Free iWork from Apple: is it a genuine alternative to Microsoft Office?
For a while now, Apple’s iWork was included free with a new Mac, iPhone or iPad. If you had an older Apple device that wasn’t part of this deal, then you had to pay for it separately. However, Apple recently made iWork free for all supported devices. This means that any user that has a Mac or iOS device that supports iWork can download it from the relevant App Store completely free-of-charge.
We subscribe to Microsoft’s Office 365 and use it on all our Macs. This was done mainly to ensure compatibility between Windows PCs of other users and our Macs.
Microsoft Office, be it the 365 version or the paid for once-off version, is not cheap. We decided to test Apple’s iWork suite of office apps to see if we could get all of our work done without having to use Microsoft Office at all.
The documents we typically work with on a daily basis are letters, memos, reports, the odd presentation and fairly basic spreadsheets.
First on our list was to open documents from Word, Excel and PowerPoint using their iWork counterparts, namely Pages, Numbers and Keynote. Surprisingly, all the documents open without serious issues. One document that was a spine for a training file that consisted of several text boxes and images gave a font error and one text box was slightly out of alignment. Pages had swopped out the font for one that was nearly identical and the errant text box was easily moved back into position.
We then created a brand new presentation in PowerPoint using the green ION template. We added a dissolve animation to one of the pieces of text and saved the file. Opening it in Keynote resulted in not only the presentation looking the same, but the fonts was identical and the animation was carried across perfectly.
Our basic spreadsheets also worked fine. The autosum and other formulae we transferred without error. We have to mention though that we are not Office power users and don’t make use of complex macros and formulas in our typical day to day usage.
After spending a few days with iWork, we realized that Microsoft Office isn’t really a must-have suite of apps anymore. Apple’s iWork isn’t perfect by any means. Menus seem less intuitive than they could be. The interface is overly simplified especially when compared to Microsoft Office’s dynamic ribbon interface.
However, for a regular user that needs to create and work with fairly standard types of documentation, then iWork is more than adequate. It includes a wide range of beautiful templates that can be supplemented by downloading additional templates from the Mac App Store or through various online sources.
It’s free price tag, Microsoft Office compatibility and the fact that it’s also available as a web app via iCloud to Windows users makes it the next best alternative to Microsoft Office. We plan to cancel our current Office 365 subscription next year when it expires to move over permanently to iWork. We recommend all Apple users to try iWork as an alternative to Microsoft Office. We think that you might be pleasantly surprised.