Apple Unveils Major Update to iWork

Posted on September 28, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, iPadOS, iOS, Mac and macOS with 41 Comments

You don’t hear a lot about iWork—Keynote, Pages, and Numbers—these days, but Apple just announced a major update to the suite across iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

“Whether they are in the office, at school, or working remotely, users around the world love Keynote, Pages, and Numbers for their powerful features, ease of use, and seamless experience across iPhone, iPad, and Mac,” Apple VP Bob Borchers said. “Today, we’re adding even more power and capability to these apps with new productivity and collaboration features that enable anyone to create more personal and compelling presentations, make working with documents on iPhone a breeze, and bring full-featured pivot tables to mobile for the first time.”

Here are some of the key updates:

Keynote. Apple’s presentation application can now use the front-facing camera on iPhone, iPad, and Mac to add live video directly to their presentations. Live video objects can be resized or styled with masks, frames, drop shadows, and reflections. And Mac users can connect multiple external cameras to further enhance the live video experience, even sharing the screen of a connected iPhone or iPad on a slide for live, interactive demos. There’s also a new multi-presenter option so that two or more people can control a shared slideshow regardless of their physical location.

Pages. Because more customers read Pages documents on iPhone than with any other device, Apple’s word processing app now provides a new reading and editing experience called Screen View that displays text, images, and other elements in a continuously flowing single-column with enlarged text, auto-fit photos and drawings, and scrollable tables. And Screen View can be toggled off so you can see the page layout for printing or publishing.

Numbers. Apple’s spreadsheet solution picks up pivot tables support so that users can summarize, group, and rearrange data to identify and analyze patterns and trends. While Numbers may be late to this functionality, Apple points out that Numbers is the first app to bring full-featured pivot tables to mobile with the same set of features across iPhone, iPad, and Mac. So there.

Keynote, Pages, and Numbers also support the new translation features that Apple introduced in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey. This lets users select text to see a translation, hear it read aloud, or instantly replace the selection with the translated text.

The new versions of Keynote, Pages, and Numbers are available for free in the App Store (on iPhone and iPad) and Mac App Store.

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Comments (41)

41 responses to “Apple Unveils Major Update to iWork”

  1. lvthunder

    The Keynote changes sound interesting. It could be something streamers can use.

  2. ponsaelius

    If you are in the Apple ecosystem this is going to be good news. Even if you never use a feature, you will have the peace of mind that it's still a thing.

    From a Microsoft perspective it has always been the case that an Apple buyer gets a good lot of bundled apps in with their Mac. Microsoft used to compete with the Microsoft Works suite of applications for home users. Now it's the subscription model.

    Apple seems to be heading more towards a subscription model for its services and icloud in particular. With Microsoft abandoning consumer computing it may be something to watch.

  3. nbplopes

    For a free office software kit, iWorks is brilliant. Finely Pivot Tables in Numbers …

    Curious about the Keynote Live video and camera integration. Can be quite useful for remote presentations … schools and other organizations.

  4. crunchyfrog

    It does not matter how good they make their suite, Microsoft is the dominant default and Google a distant second. After that... good luck.

    • Truffles

      Office bundling is the move that destroyed the Windows ecosystem for devs. What was once a gloriously diverse ecosystem of quickly evolving office apps was killed-off overnight as MS sucked up all the money.

      • davepete

        Yep. Microsoft Office killed the competition, so all you get now is Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Hope everyone's happy.

  5. casualadventurer

    The value of Office is undeniable. Tons of apps besides Word, Excel and PowerPoint, (like Outlook) and a terabyte of cloud storage, for $80 per year ($100 for families)? Who wouldn't do that? Why mess with anything else?

    • BobBuilder

      Why pay full price when you can get an Office 2019 key for like $20?

      • jdjan

        I'm not sure that is good advice. I highly doubt those $20 keys are really legal.

  6. Bart

    For me, it is very simple. The Office app on my iPhone and iPad provide everything I need. One app to do the same as the three apps provided by Apple. No brainer really.

    • bettyblue

      As usual Microsoft confuses with multiple apps for iOS. Why do the have the single app and yet individual apps.

      I found the individual apps have more features. Because my team is responsible for Office 365 at my company I have a lot of MS apps on my iPhone, more than I care to have.

  7. helix2301

    I remember a time when they used to charge for this then that stopped and they give it away for free. I wonder why they started giving it away for free was it to compete with office and other open source alternatives? Just wondering if anyone knows why?

  8. yoshi

    Unfortunately, the web counterparts are still slow and clunky compared to Office Online and Google Workspace. Not that anything else should be expected, considering how terrible iCloud email is on the web.

  9. BobBuilder

    Not sure how anyone can get any serious work done on free Office apps. Pay for Office 365 or Office 2019 and you're ready to be a productive administrator.

  10. waethorn

    If only Apple still made web design software. Looking at the closest options, you have RapidWeaver and Sparkle, both of which picked up where iWeb left off.

  11. johnlmiller620

    I was a PC-to-Mac convert in 2019. As a writer in my personal time, I work on a high volume of relatively uncomplicated docs. I've found Pages to be the best tool for blank-page composition-- the app loads faster, presents a cleaner interface, and saves seamlessly (of course) to iCloud. iOS access (iPad Pro and iPhone) is also unconscious.

    Word on the Mac is slow and glitchy by comparison, both with features and the ability to save aligned with my cloud preferences. I know the latter is partly on me. Most annoying is trying access docs on iOS and getting a persistent prompt to enter a OneDrive/365 password.

    Pages is also seamless with .docx export, in my experience. I'm grateful Apple hasn't left this suite in the wind.

    • bettyblue

      Even in 2021 the MS Office apps on a Mac are horrible. Slow bloated and never in sync with the Windows versions.

      I use the web versions whenever possible at work. I am hoping they reach a point that I can just remove the full apps from my Mac’s

  12. bettyblue

    For anything personal it is all I use anymore. The apps load so much faster than Microsoft Office.

  13. red.radar

    Completely forgotten this software existed. Reminded me of Microsoft Works. Brought a brief nostalgic moment.

  14. Chris_Kez

    Keynote users seem to LOVE keynote, but I never hear anyone pine for Pages or Numbers.

    • davepete

      Keynote's typography, themes and transitions have always been better than PowerPoint's. The presentations always look more professional. Hopefully Apple's next MacBook Pros bring back the HDMI port -- then a MacBook with a Keynote presentation is a dongle-less no-brainer for presenters.

  15. Brazbit

    I swear they had said they were going to kill iWork off several years ago and so I have not thought about these apps in years. I thought they were purged back around Mojave or High Sierra. I have to admit that clicking on this story was a bit of morbid curiosity thinking they were releasing an emergency patch to several year abandoned software due to some critical exploit or something.

  16. christianwilson

    I always liked iWork, and I do use Pages and Numbers occasionally today. I never liked making presentations so I haven't touched Keynote in years.

    There is the old saying that the average person only uses a few basic features of Office apps, and iWork apps do all of that well with a few tricks of their own. I'd hesitate to recommend them for shared work or for creating something you would later convert to docx, xlsx, etc, but you can make some useful, visually appealing documents and spreadsheets with iWork.

    • harmjr

      I would add dont let your kids turn in work to their professors. I dont know how many times I have to reply to tell a professor to have their student save it out as a .docx format.

  17. jchampeau

    Apple would never do this, but I bet this suite's usage share would go up over time if they would make the three apps natively save their output as .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx files. I suspect many non-technical Mac users abandon the suite after getting a few angry e-mails from others saying they can't open the documents they sent.

    • lvthunder

      The problem with that is they could never come out with a feature Office didn't have. For example showing the live video feed in the presentation.

      • vladimir

        actually, they do have a feature that Office doesn't have. They are built-in in the OS and are completely free. A lot of mac users use them and I agree that one major limitation is the difference in the file format. Apple should do a windows/android version as well but I think they don't care enough

        • vladimir

          I also think that Apple gets more benefit from Office working perfectly on iOS/MacOS than from competing with Microsoft for this space. They have a niche and for now, that's fine for them

          • nbplopes

            Yeah. The major drawback is that the de facto standard is docX.If they did made iWork for Windows for free could probably help spread its format … in turn would be good for mac and iOS users.

        • captobie

          They aren’t really built into the OS, at least in any way that’s different than the crapware you get preinstalled on a Windows computer. They’re the first things I uninstall when setting up a new Mac.

      • nhellmers

        One feature Numbers has that Excel doesn't:

        Numbers lets you easily have multiple completely independent tables on a sheet--you can add and delete rows, drag them around (with automatic guides for quickly lining things up), apply table formatting, and what not in one table without screwing up the others. I use this for a budget overview sheet--a table for assets, one for debts, one for expenses, one for income, one each for a few accounts, etc. It's all on one sheet that fits on the screen and I can view it all at a glance and edit any part of it without worrying about the other parts. I haven't found a way to do anything like that in Excel.

    • j5

      You can save them to Office file formats. You just choose to export it as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other file formats as well. You can also import Office templates. I've had no issues importing Word templates. Some of the more complex Excel templates with graphics won't import. Just little Nuiances like Calibre not being an installed font. But you can just download it and it to Font Book and you're good to go.

  18. Saarek

    For the average home user iWork is all you'll ever need to cover the basics well. Apple Keynote was way ahead of PowerPoint back in the day when it came to animations, etc, but PowerPoint has really caught up.

    I use excel daily for business, so would not switch personally, but most of my family use iWork instead of paying for Office.

  19. ronh

    Is it any better than the free office apps or web apps?

    • SyncMe

      After using Word, Excel & Powerpoint for 20 years on Windows and Mac, I dropped them completely at home and almost completely at work. Pages, Numbers and Keynote read and write office formats very reliably. I have not found any functions missing and now that they support pivot tables I expect less need for Excel. Keynote is so much better than Powerpoint.

      The amount of bloat in the Office apps is out of control.

    • j5

      I switched to Mac/iWork from Windows/Office back in April. It was kind of rough at first because I never used Mac or iWork before. I had always been on Windows and only used Office, not even the free suites like Libre. But now I use them like I would Office on Windows. I use Numbers to track personal things and finances. I use pages to type stuff, journal, notes, thoughts, etc. just like Word. I've even done a couple of cards for some family stuff. I like the minimalistic look and feel of it now. I use Windows/Office for work and I hate how bloated and busy Office is now.

      If I was a power Excel user then I probably wouldn't like Numbers. But honestly, I think that's it. I've only used Keynote to check out how presentations look it etc. but never used it to make a presentation.

      But for home and more I think iWork is great! Especially since it comes with your Mac.

    • lvthunder

      It depends on what you are trying to do.

    • Username

      > free office apps

      which office apps are (truly) free on iOS?

  20. jdjan

    I think it's great that Apple bundles these. It would be interesting to get the metrics on who actually uses them instead of Office or Google docs.

    I need Office 365 for my business, so I have only really used Keynote when I need a presentation that graphically zings. It is somehow 'smoother' and, well, everyone is used to PowerPoint whereas Keynote can stand out.