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Josh Clark on iWork '09: The Missing Manual

By Mary Rotman
May 6, 2009 | Comments: 2

I recently had a chance to catch up with Josh Clark, author of our newly released iWork '09: The Missing Manual. He had a lot to say about the new version of iWork, as well as a few tips & tricks to share to make the user experience even better.

Mary Rotman: What was your goal in writing this book, Josh?

Josh Clark: My goal is to help people use iWork to have a better, more creative work life. I've always believed that a great working environment makes for great work. Many of us take care to arrange our desks and offices to reflect that, but we often don't think much about our software environment--the screens where our eyes and minds spend much of the day. For decades, word processors and spreadsheets have been bland, even frustrating, work environments. Bland gets the job done, sure, but it doesn't inspire. iWork '09 is a real departure, providing a bright, creative workspace worthy of your work and ideas.

I wrote iWork '09: The Missing Manual to help readers understand not only how to use iWork's various features but also how it can help them be at once more productive and more creative. With Pages, Keynote, and Numbers, Apple gives us a fresh take on the word processor, presentation software, and spreadsheet. While familiar, all three programs are remarkably different from traditional productivity software like Microsoft Office. iWork puts an unprecedented emphasis on the design and polish of your final document, making it almost effortless to create results that look not only professional, but actually stunning. This isn't about glitz, it's about the quality of your working life: When even your spreadsheets sparkle, it's hard not to feel energized about your work.

MR: What will people walk away with as result of reading this book?

JC: The whole focus of the book, and of iWork itself, is to create gorgeous documents. After you put down this book, you'll have the know-how to create documents, newsletters, spreadsheet reports, and slideshow presentations that rival the pros. Never fear: If you're somebody who was out shopping for plaid pants the day they handed out design sensibility, the book shows you how to lean on iWork's superb collection of Apple-designed templates to turn out dazzling documents.

With nearly 900 pages, of course, the book isn't just about surface matters of design. You get all the nitty-gritty details of how to use iWork to capture, organize, and share your ideas and information. You'll learn how to craft perfect prose with Pages' typo-busting power tools. You'll learn how to build budgets, grade books, and invoices with Numbers' formulas and functions. And you'll learn to share your files with iWork's collaboration tools, including the new iWork.com.

Beyond just the mechanical aspects of using iWork, the book gives you practical aesthetic advice about document layout--tried-and-true principles of graphic design that the pros use to weave elegant presentations. In that vein, some of my favorite parts of the book depart from the typical, run-of-the-mill manual. There's a section about using grid frameworks to create sturdy and beautiful layouts in Pages. There's a whole chapter on planning and presenting Keynote-powered talks that won't turn into snoozefests. And another section walks you through responsible data presentation, helping you use Numbers' stunning chart features without losing your message in the razzle dazzle.

Throughout, you'll find carefully constructed sample documents showing how to put iWork's tools to best effect and, hopefully, provide a hint of inspiration for your own work.

MR: Who is your intended audience? Could someone who knows nothing about iWork pick this up & walk away with a working knowledge of the programs?

JC: This book really has two audiences. It's appropriate for first-timers who want to learn to use a word processor, spreadsheet, or presentation software. But it's also a great choice for individuals, educators, and small businesses looking for a vibrant alternative to Microsoft Office. Even advanced spreadsheet jockeys, for example, will learn how Numbers can help juggle numbers with greater sophistication--and with more style, too.

MR: What's the difference between iWork and Microsoft Office? If someone was trying to choose between the two, what would you suggest?

JC: The big headline here is that, in iWork '09, Microsoft Office finally has some real competition on its hands. While iWork can't beat Office in a feature-counting match, most folks won't even notice its "missing" features. Instead of Office's laundry list of esoteric options, iWork gives you an elegant, refined workspace that makes it genuinely easy to churn out designed documents that would be a headache (often impossible) to create with Microsoft Office. The changes introduced by iWork '09 focus mainly on polish and power features, an indicator that this software suite has already reached a certain level of maturity. The feature gap with Microsoft Office continues to shrink.

In the end, though, comparing iWork with Microsoft office is apples and oranges. At heart, iWork has a very different feel and approach. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint offer a deep feature list, but that depth also contributes to a heavy interface and, often, a frustrating hunt for features that should be easy to find. By contrast, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote have a lighter, more flexible interface that's simply a pleasure to use. Along with superior attention to document design, this creative workspace is an overall advantage that many will appreciate more than any absent features.

Whether or not you personally use Microsoft Office, of course, it's crucial to be able to exchange files with people who do. The iWork programs can read and create Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, and overall they do a good job at it. There are occasional hitches, though, and this book details where you'll run into problems with your imports and exports so that you can work around potential pitfalls.

MR: What sets this book apart from others on iWork '09?

