Software

First Look: Pages

Trouble with Getting the Words Out

Pages includes a number of export options for sharing your final work. Depending on the template in use, you may find that most of the export options create unusable final products. For instance, we started with the Family Newsletter template, and then just exported the unmodified template to each format. Comparing the original to the exported versions ( PDF, Word, HTML, RTF, and Plain Text ), it’s clear that only PDF mode keeps the template’s layout intact.

Even with PDF exports, though, you’ll have problems with drop shadows on objects—although they show and print fine in Preview, they won’t display or print in Adobe Reader on either the Mac or the PC. That is, you’ll have these problems unless you happen to own the full version of Adobe Acrobat. If you do, you can print the Pages file and choose the Adobe PDF printer. When you do, the resulting PDF is truly cross-platform and complete with drop-shadows.

But if you’re using Apple’s provided Export feature, you’ll lose the drop shadows in Reader on both Macs and PCs. This can be a big problem in certain templates, as the drop shadows add definition to both text and images and help set objects apart from the background. If you don’t have Acrobat, there’s not really a good way to share your Pages output other than via printed copy. Hardly the ideal solution.

Should it be Called ‘OnlyAddPages’ Instead?

Pages works really well as a mixed page layout and word processing program. That is, it does so right up until the point at which you wish to remove a page from, or reorder the pages within, your document. There’s no easy way to delete an entire page from, or to rearrange the order of the pages within, your document. On the one hand, this makes some sense—there’s certainly no “delete page” option in Word, and rearranging your Word document requires dragging and dropping large chunks of text. And if Pages were ‘just’ a word processor, the lack of page management features would be excusable.

But Pages is also a page-layout program. And page layout programs, such as Quark and InDesign, have very simple methods of both deleting and reordering pages. Typically, an “overview” drawer will show an iconized view of your project, with one icon for each page. Want to delete a page? Just highlight it and hit Delete. To reorder the pages, just drag the icons into a new order.

Pages doesn’t have these features. So if you’ve added a page to your document, and you later wish to delete it, you have to do quite a bit of work, and even then, it may not always work (depending on the template in use). The basic process is this: go to the page you wish to delete, and start selecting objects on the page—text blocks, tables, charts, and graphics. Once selected, press Delete to remove that object from the page. You may have issues if the objects are on the “master” level of the template. In that case, you’ll need to enable Format: Advanced: Make Master Objects Selectable, and then make sure that the objects are unlocked (select the object, then choose Arrange: Unlock). At this point, they should be deletable.

If you’ve removed everything from the page, hopefully the following page will just “slide up” and take its place. But this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes only the text will move up, or the text and some but not all of the graphics will move. In short, deleting pages is far more trouble than it should be.

A Page Deletion Workaround Since deleting pages is so difficult, it means you basically have to build a perfect document on your first try, as going back is very difficult. Since none of us are perfect, you might wish to use a simple “versioning” system as you build your Pages document.

Instead of using File: Save to save your progress at certain points, consider using File: Save As each time you’re about to add a new page to the document. Name the files with the number of pages in each version, something like “MyPhotos_1,” “MyPhotos_12,” “MyPhotos_123,” etc.

Now if you make a mistake and want to delete a page, you’ll be able to return to the “prior” version that has one less page, and start over at that point. This trick won’t help with deleting pages in a completed document, nor with reordering pages, but it may save a bit of aggravation until Apple releases an update to Pages to handle page management.

The Missing (Keynote) Link

Keynote slide browser
To solve the page management problems, Pages really needs to take advantage of a key Keynote feature: the slide browser. As seen in the screenshot, Keynote’s left-hand-panel uses a thumbnail view of every slide in your presentation, along with thumbnails of the “master” slides used to build each slide. Notice the indented slides, which are associated with the one directly above.

This same metaphor would work quite well in Pages—substitute “Master Pages” and “Pages” for “Master Slides” and “Slides,” and you’ll get an idea of how simple page management could be. Drag and drop to reorder; highlight and press delete to remove. Given that Pages was developed by the same team that wrote Keynote, it’s surprising that some form of this feature isn’t already present. It would change page management from a difficult and frustrating task to one that’s as simple and elegant as is slide management in Keynote.

Pages truly has the ability to redefine what a word processor should be. Its seamless integration of page-layout and word processing features makes creating brochures, reports, flyers, and other well-designed documents a piece of cake. With literally no training, anyone can create professional looking output with a minimum of fuss.

Unfortunately, the lack of a page management system within Pages means that using the program is more frustrating and troublesome than it should be. In addition, the bugs in Find and Replace and PDF Export, along with the generally limited capabilities of the Export feature, make using Pages a bit frustrating. As good as all the other features are, these Version 1.0 bugs and missing features may make Pages unusable for many people. It’s a shame, too, because it’s a great program. Hopefully a version 1.1 update will address the general bugs and page management features.

[ This article has been edited to update information on PDF exports and Adobe Reader in the “Trouble with Getting the Words Out” section.&#8212Ed; ]

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