Is Pages 5 a Sign of Apple’s Rotting?

I’ve been a loyal Mac/Apple user for over 10 years now. I’ve never held it up to be a perfect product, but I’ve preferred it as light years beyond the Windows experience in most ways. And, despite the contrarians, I don’t find it to be overpriced for the hardware you get, and how seamlessly it’s integrated into the OS.

But then Steve Jobs died. The Internetz wondered if Apple would lose its way without him. I wasn’t worried; I believed that the company’s overall design philosophy and commitment to its customers would carry through.

Until the latest OS update (I don’t have it yet), and the new Pages 5 (also which I won’t yet get).

At the end of the day, Pages 4 (also called Pages ’09)  has kept me in the Apple world. It’s, hands down, the best word processor I’ve used. Page layout and design for publishing has knocked Word’s socks off for years, and even as Word catches up on features, Pages does it (ahem, did it) more elegantly. It was fully designed from the start with Apple’s user interface design philosophy (the palette, the doc doesn’t take the whole screen, etc.) In fact, Microsoft seems to have borrowed its ribbons into Office as a direct lift from the design of iWork and Pages (although MS’s implementation is confusing and downright awkward).

Maybe there was truth to worries about Steve Jobs’ departure after all. From the reports, the new Pages is full screen, rebuilt from the ground up (it’s really a completely new piece of software), and lacks most or all of the features that made is an effective page-layout software.

From reviews across various articles, forums, and on the app store, I’m seeing that the new Pages doesn’t display sections in a manner that can be reorganized (drag and drop the actual, um, pages). Duplicating and deleting individual pages (dealing with the pages, and not the text) isn’t there. And apparently, the initial release didn’t let you view 2-up. Other reviews on the app store assert that this is nothing more than a bare-bones text editor with a slick UI thrown on top.

In other words, it’s not Pages. And it’s not Apple.

To make matters worse, users are reporting that once you install the new Pages, it converts your old files into the new format. It breaks the format because it can’t render the features that were present in the old version, and it’s real easy to be tricked into making that conversion a one-way street.

Really annoying too… this rant is brought to you from a recent exchange with a fellow author and friend of mine. I’m helping to format her books for print, and I can’t say “Go to the App store and spend your $20 to get Pages, and I’ll send you the Pages file”.  Because that version’s not offered anymore. Only the new Pages can be found, and that would break everything. It doesn’t matter that it’s free. Free crap is still crap.

Have I played with the new Pages myself? No. I’ve read enough to not risk an upgrade to either my OS (thankfully Pages 5 can’t install without Mavericks) or my iWork suite.

There will come a time, however, when I will be forced to upgrade. Old stuff just won’t be supported any more. I hope that the new Pages will mature before then, but if it doesn’t, I will be forced back to Word.

It’s also kinda funny in an eye raising way: some Apple defenders have stated that only power users are upset. You know, power users like writers, business professionals, and academic writers. Sure, the “normal” user might be served well by Pages… but the same could have been said for MS Write. Those other, weird power users like writers, business/company professionals, and academic writers… oh yeah, they’re the ones who really need word processes. They’re (and by “they’re” I mean “we’re”) the ones you should be trying to please.

(and while I’m ranting, Apple, frankly your hard-on for all things cloud is getting in my way. Just to open a new text document, or open preview to “new from clipboard” an image file, and now I have to go through a step of deciding whether the document is on the cloud or not. Don’t open-think me! Don’t take lessons from Clippy! (from Office 97)).

I hate Word. But at least it has a modern and mature feature set, designed for professionals. If forced to choose between what Apple’s currently offering as “improved performance”, I’ll jump back to MS Office.

And then guess what? All my other software also runs on PC. I’ll have no more reason to stay Apple. (Except what I’ve invested in music software, but you seem to have a way of forcing me to upgrade that every few years too, which is why I stopped using you and bought an external recording tool…) (I still have a good 2 to 3 years left on my current Apple before I would normally upgrade anyway, so I guess Apple has a few years to get it together).

Either that, or I’ll start hand-coding my books in LaTex. (le sigh)

What boggles me the most is that they completely scrapped a good program and started over from scratch. Pages 5 is not Pages. It’s not a continuation of Pages 4. It would be like me writing a new word processor, based on new architecture, from the ground up, with less functionality and a kewl new look, and calling it Microsoft Office Kewl-point-Oh. And the Microsoft throwing out their old code and taking my software. Ok, not exactly like that, but it sure feels almost like that.

Maybe it’s a sign of my aging that once I find a solution that works, I don’t want to upgrade. I want it to last for a decade or two. (le sigh encore)

Get off my lawn.


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