Today’s Apple event was all about education, but several of the announcements had exciting consumer-facing benefits too. Among those was the introduction of an updated iWork suite, complete with Apple Pencil support. Pages also gained the addition of digital book creation tools, and several other goodies.
Pencil support enables drawing, sketching, and writing directly in documents using the newly added Markup toolset. Markup support was brought to several built-in iOS apps last year in iOS 11, but this is its first appearance in iWork. The special iWork-optimized flavor of Markup included here has marker, pencil, crayon, and shape tools, along with an eraser. If you tap one of the tools when it’s already selected, it will reveal more options to modify the tool’s size and opacity. To get started with Markup, you simply tap your Pencil to the screen and hold, and the Markup tools will appear. If you want to add a sketch without your Pencil in hand, you can do that by hitting the app’s + button, then selecting the Drawing option.
One special Pencil feature Pages receives is something Apple calls Smart Annotation. Launching in beta with today’s update, Smart Annotation enables making comments and proof marks on written work that will then remain dynamically attached to the annotated text, so your Pencil markings will remain with the right words even if changes are later made within the document. This feature should pair well with iWork’s existing collaboration features, first added in fall 2016.
Smart Annotation isn’t the only reason Pages is the highlight of today’s updates: the app also was upgraded for digital book creation. In a move that seemingly spells the death of iBooks Author, Pages for both iOS and Mac can be used to create enhanced digital books that are viewed perfectly in iBooks. Unlike Pages’ previous ePub export capabilities, where you were creating a standard Pages document then exporting it, now the full creation process is optimized for digital books. Book creation starts with choosing from a set of new Apple-designed book templates. While working in a document, you can add things like videos and interactive image galleries to create enhanced digital books, making your tool set more dynamic than ever before. With these improvements, I’d be very surprised if we ever see another iBooks Author update again.
That’s not all for Pages. There’s a new option that enables viewing two pages of your document at once. This is done by toggling the ‘Facing Pages’ option inside Document Setup, and it even works on the iPhone. A final new Pages feature worth mentioning is Presenter Mode, which appears very similar to the Evernote feature known by the same name. It enables viewing your work in a clean, distraction-free environment that functions as a virtual teleprompter; you can even set the document to auto-scroll while in Presenter Mode. One small detail I greatly appreciate: you can still make edits to things like text size, font, spacing, and more while in Presenter Mode, so you don’t have to constantly switch back and forth between different modes to make tweaks.
There are some other interesting tidbits worth noting for the whole iWork suite. All three apps receive the new image gallery option, which I previously highlighted in the context of Pages’ digital book creation. Also, all three apps have new shape options, something that’s becoming common practice in iWork updates. Finally, iWork’s collaboration features would previously only work with documents stored in iCloud, but now, through a special integration with Box, real-time collaboration can also take place for iWork documents stored in Box.
Today’s iWork updates will certainly be appreciated in education settings, but they hold great appeal to a broader base of users as well. And you don’t have to wait to try them out: the updated Keynote, Pages, and Numbers are all available now on the App Store.