Pages Is Still The Best Word Processor For iOS [Review]

Landscape text on iPhone! At last!

Here is the new Pages for iOS, as announced by Apple last night.

Not a huge amount has changed here, to be honest, but there are one or two nice additions, stuff that help Pages retain its top spot in the small world of word processing on iOS.

The first of these is support for landscape text entry mode on smaller devices – iPhone and iPod touch. This has been a bugbear for a long time. After all, if they could make it work on the iPad, why not on the iPhone too? Well, bugbear no longer, because now they have.

And it works pretty well, too. Pages automatically zooms you in to the text field you need to concentrate on, so you can make decent typed progress on any work-in-progress, save it to iCloud, and finish it up on another device when you get the chance.

3dcharts

Another new feature is 3D charts, which will be familiar to those of you who’ve used them in Numbers for OS X. They look the same, and behave almost the same too.

To use them, you select Charts in the Add Objects menu, then swipe and scroll your way through the variations on offer. Note that you have to make a color scheme selection here – that’s why so many color options are in the menu. You won’t be able to directly edit colors for individual data points later.

Chartslist

The 3D charts work on all supported devices, but they are noticeable slower to browse and edit on an iPhone 4 compared to an iPad 2. The older your device’s processor, the harder it has to work on these things.

Pages plops a dummy chart into your document, which you can then move through a limited 3D field. Shadows appear automatically behind it, enhancing the 3D effect. The charts look pretty swish, but moving them about can cause things to start getting laggy. Once edited and positioned, the look good in your final document. But that’s the thing about Pages documents; it’s hard to make them look bad, because Apple goes to great lengths to make its default templates look amazing.

Generally speaking, the app feels a little tighter and more responsive than previously. Apple says it has been working on improving performance, and although that’s hard to quantify, I think you can see – or at least feel – the difference.

This update cements Pages’ place as the leading word processor and page layout editor on iOS. While it can’t (yet) compete with what you might call “full featured” word processors on the desktop, it excels at offering enough for most people, most of the time. Certainly for simple letters, school or college reports and resumés, it has everything you’re going to need.

For that reason, Pages has a bright future. Many of the millions of new iPads sold in the coming years are going to be used for writing basic day-to-day documents like these, and millions of owners will turn to Pages to do so.

Pro: Landscape text entry everywhere; speedy layout; lovely templates.

Con: Gets sluggish with lots of 3D charts.

  • prof_peabody

    I love Pages, and using it on the iPad makes you wonder why anyone would ever use anything else to write with IMO.  The documents practically come alive under your fingertips.  It makes Word look ridiculous for the most part.  

    Yesterday’s update has cleaned up some of the UI details too, like the menus that appear when you move text around the insertion point, and the formatting palette.  It all seems so much smoother and faster overall.  

    Sadly the big text selection bug we’ve had for the last three updates is still there, but I’m sure they will fix it someday.  

    I hope they’ve finally given us the ability to determine what styles are in the document too, but I haven’t had time to check that yet.

  • Shane Bryson

     I often wonder the exact opposite. In my opinion the iWork suite is a joke and pretty much the only Apple product I can’t back. Office makes iWork look pitiful.

  • criticmac

     Can you explain that comment about the big text selection bug? I don’t know if I’ve encountered it or not. Did you submit a bug report to Apple?

    Oh and will this site ever get a viable review format? Seems like every author has his own ideas about that. Rating system?

  • Eric Chapa

    Well, it’s great that Pages can do all these sophisticated tricks. Now if it could only get the simple, mundane things right like consistent line-spacing. It would also be nice if it supported as many fonts as Word. So I wouldn’t have to spend an hour cramming a document sent to me by a PC user back into it’s original two page length. 

About the author

Giles TurnbullGiles Turnbull is a freelance writer in England. He also writes for the Press Association and The Morning News. You can find out more at his website, and follow him on Twitter @gilest.

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