Hands On: iWork.com for Use with iPad iWork Apps

One of the biggest weaknesses of the iWork suite of apps for the iPad is getting your content on and off the device. This makes it very complicated export to a desktop application for more complicated editing or for printing. Also, you may want to distribute documents you have created to a large number of people. Emailing it to all those people could be complicated, especially from the iPad.

Apple’s solution to this problem is the iWork web site. They are very clear from the iWork sign in page that the service is only a beta. What that means for the future is uncertain. Will it transition into a paid service or still remain free? Will other features be added, like the ability to edit documents as a Google Docs competitor?

Right now, it is a simple tool for viewing and sharing documents created in the iWork apps on the iPad. You create a document in one of the three apps and then from the My Document, My Presentations or My Spreadsheets buttons (upper left corner) you share it by tapping on the left most button at the bottom of the screen. The middle of the three options is to Share via iWork.com. After tapping that, an email is created with a link to the document on the web site. Once you enter the address and hit send, you are told the document has been uploaded to the site. Tap view and you will be taken to the site.

The web site asks for your Apple ID and password. After signing in you see all the documents you have uploaded.

Notice from the screen shot above that you get 1 GB of storage. My hope is that you can add more if you need it, possibly for a charge.

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When you hover over a document with your mouse, you see a delete button in the bottom right corner. Click on the document or its title and it opens on the iWork site. Click the down arrow and it offers to download it in the available export formats. Pages documents can be downloaded as Pages, PDF or Microsoft Word files. Presentations can be downloaded as Keynote or PDF files. I wish they could be downloaded as PowerPoint files since many users who have Windows and MS Office may want to use them in PowerPoint. Numbers files can be downloaded as Numbers or PDF files. Again, why can’t you download them as Excel files?

There is at least one report that exporting the iPad files to the desktop versions of iWork corrupts the files. I have not tested that, since I am not a Mac user. But, you should test this before relying on it too much for important work. I can say that my test of downloading a Pages document to Word worked fine. However, notice below the result of downloading a PDF version of the same Pages document.

Not good. I won’t rely on PDF export, at least for now. It is a beta service, so user beware.

When you open a document online in the site, it simple allows you to view it. Afterward, you can change whether this is a publicly viewable document or not. Also, you can add some notes to the document in case you want to tell people what the document is or how to use it.

You can download the document from the within the viewer in the same formats listed above.

One of the ways to use the iWork site is to print from the iPad. To do this, you will have to install one of the apps in the app store that allows you to print files from web pages. One of the apps that does this is PrintCentral. The app lets you print your files from your computer or from other documents that support the “Open In…” feature like the mail app does. You can also print from web pages. This is the feature we are looking for to print. The way you use PrintCentral to print iWork apps documents is simple. Download and install the helper application on your computer and run it. When you want to print something, open the app on the iPad and tell it to print the document. It sends the content to the printer via your network and the helper app that is running on your computer. To use it with iWork you will have to do the following:

  1. Share your document on iWork.com from one of the apps.
  2. Find the web address of the document either by opening the file online when the iWork app asks or by copying it from the email.
  3. Open PrintCentral and paste the link address into the in-app browser tool called Web pages. Paste the link in the address box. This will take you to the document on iWork.com.
  4. Once the document loads, print using the app’s print features.

I was able to get it running on my networked Epson Artisan 800 multifunction printer. The PrintCentral is buggy so be patient. I hope the stability of the app will be improved in the near future. You might want to try another app like ePrint or for Mac users Air Sharing HD might work.

iWork is a useful tool for sharing and even printing documents. It is limited. I hope Apple will invest in it and make it a great tool for not only sharing documents but also collaborating, editing, and getting files into the iWork apps, not just out of them. It would be great if I could point iWork to a folder on my hard drive and have it automatically upload any compatible files to the space online. This would let me not only upload to the site from the iPad but download from the site to the iPad as well for editing on my iPad. This would also be a great way to get content into the iPad without having to connect it to my computer. My hope is also that iWork will also remain free. If they want to charge for it, then make it a tiered approach with free use as it is today but a paid version with more storage and the ability to import/export documents to/from the iPad. I would willingly pay fifty to a hundred dollars a year for that capability plus 5 GB of storage.

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