JC: I doubt that any other software manual has ever featured quite so many superheroes. Most of the book's sample documents follow the further adventures of a company called Up & Away, Megaville's leading superhero outfitter, where no task is impossible and every cape fits perfectly. The book uses Pages to design a real-estate catalog for secret fortresses; Numbers goes to work to organize a sidekick academy; and Keynote explores the highs and lows of superhero uniforms. You, of course, are the hero of this particular story. Well before the end of this book you will have discovered your superpower: an unwavering ability to create spectacular documents. How can you resist?

Josh also shared a few of his favorite tips & tricks from the new book.

Get off the email merry-go-round with iWork.com
iworkcom-dialog.jpgNew in iWork '09, iWork.com is Apple's Web-based service for sharing Pages, Numbers, and Keynote documents online with invited guests. Think of it as an alternative to the email merry-go-round with which we're all too familiar: You email a document to a group for feedback, and they respond by emailing their comments to you, or even to the entire group, attaching their own edited document for good measure. A flurry of electronic mail ensues, and you're stuck trying to sort out who changed what and where. iWork.com sidesteps the mail storm by providing a centralized place for document review. (iWork.com is currently available only as a free "beta" preview; Apple says it will eventually become a paid service.)

To share your file at iWork.com, open the document in Pages, Numbers, or Keynote, and click the toolbar's iWork.com button, or choose Share>Share via iWork.com. If you've done this before, you may already be signed into iWork.com; if not, enter your Apple ID and password. Type the names or email addresses of the people to invite, click Share, and the file zooms out to iWork.com. Your guests receive emails with a link to the page where they can read and hold forth on your document.

iworkcom-example.jpgAlthough you can't edit files online, you and your guests can browse and comment on them right in the browser. The iWork.com web site is remarkably good at recreating the exact look of your document, no download required. No matter how complex your page-layout confection might become, iWork.com always displays a pixel-perfect replica within the web site itself. It doesn't matter what software your team may (or may not) have installed--Mac or Windows, iWork or Microsoft Office, or none of the above. As long as your reviewers have a web browser and an Internet connection, they can see your document just as you designed it, with all the fonts, photos, charts, and flaming logos you could muster. You can also download the file from iWork.com in any of several formats. A Pages document, for example, may be downloaded as a Microsoft Word, PDF, or Pages file.

Broadcast your slideshow on YouTube If iWork.com documents are aimed at small groups of friends and coworkers, YouTube movies are just the opposite--videos aimed at getting the attention of the whole world. You can add your Keynote slideshow to YouTube's boisterous collection of online movies--an easy way to share your slideshow and allow others to embed it in their own blog or web site, too. Your YouTube slideshow movie can flip through your slides at preset intervals, or even better, you can record your own narration (from your live presentation, for example) and have the slides change on cue--the next best thing to actually being there. To record your presentation and send the slideshow to YouTube:

  1. Choose File>Record Slideshow. Start giving your presentation, speaking clearly to record your narration, and advancing through each slide as if you normally would. When you're done, press the Escape (Esc) key to stop the slideshow and save your recording.
  2. Choose Share>Send To>YouTube, and Keynote shows you a form to provide your YouTube account information and details about the slideshow.
  3. Click Next, and Keynote asks you a few questions about how you to format your slideshow movie. Choose "Recorded" and turn on the "Include the slideshow recording" checkbox.
  4. Click Next, and Keynote treats you to a screenful of legalese from YouTube. Click Publish to agree to the web site's legal terms and conditions, and Keynote churns out the movie and uploads it to YouTube.

Build charts by the Numbers
numbers-chart.jpgBoth Pages and Keynote let you build eye-popping charts from scratch, but they rely on the simple but clunky Chart Data Editor to do so. That's fine for simple data sets, but it's not ideal for larger collections of numbers, and the Chart Data Editor doesn't let you add formulas for automatic calculations as you can in Numbers tables. Save yourself time and frustration by creating your charts in Numbers and then pasting them into Pages or Keynote. They don't call it Numbers for nothin': The iWork spreadsheet is a natural at juggling data. Let Pages and Keynote focus on your words and slide design, while Numbers manages your digits. And here's the cool part: Behind the scenes, iWork '09 links your Pages or Keynote chart to the original Numbers spreadsheet; after you edit the data in Numbers, you can tell Pages or Keynote to fetch the revised data and update your chart with the click of a button. Here's how it works:

  1. Create your chart in Numbers, and save the Numbers spreadsheet.
  2. Copy the chart from Numbers, and paste it into Pages or Keynote. (Choose "Edit>Paste and Match Style" to make the pasted chart match your document's standard styles.)
  3. When you select a chart pasted from Numbers, iWork indicates that it's linked to a Numbers spreadsheet by showing an arrow pointer immediately to the right of the chart. Click the Refresh button to reload the data from the Numbers document. Or click the link to open the Numbers spreadsheet and edit the source data.

