The brilliant free online office suite that no-one talks about

iWork at the iCloud website is a free online office suite

How many online office suites can you name that are free and that work on all computers in a web browser? Most people can name Microsoft Office and Google Docs, maybe Zoho too. There is another and it’s brilliant!

The one online office suite that no-one talks about is Apple iWork and it is part of the collection of apps at the iCloud website. The three apps making up iWork are the Pages word processor, Numbers spreadsheet and Keynote presentations.

There are several more online apps at the iCloud website that are useful for working online, such as Notes, Reminders and Calendar.

These applications are well known to Apple fans because they are on the Mac, the iPhone and iPad. However, there is no reason why non-Mac users cannot use these online office apps and the only requirement is for an Apple ID to log in.

Anyone running iTunes on Windows for example, will have an Apple ID, but if you don’t there is a link just below the login boxes on the home page to create one.

Apple Mac, iPhone and iPad owners probably don’t use the iWork online office apps because they have the offline apps built in. Windows PC users probably don’t use it because it is assumed to be just for Apple users, but it is not. Linux users probably don’t use it because it just isn’t geeky enough, maybe if it could be accessed from the command line.

Microsoft Office is installed on a huge number of PCs of course, and it is the standard office software. There is also an online version that runs in a web browser at ondrive.com. However, that hasn’t prevented Google Docs, Sheets and Slides from doing very well at Google Drive, so why shouldn’t iWork be just as popular at iCloud?

iWork apps are just as good at working with Microsoft Office files as Google Docs. You can import Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, edit them online in a browser and export them in Office file formats afterwards. That is no different to Google Docs, so why don’t more non-Apple people use iWork? It works great on Windows and Linux.

Pages

Pages is the word processor and it has an excellent range of templates to get you started with a new document. You can of course, start with a blank page too. The templates show just how flexible Pages is and it has some features that make it useful for basic desktop publishing, such as newsletters.

Text can be placed in columns, images inserted and text wrapped around them. There are more image options than with Microsoft or Google’s online office suites. There are lines and shapes, comments can be inserted in the text and more.

Pages documents can be exported to the computer’s disk drive as a standard Word document in case you need to share it with others using MS Office.

Pages word processor at the iCloud website - part of the free iWork office suite

Numbers

This spreadsheet does not have quite so many templates as Pages, but the ones it does have look great and they show off Numbers’ ability to display numeric information in various charts.

Excel spreadsheets can be loaded into Numbers, but not every feature is supported, so the results vary. The templates are easy to work with and you can start from scratch with a blank sheet if you want.

Numbers might seem a bit quirky compared to Excel, but you soon get used to it. The range of functions isn’t as great as Microsoft Office, but it is adequate for a free online office suite and all the most common functions are there. There is help when entering formulas, with examples and descriptions in a panel on the right.

There are lots of table and cell formatting features to make your data look good, and a nice range of charts for visualising data.

Numbers spreadsheet at the iCloud website - part of the free iWork office suite

Keynote

Keynote enables you to create slide show presentations. It doesn’t have a lot of features, but what it does, it does quite well. A small number of templates are provided and each of these contains a collection of slide templates.

You just pick a template, add the slides you need, and then replace the dummy placeholder text and images with your own. Tables, lines and shapes can be inserted into slides and there are more than a dozen chart types to choose from. The text options enable you to choose from preset styles, there are shadows, reflection and other effects. 

You can share your presentation online with others, print it, download it as a PowerPoint file or PDF document.

Keynote presentations at the iCloud website - part of the free iWork office suite

Free office suite

I have barely covered the basics here and these online apps are really quite good compared to Microsoft and Google online office suites. One of the biggest differences is that they a great for making documents visually exciting.

If you are a Mac owner, but sometimes have to use PCs, such as at work or at home, why not use iWork at icloud.com for your office suite?

No matter where you are, you can work on documents within the browser. If you need to share the files with others, then they can be shared online or downloaded in Microsoft Office file formats.

If you are a Windows or Linux user, why not try Apple’s online office suite. You never know, you might like it.

Many Mac users run Windows in a Boot Camp partition and it makes sense to use iWork in this situation because it makes it easy to access documents no matter whether you have booted up Windows or OS X. iWork supports Safari on the Mac and Chrome on Windows, so it makes sense to use it for document sharing across the two operating systems.

 

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