I’ve been trying to use iWork 08 for the past month or so — and here’s what I think so far… Keynote is the absolute best presentation building tool around. Nothing better right now. It’s nearly impossible to make a deck that looks anything but fantastic. Playing around with wide screen views now, not to mention voice overs, saving to YouTube, etc. Great evolution on an already very good application (as soon as you change your brain to think in a particular way).

Pages, the word processor/page layout application sucks less than it did before, and is mostly usable now, even in track changes mode. I mostly don’t need to open up Word anymore (painful on Rosetta) at all. There are a few things that don’t work quite right, but mostly it’s acceptable.

Numbers is basically a toy. Math performance is very very slow; interoperability with Excel is crappy. No pivot tables, only 150 numerical functions, and basically the quirkiest spreadsheet you’ve ever seen. On the other hand, like the other 2 apps in the suite, it creates documents that look beautiful. I think it’s basically a presentation tool for calculations.

For $79, Keynote is worth it by itself. If you’re not doing complicated spreadsheets or lots of contract work, I think it’s getting to the point that with iWork and googleApps, there’s really no reason to buy Office. It’ll be a close decision when Office 2008 comes out for the Mac. I’m honestly not sure I’ll get it. From time to time I need to do complicated contract work (lots and lots of revisions — I’m unsure that I trust Pages for this at present), and sometimes I need to throw a few tens of thousands of rows into a spreadsheet to do some analysis (and I don’t think there’s any way to do that right now that isn’t Excel).

But for 95% of everything I do, I’ll not use Office again to create new documents or share them with others. I think that train has left the station.

[a slight aside: I actually really like the ribbon UI in Office 2007 on Vista — I think that’s a good innovation (and one that will look completely out of place on the Mac). i also think that the newest version of Excel is fantastic. but not fantastic enough to really want it, and not fantastic enough to justify 4x the price of iWork or an infinite pricing markup on google spreadsheets.]

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