabled editing, everything looked as it should, including the revisions and comments.
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