Tuesday, December 24, 2013

IWORK PRO: How to work around some of the features axed from Pages

They’ve broken iWork! Or so it would seem if you took to heart the litany of complaints that have followed the product’s recent revamp. Every iWork user will probably pine for at least one feature that’s been dropped in order to make iWork a truly cross-platform product.

A couple of iWork-using friends have worked themselves into near-apoplexy owing to the absence of a customisable toolbar in the new iWork. I can live without that, but I do sorely miss AppleScript support. Like many other missing features, I’m comforted that Apple is working on bringing this feature back (see support.apple.com/kb/HT6049).

But broken? I don’t think so. There are inconveniences, certainly, but what the new iWork brings - access to my iWork documents wherever I am and the ability to work on the same file without worrying that elements have been stripped out -is worth the price for living for a short while without vertical rulers in Pages, or footers and headers in Numbers.

If you’re resolutely railing against iWork’s stripped-down features, which particularly affects Pages users, there are ways to keep the old version’s best features.

The most drastic step is to eschew the upgrade. iWork ’09 isn’t removed when you install the new iWork and lives on in your Applications -> iWork folder, functioning just as well as it did before. However, this approach is difficult to stick to for any time, particularly if you’ve also updated iWork on iOS, because these require the new version of iWork (and Mavericks) to sync. The simple act of opening an iCIoud-stored iWork ’09 document on iOS or in iWork for iCIoud - even if you don’t edit it - automatically converts it to iWork’s new file format, which
is incompatible with earlier versions. In the case of iWork for iCIoud, all this happens without a warning. Effectively, the only realistic way to avoid working in the new version is to avoid using iCIoud, which I think removes one of iWork’s greatest advantages.

If such an emergency occurred, you could use the updated File > Export option on the Mac to export a document back to iWork ’09 format, or revert the document to its a pre-iWork ’13 state by choosing File > Revert > Browse All Versions. Remember, of course, that this will lose any other changes you’ve made to the file since that point.

However, I’ve discovered workarounds for at least a couple of Pages’ missing features. For example, its Layout mode, which is used for creating newsletter-style layout documents, has disappeared, to the annoyance of many users, but you can mimic much of its effect in the new version of Pages by removing its background text layer.

To do remove this text layer, open the Setup Inspector and uncheck the Document Body option. Now you can move shapes and text boxes around the page just as you could in Page Layout mode. Remember to convert images and other elements that you want to keep into floating documents, otherwise they’ll be stripped out with the background text. In the Format Inspector under the Arrange tab’s Object Placement section, make sure the ‘Stay on Page’ button is active. A word of caution here, though: if you remove the background layer, Pages treats the document in the same way as it did Page Layout files in that you won’t be able to export the document to ePub format.

Pulling power.  It’s now possible to pull data from one Pages table into another

One way of reverting to the old iWork format is to revert to an older version of the document

Some Pages features aren’t actually missing, they’re just difficult to find. I was looking to adjust the spacing after a paragraph of text, something that was easy enough to dointhe old Text Inspector. But nowthe option is hidden away under the Text tab ofthe Formatting Inspector. To get to it, you need to choose Text > Style > Spacing, and then click thedis-closure triangle, which will finally reveal the elusive Before and After paragraph space settings.
Because the new unified Pages iWork format treats documents as a single flow of text, rather than the separate pages of the erstwhile Page Layout mode, there still isn’t a way to manipulate pages or sections by dragging them in the sidebar. Exporting the document to iWork ’09 won’t do the trick, as an exported document opens in iWork ’09 as a word processing, rather than a Page Layout, document.

Neither can you capture pages nor add complete pages to documents. The workaround here is to add new pages through the Insert > Page Break menu options, and copy and paste elements from other pages that you want to use in the new page. Here at least, Pages’ ability to store Object Styles makes them easier to reproduce consistently.

A huge casualty of the decline of Page Layout mode is that you can’t create floating text boxes and link them so the text they contain flows between them. It’s an indefensible loss. But I’ve stumbled across a workaround - although I’m sure it wasn’t intended as one - through iWork’s new Shape tools, found under the Format Inspector’s Arrange tab. These new shape editing tools, which let you combine, intersect, subtract or exclude shapes, only appear when you select multiple shapes. Their primary purpose is to make it easier to create complicated shapes, but if you select two text boxes and click the Unite button, it joins them so text flows from one to the other. It’s rudimentary: once joined, you can’t move the text boxes individually or change their dimensions. And you can’t adjust the flow of the text; the text seems to flow between boxes in the order in which they’re created. However, until Apple allows true text box linking, it’s compensation worth having.

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