Mac User Re­views

Macworld (USA) - - Contents - BY GLENN FLEISHMAN

Pages 7 ( go.mac­world.com/p74m) is the lat­est in a se­ries of on­go­ing and grad­ual im­prove­ments to the 2013 “re­boot” of Ap­ple’s iwork suite or pro­duc­tiv­ity apps, which also in­cludes Num­bers and Key­note. That re­boot rewrote the apps from the ground up, but also omit­ted fea­tures that users had re­lied upon for years.

Over time, many of these fea­tures were re­stored even as the apps ex­panded what they did in other ar­eas. Pages 7 con­tin­ues on this path. While it’s num­bered as a ma­jor re­lease to keep it in har­mony with Pages for IOS ( go.mac­world.com/p44i), the IOS re­lease has a greater num­ber of sig­nif­i­cant ad­di­tions.

BOOK CRE­ATION

The flag­ship change in­cludes book tem­plates for in­ter­ac­tive EPUB ebooks, al­low­ing an end-to-end work­flow for cre­at­ing rich dig­i­tal doc­u­ments with­out the com­pro­mise of start­ing with tem­plates and pages de­signed for printer out­put, even af­ter all these years.

Along­side this new book work­flow are two rel­a­tively ob­vi­ous im­prove­ments for man­ag­ing and pro­duc­ing doc­u­ments: side-by-side page view­ing within Pages (a fea­ture that’s been miss­ing for five years), and the abil­ity to cre­ate two-page spreads (fac­ing pages) when ex­port­ing lay­outs to PDF and EPUB.

The last time we re­viewed Pages for macos was ver­sion 5.6, which added sig­nif­i­cant ty­po­graphic and other sup­port, and should prob­a­bly have been num­bered ver­sion 6.0. In the ac­tual 6.0 ver­sion, Ap­ple mostly of­fered a beta re­lease of real-time col­lab­o­ra­tion. Ver­sion 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 re­fined and put into pro­duc­tion bet­ter col­lab­o­ra­tive edit­ing, while bring­ing back RTF (Rich Text For­mat) im­port and ex­port, Touch Bar sup­port, doc­u­ment-wide font re­place­ment, in­ter­nal book­marks, PDF ta­ble of con­tent ex­port, and 500 ad­di­tional shapes. (Ver­sion 7 adds more shapes, and they’re ed­itable, too.)

Across those re­leases, Ap­ple grad­u­ally im­proved sup­port for the EPUB stan­dard, in­clud­ing an up­grade to al­low EPUB 3 ex­ports, which al­low in­ter­ac­tive com­po­nents and fixed lay­outs that re­sem­ble PDFS but work with stan­dard ebook-read­ing soft­ware and hard­ware. (Ama­zon’s Kin­dle is the ex­cep­tion, re­ly­ing on both the old and sim­pli­fied MOBI spec for older read­ers, and a mod­i­fied ver­sion of EPUB called KF8 for its newer hard­ware.)

Pages 7 seems to bump that up a notch. I tested a flow­ing EPUB that had a num­ber of ty­po­graphic re­fine­ments, dif­fer­ent type­faces, and in­serted im­ages cre­ated in Pages that I’d had to mon­key with when us­ing ver­sion 6.3 for ex­port. With Pages 7, the ex­port was nearly per­fect. (You can crack open EPUB files, which are com­pressed with ZIP, and ma­nip­u­late style sheets and un­der­ly­ing Html-like doc­u­ment struc­tures.)

You might be con­fused where ibooks Au­thor fits into all this, and you’re not alone. The dif­fer­ence be­tween it and Pages is now quite thin. ibooks Au­thor ( go.mac­world. com/ibka) of­fers a few kinds of ad­di­tional in­ter­ac­tive el­e­ments, like wid­gets, which of­fer an­i­ma­tion and other touch-based re­sponses. It also of­fers a live pre­view of

the re­sult­ing EPUB out­put; with Pages, you have to ex­port. Be­cause Pages is a gen­eral-pur­pose app, it seems like a bet­ter route for most peo­ple to work in to cre­ate EPUBS and PDFS with this new re­lease. Nei­ther Pages nor ibooks Au­thor ed­its EPUB files di­rectly; they’re al­ways ex­ported from the app’s source files.

