iWork 13 — A Huge Regression

Posted on October 22, 2013
Filed Under Applescript, iWork, Reviews | 60 Comments

So after waiting all day all the iWork Mavericks updates showed up in the MAS. With great trepidation I waited for them to download. Would all the problems users had been sending to Apple the past 4 years finally be fixed? The announcement today of a total rewrite might mean that Numbers finally had some speed and could take at least some of the workload we’d had to use Excel for. For many people being able to get rid of Excel would be welcome. Yet a rewrite might also mean a few fixes more oriented towards the iOS versions rather than how many pros and small businesses use iWork. I know I have a huge number of scripts — often with complicated hacks to get around the limits in Pages and Number’s incomplete Applescript Dictionaries.

Here’s the bad news. They won’t work now. Effectively Applescript support is gone. Numbers doesn’t even have a dictionary. And Pages has had nearly everything removed.

Here’s Pages original dictionary.

Pages 6 Applescript Dictionary

Here it is now.

 Pages 7 Applescript Dictionary

I could go on about how almost none of the problems I’ve been griping about for four years in Numbers have been fixed. But what’s the point. Apple has spoken. It wants the OSX iWork to basically be the same as the iOS version and designed purely for casual use. By making it free they kill the market for any competitors other than Office. So if you run a small office, even if you hate MS-Office, there’s really no alternative anymore.

The bigger question is what this means about Applescript. But I think that’s clear. Despite a session at WWDC which raised my hopes, clearly Apple’s completely abandoned it. There’s no scripting for so many of their apps and so little evangelism that it’s hardly surprising so few 3rd party apps now support it.

What I suspect Apple doesn’t realize is how much small business and small shops workflow depends upon Applescript. Casual use is fine. But a lot of people do more. It wouldn’t be so bad were there an alternative. This isn’t just like Apple not upgrading the MacPro. This is like Apple not upgrading the MacPro for four years, then announcing that the MacMini is the new MacPro. And discontinuing FCPX, Aperture, and it’s other pro apps and telling you to use iPhoto and iMovie.

Can you tell I’m depressed?

Comments

  • http://hagure-metaru.net/ Hagure

    This is rather chilling. Damning even.

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  • Honix

    OK, I’m confused. The post that appears immediately after this one on the MacStories website is all about how Apple Script has been improved. Are we living in two different worlds?

    • Dennis Parrott

      it is possible for something to be “improved”, adding features, making features more robust, etc. while removing other features (as appears to have been done with respect to iWork). Apple seems to be dumbing everything down to the level of the ipad…

      • addicted4444

        Or, the more likely reason, which is this being a rewrite, they havent had the time to add AppleScript support yet.

        Unfortunately, this being Apple, we are unlikely to get an answer until the next version of iWork releases.

        • Clark Goble

          That’s possible. But when FCP had that problem we at least got word from Apple the other parts were being added in.

        • DocNo42

          “at least got word from Apple the other parts were being added in.” — Not for months afterwards. After a great deal of very vocal and public complaining by the whole community. I hope it is indeed just a temporary oversight due to the rewrite as was with iMovie. There’s no question that iMovie today is a much better program than the one it replaced – but the first couple of iterations of it were definitely a step back at first. Apple really needs to let people choose which version they need, and needs to be FAR more upfront when yanking functionality that used to be there when offering you updates rather than just letting people get a rude surprise with a not so easy way to revert if critical functionality is lost.

    • Clark Goble

      The underlying language got some new features but the other parts of Apple tend to ignore Applescript. The problem is that there’s probably no VP who really cares about automation. So there’s no one pushing it. That means you have siloed teams with no directions on these issue. Hopefully raising a commotion may change that.

  • http://www.lackluster.org/ Esa Juhani Ruoho

    have you reported this to http://bugreport.apple.com/ ? I too would like Apple to push AppleScript way more, and would expect that all Apple products would have a rudimentary-to-gigantic AppleScript dictionary of functions (or however they’re called). Logic Pro X should have tons, same with iPhoto.

    • Clark Goble

      Yes I have. I hope to go through the missing features (see here for Pages) and add those as well when I have some more time.

      • http://www.lackluster.org/ Esa Juhani Ruoho

        do take the time, it’s well worth it. my “no applescript dictionary support on pages,numbers,keynote” was marked as duplicate, so it is good news. i hope more people will post about it on bugreport.apple.com – as that’s what ultimately matters when it comes to Apple.

