Yes, I’ll admit right off the bat: I’m a Microsoft Office hater. Their software is bloated, the interface a brick-to-the-face ugly, and the menus make no damned sense. I was a WordPerfect guy — it was the best word processor out there through to the early 2000s. When I bought an iPad, I found I truly loved the simplicity and surprisingly functionality of the “lightweight” Pages and Keynote apps, enough so that when my wife bought me a MacBook Air, i started using Pages and Keynote on the laptop, even though I’d have to sacrifice the clean fonts and layout when I had to shift the presentations over to Powerpoint (but that’s what we use at work…the cri de coeur of everyone sick of the MS Office suite.)

Pages, however, was a dream to create documents in. Especially for e-publication. ePub is the easiest of the ebook formats and everything looks like it’s supposed to when you go the publish a book (then Amazon makes you go to .mobi, which is like can spray-painting a Ferrari.) So I was kind of excited when the new iWork suite dropped on the iPad. Again, for basic work, it’s surprisingly good — easy to use, there’s a lot of template designs and other things you can use quickly, but it’s not for heavy duty work.

Liking what i saw on the iPad, I upgraded to Pages 5 (I haven’t even touched the other apps, other than to test how quickly they opened)…and I am disappointed I may have to work with Word for a while, assuming that Apple bothers to fix the disaster of Final Cut X proportions that it has foisted on its users. But hey! It’s free!

Doesn’t matter when it’s crap. Here’s a thread on the Apple Support Communities to give you an idea of how big a steaming pile Pages 5 is for the hardcore writer or publisher.

First the good (and there is a lot for the casual word processor user.): The big one — collaborations — now you can work on documents with others using iCloud. I don’t do this, and I don’t like sending my personal IP to someone else’s server if i can avoid it. You can track changes, and it works fine with Word docs that are imported. There’s also support for right to left script (Arabic, Hebrew, and the like…)

It still lets you export your work in various formats, you can still email a document right off, although there was a lot of bitching about this on the thread highlighted above — you “send a copy.” It’s no different from the last iteration, really. I did notice it zips some of the documents, depending on their size. It shouldn’t be necessary and might be a developer artifact that hasn’t been fixed.

It looks nice. I want to be able, however, to create a new button toolbar that suits my particular needs and which speed productivity. That was, perhaps, the single best element of WordPerfect; you could customize the toolbars so that you never needed to use the menu, and it wasn’t crowded or confusing. Apple and Microsoft could learn a thing on interface design from the old girl. The “Inspector” — essentially a condensed window of the most necessary control features is something a lot of people are lamenting is gone.

It’s not. they’ve just moved it to a sidebar on the right of your window and called it “setup” and “format”, much like in the iOS version. I like it. I can key it on and off fast, if I don’t want to leave it open.

Templates: there’s a bunch and they appeal to the casual user…and that’s a problem. It’s a pain in the ass now to create a template or import one. Setting up Styles has never been a great feature on Pages and it’s worse than before. but if you just need a canned newsletter, letter, resume, etc. — Pages 5 has probably got most student or non-publishing types covered. (And honestly, I think the market demographic they were shooting for was the student with the free pricing and the ease of use.)

However, that ease of use disappears the instant you want to do complex documents, or ones that can be quickly and easily reconfigured (like, for instance, a brochure where you want to move a single page of text and imagery around fast.) It used to be you could simply click and drag on a section and move it. That’s gone. so it selecting it to get rid of it or to copy it to another document…no, now you have to select in the document, cut and paste. It’s doable, but it’s more time consuming and a friggin’ hassle. No ability to duplicate or delete pages. (This is the most egregious of the idiot moments the Pages development team had here…did they not have one writer or publishing type in the team? If not, I suggest maybe having a user of your bloody product to review it might be in order.)

Worse, layout breaks, and the ability to do multiple layouts? Gone. Layout margin changes? Gone. Merge fields? Gone. Importing Numbers (their spreadsheet) into a document? Gone. Two page view seems to be gone. Find and replace special characters (like extra character returns so Amazon’s execrable .mobi doesn’t take a crap when you try to publish a manuscript)…gone. Bullet points in comments. Gone. Importing images not in bloody iPhoto? You can do it, but you have to open a finder window and drag and drop a photo into a document. Haven’t tries video dra g and drop, but I’m betting it will work. Unlike hyperlinks to external documents.

Oh, and it doesn’t work and play well with rtf… WTF?

In other words, if you do any kind of work that is more complex than the canned templates, you’re pretty much screwed. Your workflow will be slower and less efficient, and while you might be able to get there eventually, it won’t be without a lot of visits to the Apple community pages and a buttload of swearing. the kind of thing that leads people to say, “Word sucks and is a bitch to use, but it’s a bitch that you can actually use.”

Great job, Pages Development Team! How many of you idiots were on final Cut X? Just curious.

Style: 4 out of 5 — it looks nice and could be really useful for basic and casual users. The target audience seems to be students. Substance: 2 out of 5 — For the 11 or so new elements of functionality and a nicer interface, we lost hundreds of features that were kinda important if you do any kind of word processing for a living.

If you’re a writer or publish who uses Pages 4.3 right now DO NOT UPGRADE TO THIS CRAPWARE  until they’ve flayed the morons that released this, and added functionality back into it.