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

Bibliography Tools

Also among the Toolbox/Formatting Palette components is a new citation manager (below) for building bibliographies. Previously, you'd need a secondary software tool such as Thomson's EndNote for managing references; now Word builds that feature in directly.

Word 2008

Word 2008

As your citations are compiled, you can insert a bibliography section in your document (below) using the Document Elements tooth from the Elements Gallery, and selecting between APA, Chicago, MLA, or Turabian style citations.

Word 2008

That section can then be updated using a popup menu (below). In order to save Word documents with bibliographies in earlier Word 97 - 2004 formats, bibliography data is flattened to static text. Once this happens, the citations can't be updated or changed. Pages doesn't support live bibilography data either.

Word 2008

Formatting and Theming Tools

The Formatting Palette itself has been revised, with some tools grouped by function in ways that make more sense. However, it's still a very long listing of settings, and navigating through the seven to nine different sections requires disclosing and hiding sections to reveal the tools you need at the moment. Fewer than half of the sections can be open at once unless you have a 30" display. Opening and closing sections keeps your targets cons in constant motion. As you select different objects in the document, the content sections of the palette also change.

Word 2008

Unlike the iWork panels in Pages, you can't open multiple Formatting Palettes at once. In Pages, you can leave open the Graphics and Metrics panels on seperate Inspectors, and open the Fonts panel and the Media panel all at the same time. In Word, the equivalents are all hidden within the palettes of the same window, so only one set of settings can be visiable at once.

Word 2008

Word vs Pages

Word's classic strength as a popular Mac word processor has been significantly challenged by iWorks' Pages. The first version of Pages was generally oriented toward creating printed page documents. It lacked features expected of a dedicated word processor like Word, while also missing tools specific to page layout applications. The new Pages 08 released this fall improved things by offering two modes with tools individually targeted at both word and page composition.

Pages' page layout features come from Keynote, which quickly established itself as a gold standard in graphic composition tools on the Mac after its release in 2003. The tools provided in Pages are nearly identical, giving the app strong text and graphics layout and composition features. The word processing end of Pages is quite new, however. While clean, uncluttered, and easy to use, Pages lacks some of the features of Word.

Most significantly, while Pages can already open and use Word 2007 docx files from Windows users, it only does so indirectly through an import and export mechanism. This might work for users who only have occasional need to read Word documents, but is a hassle for users in an environment where they constantly trade files with other Word users. In other areas, Pages 08 has significantly improved upon its word processing features, and now offers Word-compatible change tracking, proofing tools, and automatic list formatting.

Outside of Word compatibility, Pages is stronger in its graphics and composition tools. It supports embedded PDFs at full quality, supports image masks and background extraction, presents live editing of objects using non-modal inspector panels, and fully uses Quartz Graphics to deliver advanced typography features and graphic effects. Pages also has an edge in offering more professional looking templates as a starting point for building documents.

Word 2004 is stronger in text editing and document features, with autosave support, drop caps and intelligent caps formatting (such as converting to all caps or title caps), WordArt features, split window document editing, support for footnotes, and mixed page layouts within a document (Word can embed an envelope into a letter document, for example). Word 2004 also suports Visual Basic for Applications macro scripting, commonly used to create forms and other automated documents in corporate settings.

Word 2008 adds bibliography features and improves upon the weak templates offered in previous version. It also catches up to Pages in support for docx files on the Mac, and since it uses the format natively, will offer an edge in convenience. It also seems likely that Word 2008 will provide better support for features in docx, including tables and, of course, bibliographies.

With the translation to Universal Binaries however, Word 2008 will no longer support VBA macros. It does provide support for Mac OS X's Automator however, which will be more valuable to most Mac users. Interested parties will have to shell out the full $300 for the version of Office that includes Automator Actions, however. Pages provides AppleScript support but does not include any prebuilt Automator Actions.

In terms of page layout, Word offers features similar to Microsoft Publisher but presented more attractively. Those features do not match its text editing features in strength or stability, and do not seem like they would be productively usable by even home users, let alone the corporate segment it is being marketed toward. While delivering dazzling screenshots, Office 2008 still has a long ways to go in how it works and feels in actual use.

Given the current status of the Word 2008 beta, it does not seem likely that Office 2008 will ship as a complete product in mid January, now just two months away, particularly given the usual holiday interruptions. However, the MacBU is accelerating its efforts, as it recongizes the threat posed by the $79 iWork. The cheapest version of Office 2008 has now been lowered to $150, a 50 percent discount over the basic version of the previous Office 2004 edition.

Both products should find keen interest among different kinds of users with different needs, and healthy compeition between them will be great for consumers. Improvements on both sides of the fence should continue to help push innovation and drive prices down.

Apple's iWork '08 suite, which includes Pages 3.0, is available from for $69.99, an 11 percent savings. Amazon is also offering instant savings on pre-orders of the various Office 2008 for Mac bundles.

Don't forget to check out our previous Road to Office 2008 installments:
Road to Mac Office 2008: an introduction
Road to Mac Office 2008: installation and interface