I have some odd opinions apparently about what a word processor should do and how it should work. I use the term “odd” because looking over the standard offerings out there for writers, none of them have yet worked the way I want them to work.
I used Word 1.0 for the Mac back when I was in seminary and it’s still the word processor that I’m most comfortable with. The present version of Word is too bloated and makes simple tasks too obscure for me to enjoy using it. I constantly feel like I’m wrestling with it when I want to do something that it doesn’t handle automatically. On the other hand, I do actually find the way it automates standard tasks sort of handy – as long as the standard it uses is good enough for what I’m doing. When it isn’t, you’re in a world of hurt (to borrow a phrase.)
I’ve been using Mellel for a while now since I’ve returned to the Mac a few years ago. It’s a great word processor in terms of speed and in the fine-grain control it gives you over your words. But it’s designed for the specialist and academic market. If I was still doing active research I’d probably never consider walking away from it. But I’m not doing research anymore and I’m not commonly writing in multiple languages (another real strength it has). So while I’ve been using it, I’ve not been really excited about it.
I’ve wanted to use Pages (Apple’s offering) but the 1.0 version (and 2.0 version for the most part) simply wasn’t working for me. It was slow and clunky (or so it seemed) and I’ve not invested a lot of time learning how to use it.
I’m basically an essayist and small run publisher in my church job. The sermons, articles and notes that I write rarely run much longer than 5 or 6 pages. The bulletins and posters are often meant to be done on a single sheet. I need easy layout tools, and not much more. I need basic research ability, but not much more. I mostly just want the program I’m using to get out of my way, hide the complexity as much as possible, but allow me to use it when I need it.
Well, that said, I think I found something that’s tailor made for me. Pages. Or more specifically, Pages 2.0 – included in the latest version of iWork released this week.
It does just what I want it to do and in a way that’s pretty intuitive for me. I don’t find that I have to remember where tools are hidden – they’re linked directly from the primary window, but hidden if I don’t want to see them. They’re minimalist enough so that I can actually find what I’m looking for (a major problem with the versions of Word that I’ve used recently.) And it automates just enough to be helpful, but no so much that I have to fight with it. Even the proof-reading tools are useful – a real change from my normal experience of “helpful/clueless” suggestions.
I’m still playing with this, but on the whole, it looks like I may have just found the perfect little program. It’s already replaced Word for me on my computers. (The only word specific thing I’ve needed recently is change-tracking and Pages reads and writes them to Word documents like a champ.)
Keynote replaced Powerpoint for me a long time ago. Looks like lightning has struck a second time.