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Pages For iOS and Change Tracking

Pages For iOS and Change Tracking

Yesterday, Apple released an update for iWork on iOS that added, among changes to Numbers and Keynote, support for change tracking in Pages. I’m not a frequent user of this particular feature, but it could have come in handy when we edited my Mountain Lion review earlier this year. However, last night I noted how the way Apple implemented Change Tracking on iOS felt outdated and convoluted.

Jeff Richardson does use Pages on a regular basis and posted his thoughts on the new version (via David Sparks):

Track changes support has long been the Holy Grail for many litigators using an iPad or iPhone. For the most part, I really like the way that Apple implemented this feature in the latest version of Pages. I wish that the update included a better way to review each edit, but for the most part I suspect that I’ll just scroll through a document and look at the redline edits in the context of the document as a whole so this omission is not critical for me. The lack of support for Comments will sometimes be a problem (depending upon how often you work with people who use that feature), but as long as you know about it and have an app like Documents to Go, Office2 or Quickoffice Pro, you can work around the Comments omission when it becomes an issue.

I can see how lack of Comments and Review mode can be an issue for some users. Mostly though, I believe that the interaction of Change Tracking needs to be redesigned entirely. On Pages for Mac, you can simply click on a change to review it and accept it from a sidebar on the left; in fact, if you click on the blue boxes in the sidebar you can see the blue line connecting the change to the actual text being highlighted in real time. It’s a subtle visual hint, but it’s there.

I’m not sure why Apple decided to go with this simpler interface rather than cooking up a completely new one, but I have a couple of theories. My first thought is that text rendering and manipulation on iOS still doesn’t allow for fairly complex on-screen drawings such as the aforementioned blue lines; a second reason may be scrolling performances, especially on older devices (Pages still supports the iPhone 3GS). But I think that, overall, Apple decided to use this approach because is consistent with the current iOS text selection and because a major new version of iWork for iOS (possibly requiring iOS 6 or later, not iOS 5.1) could be on track for next year.

Apple has long touted iOS devices as heralds of the post-PC era, but iWork has been far behind its desktop counterpart (originally launched in 2009) for months. I expect iWork 2.0 for iOS to level the field in every area.