dotunderscore by Brian Hough

Lamenting the state of Apple's productivity apps

This bit by Dan Moren, for Macworld, got me thinking:

I think those apps are still needed, though. Not least of which because I don’t really see myself forking over $10 every month for an Office 365 subscription. For all of their shortcomings, I like Apple’s productivity apps, not only because they’re well designed, but because though they may not have every bell-and-whistle, they still let me get work done, whether it be writing, giving presentations, or tracking my finances.

And the nice thing is that it’s perfectly possible to get by these days without Microsoft Office. Just as the PC market has been shrinking, Microsoft’s stranglehold over the productivity space has been dwindling. Yes, Word/Excel/PowerPoint are still business’s lingua franca, but it’s not like it was twenty years ago. Some of that is other apps’ ability to read and export to those formats, but a big part has been played by the Internet, too. These days, it’s just as easy—and sometimes easier—to send a Google Doc link, a PDF, or even just paste plaintext into an email than it is to send a Word doc.

When I purchased the original MacBook Pro in 2006, I made sure I purchased the latest version of Apple’s iWork productivity suite along with it. As a student, it was important that I had access to reliable and easy to use applications to help me get that procrastinated essay out on the page. At the time, I felt that iWork had it all: the perfect mix of price, feature set, reliability, and interoperability with Microsoft Office users.

Here I am nearly a decade later, and if I had to make that decision today I know I wouldn’t buy iWork. While I find Microsoft’s latest Office offerings to be bloated and unreliable on Mac, I can’t say with a straight face that iWork is the overall better choice.

Apple is shown next to no interest in offering worthwhile updates to any of their productivity apps, and what’s worse is that the current version of iWork isn’t just bad, it’s arguably worse than the version I purchased back in 2006. Apple rewrote the entire iWork for Mac suite in 2013 so as to make it play better with iWork for iOS, which has never been very good.

So Mac users have a choice. Use the neglected and largely forgotten about iWork suite, or pay an arm and a leg for Microsoft Office 365, which does receive updates and is incredibly powerful.

Of course, there’s always also Google Docs, which works just as well on the Mac as it does on any other platform. It’s got a limited feature set compared to the other two choices - you can’t install fonts, for example - but it can open and export Microsoft Office versions fine, supports best in class collaborative editing, offers 30 GB of free cloud storage, and is totally free of charge.

But then again, you have to deal with Google sharing ownership with you of anything you save in Google Drive. So long story short, there’s no good option anymore.

And man, I really wish Apple would care enough to give us just one good option.

(Update 10/7/15, Microsoft has just issued out a fix which supposedly fixes the issues El Capitan users were having with Office 2016. Given the severity of the issue and Microsoft’s swiftness in fixing it, I have removed that part of my original post.)

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