Collaborate Online with Apple's iWork.com

By Troy Dreier | Posted February 13, 2009

Online collaboration is becoming as simple as we always wanted it to be, trickling down into the desktop applications we rely on daily. Witness iWork '09, the latest version of Apple's business suite. Along with new versions of the three included apps -- Keynote, Pages, and Numbers -- Apple has built in one-click integration with its new collaboration service, iWork.com. The service's features are slender compared with other online collaboration tools, but using it couldn't be easier and there's huge potential for growth.

iWork '09

To use iWork.com you'll first need to have iWork '09. It sells for $79 and runs on Macs with 500-MHz or greater Intel, PowerPC G5, or PowerPC G4 processors. Apple has slowly been evolving the suite, and it now includes a word processor/desktop publisher (Pages), presentation tool (Keynote), and spreadsheet program (Numbers).

Each of the three apps offers a toolbar along the top, and each of those toolbars now features an iWork.com button. When you're editing a document that you'd like comments on, click the iWork.com button to upload it. You'll need an Apple ID to use the service, but if you've ever purchased from the Apple Store you already have one. If not, the application will walk you through the steps.

iWork.com Features

The first step in uploading a document is inviting other people to view it. When you click to upload, you'll get a form to fill out inviting people to view your document. If you're already using Apple's Mail client, the To field will auto-complete addresses for you. You can then write a message asking people to view your document. Two checkboxes on this form let you control whether or not people can leave comments and download the document.

Documents are hosted on iWork.com for 120 days. You and your invitees get an e-mail link to view the online material. Pages load in any browser and look exactly like their desktop versions.

If you've allowed comments, your invitees need to first select an item on the page, such as a paragraph or image, then click the Add Comment button at the top. They can then leave a yellow sticky note with their comment. The online view also includes a field to the right of the document where viewers can leave a general comment. A Download button on the right lets them save a copy of the document (if you've allowed this ability) as either an iWork, PDF, or Microsoft Office file. In our testing, we noticed that Office versions had slight layout changes from the original.

The online version won't sync comments with your locally stored original, but you can download that version yourself and it will have your invitee's comments attached to it.

Other Options

Apple isn't the first company to put office collaboration online. Zoho Docs puts a full word processor online, which goes beyond what iWork offers. Google Docs has similar, but more advanced, collaboration tools: it allows multiple users to edit online and it keeps track of past versions. Acrobat.com also puts writing and collaboration tools in the browser.

The chief difference with iWork.com is that you're still relying on local applications, rather than working online, and you get the advanced layout tools that iWork offers. While iWork.com doesn't have the strongest collaboration features, iWork lets you make documents that are far more attractive than the other tools do.

iWork.com is currently in beta and is free to use. Apple hasn't said when the service will launch or how much the final version will cost.

Online collaboration is becoming as simple as we always wanted it to be, trickling down into the desktop applications we rely on daily. Witness iWork '09, the latest version of Apple's business suite. Along with new versions of the three included apps -- Keynote, Pages, and Numbers -- Apple has built in one-click integration with its new collaboration service, iWork.com. The service's features are slender compared with other online collaboration tools, but using it couldn't be easier and there's huge potential for growth.

Adapted from Intranetjournal.com.

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