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.

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I’ve been trying to upgrade my iPad2 since about 1100 my time. I purposefully downloaded the package rather than try a straight download and install on the off chance they would have issues with a product they’ve been hyping all year. A good call…

The Apple servers are slammed because every bloody iDevice out there is trying to upgrade, and worse — you have to go through the cowpat that is iTunes to do it. So after waiting through the glacial backup process for the iPad, I’m running into an “inner error” — that’s the verification server failing to recognize you. Worse for an iPad user: you have to wade through the backup process every damned time you make the effort to upgrade; you have to wait an hour just to get told “sorry, pal!” by the Wizards of Cupertino.

A magical device and a great customer experience, indeed.

So far, I’ve very little to complain about with the new OS X upgrade save one thing…Apple fix the f#$king issue where the wifi drops coming out of sleep. Check your damned support boards — it’s happening on MacBooks, Airs, and iMacs. When the computer goes to sleep, 4 thimes out of 5 it drops the wifi connection; it’s even more ornery if you’ve switched locations.

Fix the problem! It’s really damned annoying.

This would be a monumental mistake, if true. They’ve already done it with the Sony reader, and they are having constant fights with other iOS content providers because the Boys of Cupertino want to control the money flow of their customers.

I’ve had multiple readers on my iPad since day one for a reason: iBooks sucks.  Not a little, a lot. We’re talking Jupiter-sized amounts of suck. The availability of books is absolute crap and most of it is very limited in scope, compared to Amazon, and the only place it has a slight lead over Kindle is that it gives you page count, instead of section counts — more useful for using the material in an academic piece.

This sort of locked-down nonsense that makes non-Apple users rail (rightfully) against the Mac platform. I’ve no problem with them restricting certain apps that might be harmful to the stability of the iOS devices (although I’d like the choice, anyway, just warn me the software or content is dangerous), but limiting the functionality of my machine (I bought it; it’s not mine to do with as a please) is a no-go in my book.

UPDATE: Publishers in Europe had, at the launch of the device, pushed Apple to let them do in-app subscriptions, but the Wizards of Cupertino wouldn’t let them…so they redirected the buying of books, magazines, and other downloaded content to their websites. (Case in point: Amazon with their Kindle for iPad/iPhone/Mac app.) Now that the Apple moneymen have realized how much they have to gain, the company is threatening to ban apps that do not do in-app subscriptions that allow them to take a 30% cut.

Simply put, Apple is trying to think like a retailer for the content outside providers are giving the end users. While some agree (often reflexively) with Apple, the “betrayed” publishers in Europe seem to suggest that just having access to their content without Cupertino mafiosi changing a cut aids the sale of the devices, and aids Apple in the end. “By promoting these apps, they promoted the device. Publishers in fact helped to make the iPad successful on the market.” I tend to agree with them on this last point.

More problematic to me than the 30% “road tax” that Apple is trying to slap everyone with, is the issue that iBooks and iTunes often do not have the breadth of product that, for instance, Amazon does. Cupertino also adheres to an outmoded idea of what cost for electronic material should be; the lack of printing costs, shipping costs, and the general “info should be free” attitude of the internet generation means that success of the iOS devices will increasingly require lower prices on content. Amazon, Google and the Android tablet market get this; Apple would be wise to hop on board.

(There may be a way Amazon and others could get around the in-app issue by allowing users to choose to go to their website or to pay Apple’s tax… More here.)

Forget Microsoft — they might have liked to play by Edisonian rules in the computer market, but for truly scary “evil empire”-style practices, one has to give it to Apple. The Boys from Cupertino have a penchant for control-freak attitudes, something that shouldn’t be entirely surprising to those who know the engineering mindset.

It’s a mindset that was absorbed into a lot of early Progressive thought — Taylorism, Fordism, scientific management…  At heart, Apple wants to put out a product that is better than the rest, and to do that, they have to control the use of the devices.  Like all adherents of scientific management, planning has to come at the expense of freedom; you can’t solve complex problems by democratic means — few individuals will agree on how to solve a problem — it has to be done by fiat.  For efficiency’s sake.

Hence their 1980s annoying system of requiring their computers to be serviced only by Apple authorized dealers, and their reluctance, until they were practically irrelevant outside of the smug, elitist “I’ve got a Mac!” crowd, to move toward a more open architecture that could be modified by the user, and to allow for competing software platforms like Office to compete with their Mac-based word processor/database/presentation/spreadsheet suite (which, while quite good, is pretty much useless if you’re not talking to Mac-only users…otherwise, you export the vile as a .pdf or .doc file.  This is the definition of “lose” in the software market.)

