Tag Archives: Pages

iPad Journal: Transitioning from InDesign to Pages

Anytime I’ve written about my transition to iPad for more of my work I always note that one of the few reasons I have for returning to the Mac for client work is InDesign. While the company that makes Affinity Photo also has a publishing app in the works that is intended to replace InDesign it is likely a ways off for the Mac and even further away for the iPad. But there is hope to be found in Apple’s Pages app and with a recent update to the app I’ve been giving more thought to how I might transition more of my InDesign work in that direction. Can Pages handle it?

Yes. Yes it can. Sometimes.

On the Mac side of things I’ve been using InDesign and Pages since they were released. In that time I’ve used InDesign for the projects where I felt Pages was lacking in some way. For example, I’ve worked with two different community newspapers and newspaper layout isn’t something I would ever do with Pages. Actually, I believe I did one issue using Pages and it worked out okay but I felt more comfortable with InDesign for that kind of work. Also, any project in which a client wants more than a printable pdf, specifically when they want an InDesign file well, obviously, that’s the app I use. I’d say my use of each app was about 50/50. Though I generally used InDesign for larger more complicated documents I found Pages worked very well for flyers, posters and smaller newsletters as well as Annual Reports. In 2014 I helped a friend publish her first book and that was done with Pages and turned out very well.

For years both of those apps matured until 2010 when the iPad was introduced by Apple. They also introduced a version for the iPad and then a couple years later rebuilt Pages on both its platforms, Mac and iOS, to be much closer in compatibility. It was a step forward for the iOS version but a big step backward for the Mac version which lost many features. In my own workflow I resorted to keeping the older version of Pages around as it still worked fine though it was no longer being updated. Users howled and Apple responded by gradually re-adding many of those features but it has taken time. It took a few years but the result is that we now have Pages on Mac and iPad which is near feature parity and which has been re-built into something much closer (in features) to the original Mac version of Pages. In many ways it is much improved as it has new features such as real-time collaboration and a web version that works on Windows via iCloud.

What’s still lacking in the iOS version of Pages? Sadly, there are a few important things. Creating and editing styles is not an option. I can apply a style but I cannot edit a pre-existing style. To do that I have to be on a Mac. If I’ve created a document and decide to change the page orientation after the fact I’ll need a Mac. If I want to create a document using a custom page size or change a document to a custom page size I’ll need a Mac. These are some pretty basic and foundational features and should not be missing from the iOS version. This is especially true give than Apple markets their “Pro” iPads as computers powerful enough to replace traditional computers. That said, Apple is consistently updating the app with new and important features. For example, the most recent update released in the summer of 2017, reintroduced a feature which had been removed in the above mentioned redesign of the app: linked text boxes. This is a feature that is an absolute necessity for many multi-page documents.

Where is Pages for iOS lacking in comparison to InDesign. For starters, the above mentioned ability to create and edit styles. InDesign has many advanced typography features lacking in Pages. Just one example: You can’t change the character spacing (though this does work on the Mac version of Pages). There’s no work space (usually called a pasteboard) around a Pages document for temporarily placing things while working. Want to reorder pages by their thumbnails? Nope The header or footer of a Pages document are the only places you can add page numbers and it’s all or nothing. Not much in the way of customization. If I’m doing a cover page or a table of contents I don’t want those pages to have a header with a page number. For small documents, say, a 6 page newsletter, it’s not a huge burden do create my own headers with page numbers added manually. Most of the documents I do are less than 10 pages but it’s worth mentioning the limitation.

Even with these limitations Pages on the the large 12.9″ screen of the iPad Pro is very powerful and a pleasure to use. It has a few features that do not exist on InDesign. For example, charts which are almost always a part of any annual report. I can do a table in InDesign but it’s far easier to do in Pages. Of course, adding objects and flowing text around them is something InDesign does but Pages does it so fluidly. Also, the styling options for objects in Pages, while a bit more limited also seem more powerful and are easier to apply. Perhaps the best way of summarizing the difference is that working with Pages means fewer features by comparison to InDesign but what it does do, Pages does very well and with little friction. A last point: when I consider the features I need for a newsletter or annual report job, Pages almost always has what I need.

So, to summarize, InDesign is, without a doubt, a far more powerful application than Apple’s Pages. It is a truly “Pro” application… for the Mac. It is not available for the iPad. But if my end product is to be a newsletter or annual report, either of these apps will allow me to produce a visually attractive, well designed document. Were I to set out to create a similar design using each app, for the sake of comparison, it is very likely that they would, in most cases, be indistinguishable from one another. Put another way, were I to send you 10 pdfs of the usual sort of newsletter or annual report that I’ve produced and ask you to determine which of the two apps was used, you would probably not be able to.

Pages is obviously not the most powerful or the best page layout tool for designing multi-page documents on the Mac. But on the iPad, as far as I am aware, it is the best option and it’s one which I’ve used many times with great results. I’ll keep InDesign around for the projects that require it but going forward if I can do a job on Pages I will.

iPad Journal: Speedy production of posters and social media graphics

I've been doing a bit of volunteer work for our local library lately and we're currently moving towards an April vote on a tax increase to help cover the operating costs of our little network of rural libraries. I was asked to put together a collection of simple posters that would highlight the value of library services to patrons via print and social media. I did most of the work in Pages on the iPad with two exceptions that required a quick edit on the Mac. On the iOS version of Pages,1 rotating elements is not possible and second, the ability to create a shape with a transparency gradient is also missing. Not a big problem, I just saved in iCloud and stepped over to the Mac to rotate the logo on the side of the page and create a white box with a transparency gradient. By the time I was back at the iPad the file was updated with the two changes. This would be my "template" so I made several duplicates and altered each to a specific value that the library wanted to highlight.

