Apple's iWork applications are getting easier to use and synchronize under a new iWork for iCloud beta that lets users create and edit their documents anywhere using a Web browser.
The new beta is being unveiled by Apple in emails to select users that invite them to participate in the beta project.
"Introducing iWork for iCloud, coming this fall," said the email, which outlines the offering's expanded capabilities. Previously, iWork documents were created on a user's device, and then were available to other devices using synchronization that kept the created documents up-to-date on other connected devices.
Now users will be able to tap iWork for iCloud to build their documents on the Web using a Web browser, which means they will have more flexibility to create text documents, spreadsheets and presentations using iWork. Key to the arrangement is that they will be synced to a user's other devices, too.
To use the beta version of iWork for iCloud, including the Pages, Numbers and Keynote cloud capabilities, users can sign in to iCloud on a Mac or a PC using the current version of Safari, Chrome or Internet Explorer and then get to work, according to Apple.
Apple introduced iCloud back in June 2011 as a place for Apple device users to store and maintain constant and easy access to their personal content, regardless of which Apple device they were using at the time.
The Web-based versions of Pages, Numbers and Presentations—which allow users to build documents, spreadsheets and presentations respectively—include templates for many different kinds of documents, just like the existing iWork versions. Pages includes 16 themes for documents, including letters, resumes, proposals or posters, while Numbers includes 16 theme templates for budgets, mortgage calculators, loan comparison tools, invoices, expense reports and more. The Keynote presentations templates include 12 themes, including staid white or black backgrounds or whimsical approaches, including craft and chalkboard templates. The templates include tools to manipulate and edit text, fonts, colors, shapes, images and more.
Changes made in any of the iWork for iCloud Web-based projects automatically appear in Pages on Mac, iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices, if users are employing Mac OS X v10.8 or later and are set up with iCloud, according to Apple. Users who are running their Macs with OS X v10.7.5 or a Windows computer have to download and upload their documents. A user can upload and edit Pages or Microsoft Word documents into iWork for iCloud by dragging them into Pages from the user's device desktop.
iCloud iWork document types are compatible with iWork '09 Keynote, Pages or Numbers; Microsoft Office (Word, Excel and PowerPoint); plain text; and CSV.
Interestingly, iWork for iCloud does not fully support the Mozilla Firefox browser, though it does offer basic functionality. Some features may not work as expected using Firefox, Apple reports. The supported browsers for use with iWork for iCloud beta are Safari 6.0.3 or later (OS X), Internet Explorer 9.0.8 or later (Windows), and Google Chrome 27.0.1 or later.
iWork for iCloud is essentially Apple's version of a Web-based office suite, much like Google Docs and Apps or Microsoft's Office 365 offerings.
There's still a lot of work to do on the beta version, however, including the incorporation of lots of needed features such as printing capabilities, which are not yet here. Collaboration capabilities also are missing so far.
iWork for iCloud beta was first publicized by Apple in June at the company's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC).