What Is iWork for iPad?

A Look at Apple's Office Suite for the iPad

Did you know there is an alternative to Microsoft Office on the iPad? In fact, for anyone who has bought an iPhone or iPad in the last few years, Apple's iWork suite of office apps is completely free. And that makes them one of the must-have apps to download on your new iPad

The best part about the iWork suite is the interoperability with your laptop or desktop. If you have a Mac, you can load up desktop versions of the apps and share work between the Mac and the iPad. But even if you don't own a Mac, Apple has a web-enabled version of the office suite at iCloud.com, so you can still work on your desktop and edit on your iPad (or vice versa).

Pages is Apple's answer to Microsoft Word, and for most users, it is a quite capable word processor. Pages supports headers, footers, embedded tables, pictures and graphics, including interactive graphs. There is a wide range of formatting options, and you can even track changes to the document. However, it won't be able to do some of the more complicated functions of a word processor like Microsoft Word, such as linking to a database for a mail merge. 

But let's face it, most people don't use those advanced features. Even in a business setting, most users don't use those features. If you want to write a letter, a resume, a proposal or even a book, Pages for iPad can handle it. Pages also comes with a wide range of templates that cover everything from school posters to postcards to newsletters to term papers.

This is where the new drag-and-drop functionality of the iPad really comes in handy.  If you want to insert photos, just multitask your Photos app and drag-and-drop between it and Pages.

As a spreadsheet, Numbers is perfectly capable for home use and will satisfy many small business needs. It comes with over 25 templates ranging from personal finance to business to education, and it is quite capable of displaying information in pie charts and graphs. It also has access to over 250 formulas.

Numbers has the ability to import spreadsheets from other sources like Microsoft Excel, but you may run into some problems getting all of your formulas in place. If a function or formula doesn't exist in Pages, you are likely to just get your data when you import.

It's easy to dismiss Numbers as a way to balance your checkbook or keep track of a home budget, but it's easily one of the most productive apps on the iPad, and it can work well in a business setting as well. The charts and graphs combined with the formatting features can create beautiful proposals and add to a business report. And like the rest of the iWork suite for iPad, a major benefit is being able to work in the cloud, pulling up and editing documents that you created and saved on your desktop PC.

Keynote is definitely the bright spot of the iWork suite of apps. The iPad version won't exactly be confused with Powerpoint or the desktop version of Keynote, but of all the iWork apps, it comes the closest, and even for hardcore business users, many will find it does everything they need in a presentation app. The latest update to Keynote really brought the feature set up and aligned the templates with the desktop version, so sharing presentations between your iPad and desktop is easier than ever. However, one area it does have an issue with is fonts, with the iPad supporting a limited number of fonts.

In one aspect, Keynote for the iPad actually exceeds desktop versions. There's no doubt that the iPad is made for presenting. Using Apple TV and AirPlay, it is easy to get the picture on the big screen, and because there are no wires, the presenter is free to move around. The iPad Mini can really make a great controller because it is so easy to walk and use.

And There's Even More Free Apps for the iPad!

Apple didn't stop with iWork. They also give away their iLife suite of apps, which includes a music studio in the form of Garage Band and a quite powerful video-editing app in the form of iMovie. Similar to iWork, these apps are available for download for free for most iPad owners.  

Check out all of the apps that come with your iPad.