  • Erich Neuwirth

    I mostly agree, but LibreOffice and NeoOffice are viable alternatives for MSOffice

    • Craig Jacobs

      Sort of. If you need Office, I mean really need it, there is no substitute with a comparable feature set. Just like you can’t replace Photoshop with Gimp.

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  • iQuackington

    Another gripe I have with Numbers is that it displays the different sheets within the document as a *horizontal* row, rather than a vertical column. This makes navigating a document with many sheets much, much harder.

  • zachawry

    I would LOVE to use iWork for business, but it’s been clear for years that these applications were never intended for serious use. No offense, but you’re just realizing this now? That’s weird.

    It’s like a professional photographer using iPhoto, then smacking their forehead when Apple makes iPhoto a little dumber than it already was. Sorry, all of these programs were never meant for professional use, and most professionals got that a looooong time ago.

    • André Filipe Barro

      Not true
      I worked in an ad agency. The main software I used was keynote and pages.
      But now, keynote is just a bad version of powerpoint.
      Cant even add stuff to the toolbar, makes me wanna cry.
      Gonna get the old verion (that I had bought) on piratebay.

      • Clark Goble

        Old version should still be in /Applications

    • Clark Goble

      That’s just not true. While they were more limited than Word or Excel in some ways in other ways they were much, much more powerful. (Primarily in layout features) I’m not sure I’d call them pro apps. But they definitely were causal apps akin to iPhoto or iMovie. At least not until now.

  • Sasparilla2

    Great analysis, I agree and its sad….I assumed the OS X versions were going to be improved versions based off the prior version, not a port of the iOS versions. Bummer…I was hoping Apple would take these to Office class applications over time.

    These apps are just their to support the current vision of how things should be for the hardware sales ecosystem… All the business owners who based their multi-workflow businesses off of FCP before the FCPX rewrite know exactly how we’re feeling…or the people who loved the capability and plugin expandability of iMovie (before its from the ground rewrite). Apple is way too cavalier with how they treat users of their standalone applications – nobody would trust their business to them cause who knows how long before whatever they’re using will get chucked over the side.

    That said, for those wanting to avoid giving money to the Office monopoly – NeoOffice/LibreOffice are excellent very capable applications. I run NeoOffice, made for Mac, and it is nice.

    • Valan

      Yes, we should all fear the words “rewritten from the ground up”.

    • Clark Goble

      Yes, although the multiuser aspects probably did mean they couldn’t keep the same code base. What I found staggering is that they regressed the apps so far without addressing the issue of people who needed those features! I mean if they had said features are being added and use iWork 09 until they’re ready I think we’d all have understood. Assuming they are going to add features (and I don’t think that’s clear yet) they screwed this intro up at least as bad as the FCP one.

      • DocNo42

        “they screwed this intro up at least as bad as the FCP one.” — I’d say much, much worse since iWork is used by mere mortals, where as FCP had a pretty small community relative to the entire Mac user base. That they have gone down and blundered badly with FCP and then for them to turn around and do it AGAIN is very frustrating – and particularly infuriating due to how otherwise polished and detail oriented Apple tends to be in most other aspects of their operations.

  • oliversl

    Not Apple like, sad, indeed

    • Michael Powers

      I wouldn’t say it’s not like Apple, but it is a little sad.

  • godofbiscuits

    FILE BUG REPORTS. You can bitch all you like, but if it’s not in Radar, it doesn’t exist.

    • godofbiscuits

      And don’t assume that others will file it on your behalf. The number of bugs filed against it matters. The more people who file a bug against it, the higher priority it gets.

      Start a campaign. Give people instructions on what to fill in the bug reporter/Radar fields.

      • Dave Pooser

        Yeah, because the most likely explanation is that Apple cares DEEPLY about Applescript and just accidentally forgot to include it in the new iWork because one of their interns deleted it at the last second or something. This certainly isn’t part of a trend where Apple has been crippling AppleScript support in all their apps. That’s just a series of unfortunate coincidences!

        Seriously, if you want pro apps from a company that values backwards compatibility and complex workflows, you should be looking to Redmond instead of Cupertino. Microsoft Office has great AppleScript support and since their core userbase is businesses and not consumers they tend to take automation issues seriously. Filing bugs in Radar about lack of AppleScript support is just a waste of electrons at this point.