Us­ing the new ebook tem­plates to cre­ate ebooks rad­i­cally sim­pli­fies mak­ing books for peo­ple with­out de­sign chops or the de­sire to start from scratch. The tem­plates have but­tons in the cor­ners of im­ages you click to drop in your own im­ages, and place­holder text ap­pears with a livid out­line to make sure you don’t for­get and leave it in place. You can click in a thumb­nails nav­i­ga­tion side­bar to add ad­di­tional pages with dif­fer­ent lay­outs within the tem­plate pack­age. (You can separately cre­ate page tem­plates in any Pages page-lay­out doc­u­ment via a new mas­ter pages op­tion.)

You can edit these Pages books (and any doc­u­ments) with aplomb in IOS as well, although I pre­fer the mouse-based in­ter­face to a touch-based one for plac­ing and po­si­tion­ing im­ages. The macos ver­sion of Pages also fea­tures a ruler from which you can drag in page guides. (Rulers are bro­ken in the ini­tial IOS re­lease, and page guides are miss­ing.)

OTHER FEA­TURES

Me­dia se­lec­tion is ex­tremely laggy, even on a 2017 imac. While I have an icloud Photo Li­brary of over 37,000 im­ages, they’re stored at full res­o­lu­tion on this imac, and it took min­utes to bring up the ini­tial se­lec­tion view. If you switch away from Pages, load progress is ap­par­ently lost and it restarts what­ever process it’s en­gaged in. Af­ter an ini­tial load, per­haps caching thumb­nails, ev­ery sub­se­quent ac­tion in­curred de­lays of tens of sec­onds to min­utes. The me­dia se­lec­tor is a sys­temwide func­tion, but it’s read­ily ap­par­ent how poorly op­ti­mized it is in a pro­gram de­signed to use im­ages. (Pages also has

two dif­fer­ent ways to se­lect me­dia, and nei­ther seems to re­call the last place from which you se­lected.)

Ap­ple has grad­u­ally beefed up edit­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion fea­tures, in­clud­ing ever-bet­ter Track Changes and com­ment­ing op­tions—they’ve been around for a while, but didn’t work well un­til a few re­leases ago—and re­al­time si­mul­ta­ne­ous doc­u­ment edit­ing.

Pages for IOS adds a beta of Smart An­no­ta­tions in IOS, al­low­ing graph­i­cal markup of a doc­u­ment with a Pen­cil or a fin­ger. These ap­pear in the Mac re­lease, but they can only be viewed or deleted. Since it’s a beta, it’s pos­si­ble that will change, and al­low you to “draw” with a mouse or track­pad.

The Pages up­date in­cludes a hand­ful of mis­cel­la­neous ad­di­tions, too. In­clud­ing:

> You can en­able an Au­to­cor­rect op­tion and type frac­tions that have spe­cial drawn ver­sions in the type­face you’re us­ing, and Pages au­to­mat­i­cally con­verts them.

> If you use charts and graphs in Pages, you can ex­cit­ingly make use of donut charts, while ta­bles have gained con­di­tional high­light­ing based on val­ues.

> Box doc­u­ment-shar­ing users don’t have to rely on icloud for col­lab­o­ra­tion, but can work through Pages doc­u­ments stored on that ser­vice as well.

> Ap­ple of­fers a way to re­duce stor­age con­sumed by au­dio, video, and im­ages em­bed­ded in the doc­u­ment by opt­ing to down­sam­ple or use more ef­fi­cient for­mats (via File Re­duce File Size).

Some fea­tures could use more ex­pla­na­tion than that found in re­lease notes and the func­tional-but-thin help files for Pages. For ex­am­ple, a new im­age gallery op­tion makes lit­tle sense for page lay­out or word pro­cess­ing, and the how-to in­struc­tions give no in­sight on how you might use it. In fact, it’s an in­ter­ac­tive fea­ture that only works in Pages and when ex­ported to EPUB, where it’s a use­ful ad­di­tion.

BOT­TOM LINE

Pages 7 for macos is a sig­nif­i­cant bump up for peo­ple who rou­tinely pro­duce doc­u­ments shared dig­i­tally, whether as PDF or in EPUB ebook for­mat. ■

Pages for IOS adds a beta of Smart An­no­ta­tions in IOS, al­low­ing graph­i­cal markup of a doc­u­ment with a Pen­cil or a fin­ger.

Re­duce File Size can help com­press files bloated due to mul­ti­me­dia that’s larger or in­cludes more de­tail than needed.

Cre­at­ing ebooks via Pages tem­plates al­lows a stream­lined and end-to-end work­flow.

With both fac­ing-page lay­out and side-by-side views, you can bet­ter work with and de­sign books and large doc­u­ments.

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