I'd used portrait mode on the iPhone camera to capture a series of images that I AirDropped to the iPad. After quick edits to text and the color of the bottom box element they were each given a different image and I was done. I wanted to send each poster version in its own email with two attachments, a jpg for social media sharing and pdf for printing. Easy enough. From Pages I would share as pdf via the Share Sheet to one of my most used apps, Graphic which I used to export as jpg to my camera roll. I'd jump back to Pages and share as pdf again but this time to Mail. Once I had the Mail draft with pdf attached I'd add my image attachment and send. The whole process took about 90 seconds for each email with two attachments.

Smooth sailing.

  1. I've noticed that many of these missing features are available in other iOS apps. There's no reason Apple couldn't add them and bring Pages on iOS closer to Pages on the Mac.

iPad Journal: Coordinating family projects

Our extended family has some shared land with a small lake left to us by my grandparents. Sometimes that means we have to coordinate projects together. From road and dam maintenance to creating trails or any number of small things. In the past this was done via phone calls, sometimes email. Lately it’s been texting. But it can be a bit chaotic with anywhere from 3-7 people (sometimes more) chiming in with ideas or criticisms of the process involved in more complicated projects.

A good example would be a recent project clearing the area behind the lake dam which had become too densely overgrown. As we evaluated the project we took the opportunity to look at related tasks such as dredging out parts of the lake that had accumulated silt over the years. Also, there’s always the issue of repairing damage by beavers and muskrats and spillway maintenance. I’ve been helping coordinate with my dad, aunt and two uncles as well as someone we hired to help with some of the work. If my dad and uncle were a bit more technologically savvy I might try hooking them up on Slack. I may do that yet.

Due to repeated confusion (when texting and phone calls are primary it’s easy to loose track of who knows what!), the other day I decided to put together a project plan of sorts. Just a simple Pages document with a map and diagram. I emailed it out and suggested folks add in details, make changes, etc. But then I realized as I was suggesting they either reply via text in email or use pdf editing built into Apple Mail that at least two of them would likely be confused with the pdf editing. One of them is using an iPhone that he barely knows how to operate. So, it occurred to me that a shared Note which they can all access via iPhone, iPad or Mac might be simple enough and yet allow for the communication to happen all in one document that anyone can edit. It was a trivial task to copy/paste the material from the Pages document into the note. Time will tell if the shared note will prove effective.

Something that I’ve realized with this project is that the iPhone and iPad are a nearly perfect compliment to one another. I suppose I knew that going into it but it’s just working out so well that it seems worth mentioning. I use the iPhone to take notes, measurements and photos. Then from the iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard I can elaborate on the basics and create diagrams and maps with Graphic and Apple Maps. I’m using Numbers (mostly on the iPad) to keep an ongoing record of expenses and dates on which significant work is done.

I’ve not recently been in a position where I needed to do any sort of complicated project management but I’m guessing it could be done fairly well with these two devices and the right apps. In many ways they seem to be the perfect fit for project management taking place “in the field”.

iPad Journal: Using Pages

Last time I discussed my use of Numbers. Another useful iWork app and one that is probably better known, is Pages. This is another one that has long been available on the Mac and one which was ported over to the iPad right at the beginning. It’s not quite as powerful as its Mac counterpart but it is VERY close. Also, Pages documents are interchangeable between the Mac and iOS. There have been several occasions when I’ve nearly completed a project on the iPad and then just finished it on the Mac so that I could add in a font that is not installed on the iPad. Easily adding fonts to the iPad is one of those features Apple will need to eventually add if they truly expect people to use iPads as primary or only computing devices. Most people won’t need to bother adding fonts but some of us that are the target of the “Pro” marketing do.

Some of my most recent projects using Pages included brochures for a local business as well as a brochure for our local library. In both cases I started with one of the included brochure templates provided by Apple. I add the client’s content, tweak the design and it’s ready to go. I’ve also used it recently for several event posters and flyers. It’s quick and easy for such projects. Pages is no substitute for something like Adobe’s InDesign but it works very well for brochures, small newsletters, posters and more. At the moment one of the features I miss most is the lack of linked text boxes which are often necessary for larger documents such as newsletters and annual reports. There are other limitations such as no text on path and no stroke for text, features I sometimes need for event posters and flyers. On the Mac version of Pages a pen tool is available but it is, sadly, missing on the iPad. The iPad does offer a line tool but it only allows for one curve. It would be great to see the pen tool added to the iPad.

On the upside, some of my favorite features are the wide variety of graphic and style tools. Of course we expect things like tables and shapes but Pages makes it very easy to add a variety of nice stylistic touches. From different image frames to hover shadows to reflections. Of course such effects need to be used with restraint but it’s very nice to have them.

Lastly, I use it for longer, basic text documents. I often do podcast transcripts and find Pages to be the perfect fit for that job. I open it in split view with Pages on the left and Apple’s Podcast app on the right. This allows for very quick pause and playback control via the bluetooth keyboard as well as the speeding up or slowing of audio with a touch of the screen. I’ve transcribed 30+ podcast episodes this way and it works fantastically.

When I’m done with a document the client usually needs it as a pdf. I export right to DropBox then I pop over to Mail or Airmail and attach the pdf. I could just as easily export to pdf and attach to an email without saving to DropBox but I like to keep the pdfs. Also, using Dropbox allows me to attach multiple pdfs per email which I sometimes need to do. Dropbox serves very well as a compliment to iCloud as a filesystem for the iPad, a topic I plan to address soon.