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Road to Mac Office 2008: Word '08 vs Pages 3.0

Editing Things on the Page: AutoShapes

Once you've settled on a template or blank starting point, Word lets you add the familiar flowing text regions, shapes, and lines. One interesting idea that appears to be unique to Word is AutoShapes. When selected, these shapes offer the typical corner grabbers for resizing, but also have gold grabbers that adjust a set skew, resizing, or positioning feature.

For example, the star AutoShape presents a gold grabber to change the inside radius of the tines of the star (below, reduced on the selected star on the right). The blue balls and squares are Word's fancy standard grabbers used for the usual resizing.

Word 2008

Pages offers similar shape tools, but uses a round grabber to select inside radius, and presents an additional slider control for adjusting the number of star points (below).

Word 2008

To modify the fill color or line weight of Word's AutoShape objects, you simply double click on it and are then presented a modal window with settings (below). The settings you chose aren't applied until you OK the window, so this style of editing might require some experimenting to achieve the look you want.

Word 2008

In Pages, you use a non-modal Inspector panel, which reflects the changes as you make them.

Word 2008

Another prominent feature in Word 2008 is WordArt, which presents gold grabbers on special text blocks that can be adjusted to skew the lettering or distort text along a curve, for example. A variety of preset styles are displayed in the WordArt section of the Elements Gallery (below). Once created, a WordArt text block can be modified using the same modal window as AutoShapes or using the Formating Palette's WordArt settings (below). Pages has no equivalent feature to WordArt.

Word 2008

Other features presented in Word's Elements Gallery teeth are Quick Tables, which create a formatted table; Charts, which apparently integrate with Excel spreadsheets, but aren't yet functional; and SmartArt Graphics, which insert a presentation-style graphic layout that users can customize with text labels. All of the examples looked like ways to illustrate synergy and dynamism within company meetings.

The entirely new Publishing Layout View of Word 2008 presents some interesting ideas. The Publishing Layout Toolbar can't be edited, which is unfortunate because many of the tools that one might want to have readilly accessible when doing page layout tasks —such as bring to front or send backward —are buried in toolbar menus.

The default light woodgrain background image behind the document offers an interesting differentiation for the Publishing mode. It can be edited using the Customize Workspace menu at the bottom of the window, but the only options are to use a series of darker wood finishes, a textured black leather, or various brushed metals. Serious workers might desperately long for a more neutral background that doesn't compete with the document for attention, just as the standard Word Print Layout View uses.

Using Word for Words

Outside of the new Publishing Layout View, Word reverts back to its more common self as a word processor. If you turn off the Elements Gallery, Word 2008's new semi-standard toolbar presents a document window that is much more attractive and utilitarian than the bright white floating toolbars of the existing version.

The few tools of the standard toolbar (below) allow you to quickly undo, copy and paste text formatting, set up multiple columns of text, or insert charts. The Navigation Pane presents a sidebar of thumbnails when working on a multipage document, and next to it are buttons for displaying the Gallery and the Palette.

All of those features were in the old Word, but they were easy to miss in all the rubbish buttons presented in rows of icons, from the web page editing tools and archaic print preview button to the mysterious Toolbox button and the button that activates another set of toolbar buttons. With those all stripped away, the more useful features of Word 2008 actually stand out rather than being lost in all the noise.

Word 2008

The Toolbox has now been merged into the Formatting Palette to create a hybrid floating panel with various features. Some make sense, other less so. The Scrapbook and Reference Tools you've probably never used are at least more visible now. Also integrated into the Toolbox/Formatting Palette is the Object Palette, which provides a drag and drop selection of shapes, clipart, symbols, and media files (above). It doesn't use the standard Media Browser panel, but does present photos and albums from iPhoto (below).

Word 2008

On page 3 of 3: Bibliography Tools; Formatting and Theming Tools; and Word vs Pages.