With their adoption of PC-style interchangeability, the ability to use Windows programs, Apple managed to keep themselves from disappearing, but it was the success of their hardware — and ultimately, Apple has always been about pushing hardware; their commitment to software is dodgy, at best — Apple has returned to form.

The success of the iPod brought with it their obsessive need to control access to material to put on the wee devices.  For several years, if you didn’t go through iTunes (a format that doesn’t play well with other MP3 players), you were hosed as a iPod user.  It was only when the MP3 player market caught up that iPods started allowing the use of formats outside of iTunes.

The iPhone and iPad brought Apple into the forefront of the smartphone market and boosted them from elitist underdog to smug frontman.  The iPhone is a wonderous invention — it really is — but Apple’s continued refusal to entertain opening hte device to other service networks seriously hampers the users.  PArtly this is due to development agreements with AT&T over the microSIM card tehcnology, partly, it’s Apple being Apple.  They trapped their customers into a deal with AT&T with the iPad, as well, but it’s not about choice.

When you buy Apple, you buy into the Apple corporate philosophy.  Much like the Progressivism that coopted Taylorist thoughts for its own use, you don’t get to pick and choose which elements of Progressivism (or Applism) you want — it’s all or nothing.

Network issues aside, the Apple App Store is another example of the Apple need to control content, not just use of their products; it’s already established that programs that have a political bent unappreciated by Cupertino have a habit of getting deleted — like the iSlam app which was pulled, while Christian-slamming software remains there for download.  (This is one of the reasons for linking Applism to Progressivism…)  The iBooks app will read .pdfs not, sure…but you can’t simply download them to read on your iPhone or iPad.  You can’t look at Flash animation on the iPhone or iPad because Apple doesn’t trust their functionality; it’s not up to you, should you want to view the myriad sites using Flash…you will view only HTML5 sites.  And you will like it.  (Now don’t get me wrong, Shockwave is a disaster, as far as I’m concerned — it crashes Chrome and Firefox with alarming regularity, and often requires a restart of the computer if you want to, say, listen to music, as it hijacks your Windows media players.  But I want the option to go to those sites.)

Apple mirrors Progressivism in that it coopts the terms of the argument from its opponents.  Progressivism uses freedom and choice a lot, but that’s incompatible with planning; Apple uses functionality (Bestest electronic devices evah!), user options (thousands of apps at the App Store!), and support…but these are ephemeral.  While Microsoft and PC manufacturers are not enthusiastic about Open Source — the realm of the true computer geek, where Linux rules the roost and thousands of programs are manipulated by their users for the benefit of others — their equipment and software are often compatible with these iAnarchists.

As with Progressivism, Apple brooks no apostasy.  Recent concerns about the functionality of the iPhone4 have been met with hostility and derision from the Boys of Cupertino (“You’re holding the phone wrong!”)  Discussions of the problem amongst Apple junkies is not tolerated, nor are these issues directly addressed by the company (it’s the user…it’s the program for the signal strength…it’s not us!)  Instead of talking to their customers, and trying to find some kind of solution (like, say, Windows eventually did with Windows 7 after they realized that Vista was a big turd in the operating system punchbowl), Apple excises threads on the subject from their support website.

This is, in short, no way to run a business.  There is a happy medium.  Apple could openly and honestly address problems, but that would relinquish a certain amount of control of the situation to their customer base, and would make them look less competent than the image they have through total control of content, delivery, and use.

Make no mistake: I love my iPad.  Enough I even looked at the MacBook for about 2 minutes — then realize I could get more performance from a PC for half the price.  And it would require me to get cozier with the Apple corporate philosophy, and I just can’t do that.

Eventually, the rest of the market will catch up to the iPad.  It’s already happening with the Android phones — Google, while it has a lot of shady practices, as well, is more firmly on the side of the Open Source types (electronic libertarians, if you will.)  Once there is choice in the tablet/slate/ whateverthehellwe’recallingthem market, Apple will see a serious chunk of their market share erode.

Why..?  ’cause we already bought the damned thing; we’d like to be able to use our device as we see fit.

UPDATE:  Cult of Mac is reporting that public relations experts are convinced that Apple will have to bite the pomme-flavored bullet and recall the iPhone 4.