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iWork ’07: Fleshed Out

October 12th, 2006

Reports have been trickling in that iWork ’07, the next release of Apple’s Office suite, will finally reach full strength with the addition of a spreadsheet app, code-named “Lasso,” to the package. Like Pages and Keynote, Lasso’s initial release won’t be as full-featured as its Microsoft Office counterpart, Excel, but also like Pages and Keynote, it will be fully compatible with Excel, as well as with Apple’s old spreadsheet app from the now-defunct AppleWorks suite.

Lasso’s function editor will sport more than 200 hundred functions that will span a number of needs, from financial to statistical and possibly niche applications such as engineering, sources say. Lasso will also feature limited integration with the Internet, making it easy, for example, for users to create a spreadsheet that automatically downloads and inputs updated stock market information at a specified interval. Wrapping such functionality in an attractive, straightforward interface will be Lasso’s strong suit, bringing practical, advanced capabilities to the masses.

To that end, Apple will also include a number of attractive templates with Lasso for such needs as personal finance, business, personal planning and health, such as exercise performance charting and calorie counting logs. Several templates will also target K-12 teachers, including grade books and lesson plans.

One can also expect Apple’s spreadsheet app to be uber-cool in the graphics department, particularly which it comes to making charts and graphs. I only hope that the app allows the user to choose any design they want for each chart, and not be limited to one design per “theme,” like Keynote is now.

Apple will also update Keynote and Pages. While Keynote’s upgrade will be “incremental” (read: no new big features or design changes, just added templates and stuff), Pages will get a much-needed revamp. People have often complained that Pages is trying to be both a word processor and a desktop publishing program, and the mix doesn’t work (I’m OK with it, but I see their point). This new report says that Apple will be separating the two functions into different “modes,” presumably similar to Microsoft Word’s “normal” and “print layout” views. They also report that Apple may even build interfaces with Wikipedia and Google directly into the program so that people writing anything which requires web research won’t have to switch to a browser window to do so. (Curious: will they make academic citation of web sources easy, accessible, or even automatic? That would be cool.)

The significance of the spreadsheet app being added is that the iWork suite will then be a complete package to supplant Microsoft Office, a much more expensive suite of applications, and, let’s face it, a suite created by Microsoft. While the initial release of the iWork spreadsheet might not be as feature-rich as Excel, it will doubtlessly do the job more than well enough for a vast majority of users. Also, if you recall, both Pages and Keynote were feature-poor on their initial outings, but both have grown into more mature applications, and will grow more as time goes on. iWork ’07 will be important as it will allow almost any Mac use to leave Microsoft apps completely behind, while remaining fully able to read and generate MS Office documents.

Price will also be a factor: Keynote was released at a $99 price point, but when Pages was added, the price actually went down, to $79. I would expect the iWork ’07’s 3-program suite to kick the price back up to $99–making the whole suite the same price as Microsoft Word alone, and one-fourth as expensive as the MS Office suite. Another big incentive to make the change, and it will probably come a half-year before Microsoft updates it’s Office suite for the Mac with Office 2007–which may be the last upgrade of Office for the Mac that we’ll see.

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  1. October 13th, 2006 at 13:47 | #1

    It won’t break my heart one bit to break away from Office. Is amazing how many years that program has hardly changed. Add this in with Google’s online word processor and spreadsheets, ole Microsoft has some problems coming their way.

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