Keep your paste clean
paste.jpgDid you catch that pointer in step 2 of the last tip? The "Paste and Match Style" command in all iWork applications (and many other Mac apps) lets you paste text and objects into your document with the same style of the surrounding text. Normally when you paste text, it hangs onto its original text style--sometimes with unhappy results. For example, if you copy a few words out of an italicized caption and paste them into a large, bold headline, the result is a headline with a few small italic words. Yuck. To sidestep this problem, all three iWork programs offer a style-conscious pasting option: Choose "Edit>Paste and Match Style" (or press Command-Option-Shift-V), and the pasted words assume the style of the paragraph where they land. In the example just mentioned, the small italic words automatically take on the big, bold headline style when pasted into the headline.

Use full-screen editing for big-screen collaboration
The new full-screen editing feature in Pages '09 draws a virtual curtain behind your document, banishing everything from your screen except for the document text. Even the menu bar, toolbar, and scroll bars disappear, leaving nothing but you and your words--along with a word and page count at the bottom of the screen. It's a great feature that helps you focus by making your document the one and only thing on your screen, hushing the siren calls of email, Web, and all the other goodies vying for your attention. But it turns out that it's also a handy way to review a document in meetings, too. Fill the entire screen with your prose-- big enough for several people huddled around your Mac to see, or for an entire room when you're projecting onto a screen.

Here's how:

  1. Click the Full Screen button on the toolbar or choose View>Enter Full Screen.
  2. Push your cursor to the top of the screen to reveal the menu bar.
  3. Choose Fit Width from the View pop-up at the top right corner to make your document fill the entire screen.

Work your Address Book
address.jpgPages and Numbers are social butterflies, flitting easily through your Mac's Address Book application to make it easy to incorporate contact info into your documents. The mail merge feature in Pages makes it easy to automatically address letters, for example. When you open a template for a letter or invoice, Pages automatically enters your return address. Adding the recipient's address is as easy as dropping her Address Book card into the page. Similarly, if you have a form letter to send to lots of people at once, you can automate your mass mailing by dragging the card for an Address Book group into the window (or, new in iWork '09, by pointing Pages to a Numbers spreadsheet with all the contact info--or any kind of info, for that matter). Pages creates or prints a fresh version of the file for each person in the group, using their own individual contact info. Nice.

You can likewise load up a Numbers spreadsheet with contact info by dropping an Address Book card for either an individual or a group into a blank area of the sheet canvas. Numbers creates a brand new table with contacts listed in rows and address info in columns. The table doesn't look like much at first, showing only four columns of data: Last Name, First Name, Phone, and Email. Under the surface, though, the new table contains complete contact info for all of your contacts--Numbers is simply holding them back as hidden columns. To view the hidden columns, select the table, and choose "Table>Unhide All Columns". Numbers reveals the full cache of contact info--65 columns of address info in all. Alas, now you've probably got more info than you wanted: Go ahead and hide or delete any columns you don't want.

Make the iWork connection
connections.jpgiWork doesn't just help you maintain connections with your contacts; it helps you connect layout objects, too. New in iWork '09, connection lines let you draw lines in a variety of different strokes to connect two objects in your layout--great for diagrams, flow charts, or anywhere it's useful to suggest a visual link between two objects. Connection lines are available in all three iWork apps; select two objects and choose Insert→Connection Line, and an unadorned, straight line appears between the two objects. Click the connection line to select it, and iWork reveals three circular controls: a blue one on either end, and a white one in the center. Drag the white control to move the line, turning it into a bendy line; the line always passes through the white control, curving as necessary to keep the two objects connected. You can style your connection lines with the full range of iWork stroke styles and add arrow endpoints for emphasis.

Keep your cool by freezing header rows
freeze-headers.jpgAs soon as you start working with more than a casual sprinkling of data, it doesn't take long before your tables extend well beyond the height or width of a single screen. But since the header row and header column are tied firmly to the top and left of the table, scrolling away from the first row or column means that your data labels slip out of view, too. And right on cue, you immediately forget what the heck all those columns of numbers represent. Happily, Numbers can put that forgetful scenario on ice by freezing your header rows or columns. When you turn on this feature for a table, then scroll its header row or column off the screen, Numbers freezes it in its tracks, stopping it at the edge of the visible sheet canvas to float above the rest of the table below. This keeps your data labels in view even when the "real" header is hundreds of rows offscreen. To freeze your header row(s), select the table, and then choose Freeze Header Rows from the Table menu or from the Header Row button in the Format Bar or Table Inspector.

For more information on iWork '09: The Missing Manual, see:

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Great interview. I will definitely get iWork 09.

Quote your comment on page 561-'if you've already got the sidekicks contact info in your Mac's Address Book program"....

just how do I download that data into my mac?



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