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The iPad isn't just a big toy, dig? Yes, it's an amazing e-reader and rocks for watching videos, but it's very possible to get some work done with the iPad too. Apple's iWork productivity suite has been redesigned for the iPad, with Keynote, Pages, and Numbers available in the App Store for $9.99 each. These apps let you create documents that can be synced to your Macs and shared via iWork.com, although if you're familiar with the Mac versions of these apps, there are constraints you're bound to hit quickly.
Keynote comes with 12 themes, including commonly used choices like Black, White, Parchment, and Modern Portfolio, along with others that are variations on themes included with iWork for the Mac. Not as many slide masters are included and some capabilities have been excised too. You'll notice fewer transition choices, for example, and perhaps more seriously, an absence of presenter notes--a function we use extensively in the Mac version of Keynote.
Keynote lets you add photos, transitions, and animated objects to your presentations.
However, if you're using the $29 iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter to connect the iPad to a TV, monitor, or projector, you can screen your presentation on a larger screen while controlling the slide playback, and even tap and hold on the iPad's screen for a laser pointer effect over the slides.
Keynote on the iPad makes it possible to create a serviceable Keynote presentation complete with slide-to-slide transitions, text effects, and animations. Edge guides can be turned on and off, along with slide numbers. Spell checking is also included. And of all the iWork iPad apps, Keynote is the only one that forces you to work in landscape orientation.
Like Keynote, Pages includes a subset of the same sort of templates you get with its Mac counterpart--16 altogether, including letters, projects, resumes, and some page layout offerings like a poster, party invite, and more. A toolbar and style ruler appear when the iPad is in Portrait mode; you can use this to adjust paragraph and character styles, text alignment, tabs, pages and column breaks, custom fonts and colors, or to activate features like spell checking.
When you're composing a word processing document, Pages is easiest to use in Landscape mode, though it may take some retraining for you to keep your palms or wrists off the iPad's glass. If you get lazy with the vast expanse of Apple laptop wrist areas, any incidental contact on the screen can result in a spelling error or worse. It's also worth noting that Pages will zoom moderately when you switch from Portrait to Landscape--it can be disconcerting to see your text grow larger after you've set specific font or paragraph styles in Portrait mode.
Look up words right within pages to make sure you're using cromulent language.
Numbers has been similarly scaled down to be approachable and usable on the iPad without causing too much confusion or consternation. You can zoom in and out of spreadsheets by pinching; create charts instantly by selecting the type you want to use and then just selecting the cells you want to chart and dragging and dropping them into place; and rotate between landscape and portrait modes to get the best view.
Numbers includes more than 250 mathematical functions, in all the same categories as the Mac version of Numbers--chronological, engineering, logical and numeric, statistical, trigonometric, and more--and you can create your own formula based on those functions. If you haven't invested in FileMaker's Bento app, you can also create simple input forms using Pages--helpful for taking inventory, counting attendance, or performing various other tasks where you have to enumerate or categorize based on specific input criteria.
Numbers makes it a snap to graph your data.
All of the iWork iPad apps enable you to import and export pretty easily. A new File Sharing pane appears in the Apps menu of iTunes on your Mac when your iPad is tethered. This allows you to transfer documents between your Mac and the iWork apps you've installed on your iPad. You can also send your iPad iWork apps to iWork.com, to share with others. And iWork for iPad lets you import Microsoft Office docs, too.
One thing that ultimately hampers the iWork iPad apps' functionality, however, is not a limitation of the apps but rather of the iPad itself--no built-in printing functionality. Third-party apps do allow the iPad to print, but after spending almost $30 to get iWork, we resent being nickeled and dimed to gain what ought to be core functionality. Sure, I can publish to iWork.com or sync to my Mac and then print, but it's an extra step that requires an entirely separate device--much less elegant than we've come to expect and demand from Apple products.
iWork will go a long way to making you more productive with the iPad, though it's unlikely to entirely replace its Mac equivalent. Some scaled-back features and the absence of built-in printing are the biggest limitations of the iWork apps, but on a whole, you're getting a tremendous value for $29.97.