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iReview iLife, iWork

The short version of today's review of Apple's new iLife and iWork suites: I'll spend my own money on a copy of iLife '09, but I think I'll sit out iWork '09.

That's partially because I spend a lot more time in iLife -- in iPhoto in particular -- than I do in any of iWork's constituent apps. But the new iLife also represents a much bigger advance over the '08 version, even if some of its features don't work nearly as well as advertised.

iPhoto places.jpg

I'm speaking in particular of iPhoto's face-recognition technology, which I find both fascinating and frustrating. This is an exceptionally tricky thing to pull off, and I'm amazed that it works at all. Some of its mistakes are understandable (like, say, mistaking one sibling for another -- how many of you got into bars underage by using an older brother or sister's ID?). But when iPhoto thinks it sees faces in what are obviously inanimate objects (see this Flickr set of screen shots), it's obvious that we're dealing with a version-1.0 attempt.

The rest of iLife '09 features enough improvements, large and small, over iLife '08 -- including fixes to many things I criticized in my review of that older release -- that it's easy to justify the cost of this upgrade. (For a somewhat contrarian view, see Macintouch's longer, more detailed assessment of this release.)

With iWork '09, I just don't see the same advance. This update does suffer a bit when compared against its predecessor, a groundbreaking release I liked enough to buy a copy for my own use. But many of iWork '09's new features either don't work -- the buggy has to top that list -- or involve tasks that many home users are unlikely to spend much time doing.


I am a little tempted by the upgrades in Pages -- the full-screen feature could be a serious help to somebody as prone to distraction as me. But I do most of my writing in other programs -- like the Post's networked editing software and our Web-based blogging application. So unless sees a major bug-fix update, I'll save my money for iWork '10, whenever that may come around.

How about you? If you picked up a copy of the '08 version of iWork or iLife, will you upgrade either, both or neither? The comments are yours...

By Rob Pegoraro  |  February 5, 2009; 12:01 PM ET
Categories:  Mac , Music , Pictures , Productivity , The Web , Video  
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I upgraded to iWork 09 last weekend. I wanted the Save As Office capability. It seems to work quite well, at least for pages. I open my resume, a ".doc" format file written in OpenOffice, edit it, save it as a ".pages" file. Later reopen it, and save as ".doc", and OpenOffice has no problem with it. Worth the $80.

Which lets me get rid of OpenOffice, which Mr Krebs reports has Security Issues.

I primarily use Numbers for home budgeting. Very nice. That, alone, was worth the $80.

Posted by: wiredog | February 5, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Haven't bought them, yet, but if I remember correctly, Apple was going to bundle Leopard/Snow Leopard with iLife/iWork for something like $170... or maybe less. Whatever the price, I remember thinking, "Dang, that's nearly give-away prices, there!" As at least one of my machines still runs Tiger, it seemed an appealing offer.

Also gives Apple time to kick out a few updates. To both the software and the MacMini (and/or release that eMate update I've been begging for!).

Posted by: Bush--notrelated | February 5, 2009 10:44 PM | Report abuse

Dear Rob: For those new to OS X and iWork, but who are very computer literate and comfortable using MS Office or even OOo, is iWork '09 stable and capable enough to use day-to-day? You have addressed the upgrade angle (don't), but it is not clear on whether or not iWork '09 is justifiable as a work environment if a Mac user has nothing at all. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Posted by: CB12 | February 6, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

The iPhoto faces & places features seem nice, but what I really wanted was something to stitch separate photos together. You know: you go to the Grand Canyon and take 7 pictures from horizon to horizon and now you want to combine them in to one panoramic picture. Maybe next time.

Posted by: tokrueger | February 6, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

iLife '09, iWork '09 and Leopard are currently available in a bundle at reduced price. But, I am skeptical they same will be true of Snow Leopard, which may not be released until the end of the year or early '10. If I did not already have iLife '09 free with my new MacBook Air and iWork '09 reduced to $39 because I bought a new computer, I would buy the Leopard bundle. A DVD copy of the OS not tied to a given model is a handy thing.

If I were new to the Mac and OS X, I would certainly buy iWork '09 since it is the best version of the suite so far.

Here is another good review.

Posted by: query0 | February 7, 2009 12:15 AM | Report abuse

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