- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2005

Pages — one-half of Apple’s new IWork suite — is not your father’s word-processing program. It’s not even your older sister’s. Instead, it is a different sort of animal that at once delights and frustrates those accustomed to more powerful technologies.

The delight comes from overall ease of use and from extremely powerful page-layout and design features, which, as some other reviewers have noted, rival desktop publishing programs for their completeness. The frustration comes from a sort of either/or approach. You can have footnotes in a document, but not endnotes, for example.

Is it, then, worth the $79 to get Pages and Keynote 2, a presentation graphics program, in the IWork box? Yes.

Starting with a blank page, for the moment, Pages can be an exceptionally “clean” working environment. The rulers and other signs of page layout don’t appear unless summoned, nor do “invisibles” such as the dots representing space or the paragraph marks representing, well, paragraphs. There’s a sparse tool bar and it, too, can be hidden. If left at the top of the screen, it will offer access to several features, but nowhere near the plethora of possibilities found in, say, the Microsoft Word 2004 tool-bar palate.

Writing is straightforward and undistracted. The default typeface for body copy is Helvetica, a clean, sans-serif typeface that’s good for letters, memos and documents of short-to-moderate length.

Paragraphs are flush left, although some words on a line will be automatically hyphenated, a feature that can be turned off using the “Inspector,” a combination of document-setup guide and information box showing how many words, characters and pages are in your document.

The orientation of the controls in Pages is as much toward page layout for publication as it is for anything else. That Inspector panel lets you set things such as ligatures, which are two or more type characters that touch, such as “ff,” “fl,” or “ffi.” These are normally the concerns of typesetters and desktop publishers more than those writing a memo.

But the memo writers among us have much to cheer in Pages. There are tons of templates for letters, resumes, invoices, memos and other documents. These templates can be adapted to include company logos and the like, then saved for future use.

However, the Pages templates for letters and for more complex documents such as brochures, menus and flyers are more artistic than many I’ve seen for other programs. The publication templates for newsletters, journals and the like are very, very good and, if used with some forethought, can be the basis for some very professional publications.

Best of all, these templates can be modified and customized: Nine pages of the very good “User’s Guide” for Pages concern creating your own templates. The software works with IPhoto to integrate images.

I don’t know whether Pages will become my favorite word processor. For writing documents with lots of formal features, Word remains top dog. That said, Pages is a good product and will fit the needs of many people at a price far less than Word’s. This alone qualifies it as something to check out; the program’s creative features, overall quality and stability should close the deal. More details can be found at www.apple.com/iwork.

E-mail MarkKel@aol.com or visit www.kellner.us.

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