Apple has taken the iWork suite of applications out of Beta status on iCloud, and now anyone can create an account and use Pages, Numbers, or Keynote for free. This is significant because now you can create, share and collaborate on documents, presentations, or spreadsheets even if the other person doesn’t have a Mac, iPhone or iPad. I have personally been very happy with the web versions of Pages, Keynote, and Numbers and have used each repeatedly in my web browser on my Windows machine.
Accounts are created by using a valid email address that is not already associated with an Apple device (if you already have created an iCloud account on a Mac, iPhone, or iPad, you already have free access to these applications with your existing account). Just visit iCloud.com to create your account or login to an existing account. Once you login you will see icons for Pages, Keynote, and Numbers and you can instantly start creating and sharing.
Along with the free access to the fully featured web versions of the iWork suite of applications, users are also given a free 1gb of disc space to use on iCloud. If you have friends that don’t currently use Apple products and you want to show the quality of the applications, share a link. Even though I’m a big fan of Office 365, I personally find the iCloud apps much easier to use than Google apps. Since it is free to create an account, go for it if you currently do not own an Apple device and have been curious of the allure of iWork.
Last month Apple updated Pages, Numbers and Keynote to allow online collaboration between up to 100 users. With this update, you can now share your any document you create on iCloud and watch as another user makes edits. When sharing a document, you have the option of allow other users to just view the document, or to make edits. The individual that you share documents with does not have to have an iCloud account to view or edit the document. If more security is needed, you can even add password protection.
Once you choose to share a document, you can send a link by email, or you can copy and paste the link to distribute in any other way that you choose. If you have your document open when another user logs in, you get to follow the edits that are made in real-time. If more than one user is in a document, you see each user represented by a different color. Users are prompted to enter their name when entering the document for the first time.
Apple did not create online collaboration in editing documents, but it is a nice free option that is available to any user of iCloud. To try these features, login to iCloud using a web browser at www.iCloud.com. I have used the online collaboration to easily share documents with other attorneys during presentations, and for preparing for meetings with multiple individuals will be presenting.
Although this is a great free tool, there are some notable limitations. The biggest disappointment that I had when trying this feature is that “Track Changes” cannot be used when sharing your document. This means that if you are not logged in at the same time as other collaborators, you cannot easily determine the changes that were made since the last time you accessed your document (you are not even warned that changes were made). Also, if one user is on the iPhone or iPad, you do not see real-time changes. The iPad and iPhone do not continuously refresh with the cloud, so it is best to use the collaboration only on the web, or there will be a delay in seeing the updates (for me it took about 1 minute for any changes to promulgate between the web and my iPad).
For more information about cloud collaboration using the iWork cloud apps, please visit Apple’s website or login to iCloud and see help.