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In the last few days I have been helping my daughter with some school projects. I wasn’t actually doing the projects for her I must emphasise, I was just taking the material she created and turning it into an attractive document.

Now most people would have used Microsoft Word for doing this work but, as a computer expert who is prepared to move beyond the mediocrity of the standard solutions, I chose something else, of course.

If I had wanted to use the most professional (and complex) solution I would have fired up In Design. But there was no need for that. I wanted something that would produce beautiful documents quickly and easily so I chose Apple’s word processor Pages, instead.

I have mentioned in the past how great this program is but I just have to reiterate that idea. I don’t do much word processing because most of what I do now goes on the Internet, but I produce documents occasionally, often In Microsoft Word (not by choice), and I always find that a horrible experience.

Using Pages though allows me to work with the document without having to worry about silly limitations, an illogical user interface, the possibility of crashes, and things not working the way you would expect. And yes, I have used the PC version as well as the Mac one – if anything I find the PC version even worse!

Here’s an example. I found a graphic on the web I wanted to place in the document. In Pages I dragged it into the document and resized it and dragged it around while the whole document reflowed in realtime.

In Word I could drag and drop it into the document (that’s good) but then I had to navigate some complex commands to make the text flow, then when I resized and repositioned the graphic the document didn’t reflow until after I completed the drag by releasing the mouse button. That’s not so bad but when you have used Pages you wouldn’t want to go back to such a primitive way of working!

Similar things happen everywhere. Setting the page margins in Pages, for example, just involves clicking some controls in the main control palette. Each click causes the document to reflow making it really easy to change settings and see the effect immediately.

In Word I have to find the command, change all the margins and click OK to see the results (there’s not even an Apply option) and that closes the dialog which means I need to use the Document command again to try different settings. Its just so primitive. Is this really a program which has been refined by the biggest software company in the world for 20 years? Its hard to believe.

But ignoring these specific criticisms (and a hundred others) there’s another benefit I get from Pages. It just works and its a pleasure to use. The program and the user form a synergy. They work together instead of working against each other.

If you have a Mac (and if you don’t, all I can say is tough luck loser) grab a free 30 day trial of iWork 09 (the set of programs which includes Pages) from Apple’s web site. Give it a reasonable amount of time because you might need to unlearn some bad habits from using badly designed programs like Word, but I think it will be worth it!

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