Pages for iPad is turning into a true productivity tool for business users, thanks to Version 1.2, which Apple released to the iTunes App Store in late September. Although its functionality as a word processing and page layout application is still constrained by the limitations of the iPad, if the product's evolution continues at the current rate, Pages might well cement the iPad's usefulness as a business tool in another year or so.
But that usefulness still has its limitations. For what it does, Pages for iPad is good, but it has a long way to go before I'd want to use it for anything substantial, even something like a column. It remains hobbled by the iPad's interface and by the limited number of features compared with Pages' desktop release.
Pages 1.2 adds the ability to display the word count for a document, open a .txt document from within the iPad's Mail application, and import and export existing tables of contents, document sections, and footnotes and endnotes. Another key new feature is the ability to group or ungroup objects in a document. Users of Mobile Me's iDisk service-and other WebDAV (Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning) services as well-now have the option to copy documents between Pages and iDisk.
A number of improvements to Pages' handling of tables are included in this release; these address the exporting of tables with customized borders, and add new text options for cells in tables, including cell-specific settings for font, size and color. Finally, Pages '09 tables that use images as background filler for cells can be imported and exported from Pages for iPad; fill images that cover the entire table do not appear to be supported yet.
Another enhancement in the area of interoperability can be seen when opening a Pages or Microsoft Word document. Apple claims it has improved the font matching routines for this process, although until the iPad offers the range of fonts available in the desktop version of Pages-to say nothing of Microsoft Word-this will remain a sore spot for some users. The company says it has also improved the process of creating and editing hyperlinks.
This release includes a number of fixes for bugs that manifest themselves when importing documents that contain large images, when importing or exporting documents with overlapping objects, or when importing or exporting Microsoft Word documents. Other bug fixes address document sharing through the public beta of the iWork.com Website, hosted by Apple.
However, these new features and bug fixes don't resolve the challenge that Apple faces as it attempts to replicate a desktop application's broad range of features in an iOS app that contains about 20 percent of the code, if file size is any indication. Users are conditioned to have a mouse, trackpad or similar input device available, and the touch-based interface of iOS applications means that Pages for iPad, like the other iWork applications, just isn't suitable for much more than making simple changes to a document.