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Yesterday, Apple updated the iWork programs (Pages, Keynote, and Numbers). I don’t use Keynote or Numbers much as I don’t do many presentations or work with spreadsheets on my iPad. I don’t use Pages because it doesn’t support change tracking  - or it didn’t until now.

For those not familiar, change tracking is a feature in Microsoft Word, Pages on the Mac, and other word processors, that lets you make edits but show what those edits were and who made them. It also gives you the option to keep them or reject them, and is great when collaborating on documents (such as when passing between editors, proofers, and authors).

Change tracking is one of the key features I need to be able to do this type of work on the road and not need my laptop. But I didn’t have it until I picked up QuickOffice Pro HD. It does a fantastic job of change tracking and makes it very easy.

So I was slightly less excited than I might have been before I shelled out $20 for QuickOffice. Still, I was excited, and couldn’t wait to try it out. So imagine my surprise when, as soon as I loaded my test document, I realized my $20 was well spent.

Right after loading a document with plenty of comments and changes, I got a warning box that all the comments had been striped out of the file. Great. Comments are an important part of the editing process! Sometimes you need to explain why you are doing something to the other person, and it makes much more sense in context instead of in a note separate from the document.

Pages does have one thing going for it – it will show you the file in layout mode, just as it will be printed. For example, here’s part of a page from my test file, as seen in Pages

Notice also I turned on the word count feature – it came up within a second or two.

Here’s the same document in QuickOffice Pro HD:

The document is in what Word would call “Draft Mode,” which is still great for editing, but blocks out the graphics and doesn’t give you a sense of what the document looks like. In the Pages sample, the words in red were added to the text (deletions aren’t shown in the mode I’ve chosen). If you tap and hold on a red word, you get the opportunity to accept or reject the change (in addition to copy/cut/paste as usual).

In the QuickOffice sample, changes are denoted more like in Word – with dotted lines leading to +/- signs. Tapping on the + or – pops up a balloon with the change, and, crucially, who did it and when:

Pages does not tell you who made the change or when, which is pretty important.

Notice also the bar at the bottom, that lets you go up or down through the changes (you can hide this bar if you like). QuickOffice has Pages beat for change tracking. I can’t use it without comments. It’s a step in the right direction, though.

But if you want to see what the document will look like when it’s done, then you need Pages – the Print View that it shows is far superior to the Draft View in QuickOffice. Pages also supports its limited change tracking on the iPhone, which QuickOffice Pro for iPhone doesn’t (not that I’d want to do much in the way of editing documents on an iPhone). Also, when I tried turning on word count in QuickOffice, it game me a wait cursor – the spinning wheel – that ran for a couple of minutes. I tried hit the Cancel button that came up with it, but it didn’t work, and I had to kill QuickOffice to get back to it.

So for now, I guess I need both – or my laptop – to get my proofing done.

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  • Paul

    Nice comparative review!

    It’s great to read something by someone who really is using the product! That’s truly helpful to other users, especially ones interested in track changes, word count, and page view.


  • Mike Perry

    I don’t need Track Changes myself, but quite a few people do. That’s forced many to use Microsoft Office even though they hate it.

    It’d be great if Apple would take the code they developed to add Track Changes to Pages and add it to OS X and iOS’s text services, so the multitude of good text apps could take advantage of it.