        • Craig Jacobs

          I concur with this. We run our entire business on Mac clients and Linux servers, but there are somethings that you need Windows for, and MS Office is the de- facto standard for word processing, spreadsheets, etc, (all respect to John Gruber)

          I tried to use the built in mail and calendar apps, and tried iWork, but it just doesn’t cut it, and there is no integration with various ERP and CRM apps.

          It’s good for casual things, home finances, letters, that sort of thing, but is simply not up to heavy duty use.

          Note that I don’t particularly like Office (I use 2011), but it does work well.

        • Clark Goble

          The main problem with Microsoft, beyond a bad UI, is very poor layout features. You can create things in Numbers that would be near impossible in Excel.

        • Clark Goble

          I could see it going either way. Without some word from Apple we just don’t know. With Applescript it honestly does seem like one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing at Apple. However there also is the experience of FCPX to give at least a little hope although I’m far less optimistic than a was a year ago.

      • http://www.lackluster.org/ Esa Juhani Ruoho

        yeah, we totally need more people posting on http://bugreport.apple.com/ about these issues. That’s the only thing that matters. It confuses me to no end that people feel more inclined to comment on a blog about an issue with an Apple product rather than take the same time to inform Apple at http://bugreport.apple.com/ about it.

        You know, some Redditors will actually think that that’s a fake URL – because they’ve never even heard of it. Weirds me out. I’ve found Apple to be very responsive to bugreports and feature-requests, especially during OS X Mavericks and iOS 7 Beta-testing. They totally care. It totally matters that the customers give them feedback directly via http://bugreport.apple.com/

        Just do it. There’s more rewards to be reaped from posting bugs to Apple’s Bugreport than from posting a comment on a blog about how disappointed one is about Apple.

  • http://www.tennoe.no/ Bjørn Tennøe

    I’m more disappointed with iPhoto (no sync Mac ↔︎ iPad in particular) than with iWork, but having said that, Apple seems to say that professionals that are not strictly «creative» should look somewhere else for tools. For office applications, MS Office for Windows is clearly way better than MS Office for Mac. I have started to consider purchasing a Surface 2 or similar (Lumia 2520?) for this purpose. That would be my first Windows purchase in over 15 years.

    • Merckel

      Excel for Mac (2011) has VBA, Pivot Tables, etc. and I don’t see any shortcomings here. I can’t speak about Word between the platforms, as I’ve migrated to Pages. Earlier version of Office for Mac suffered by comparison (2008), but not today IMO.

      And instead of buying MSFT hardware (ugh), just buy Parallels 9 and you’ll have the best of both worlds on professional grade hardware.

  • edgema

    @zachawry:disqus Pages and Keynote are quite capable as MS Office competitors but Numbers has always lagged behind Excel. Numbers always seemed more geared at presenting tabular data than crunching the numbers in it.

    • Clark Goble

      Numbers always had flaws, especially in speed and handling large data sets. For anything heavily numeric I always used Excel or Python. Where Numbers was great was for small amounts of data (say less than 200 rows) and good layout (say Invoices, Purchase Orders, etc.)

    • DocNo42

      If Lotus would only bring back Improv.. that was some groundbreaking stuff. And who remembers Quattro Pro on GeoWorks? Egad – I forgot about that one…

  • Bernd Kilga

    I believe Apple forgets that many of us need to work for clients with very unique infrastructures and strange requirements. Extending software via APIs is a *major* feature and it’s really hard to beat Microsoft here. You can extend *everything* in MS Office.

  • Zepfhyr

    Is there really no other option besides Microsoft Office? What about Mariner Calc and Mariner Write? I’ve not used them personally, so maybe they don’t have the business chops of Office, either.

    • Clark Goble

      Mariner Calc and Mariner Write are all that survived Apple introducing iWork. Nisus is still for sale but doesn’t look like it’s had a significant update in years. (It still uses a drawer as a major UI element) Even Mariner Calc hasn’t had a significant update in a long time from what I can see. This is an opportunity for them or even Omni. However I think Apple pricing things as free will really cut the legs out from developers as they need a large user base to justify the development costs.

      • Zepfhyr

        True. Mariner may not consider the ROI worth it. It will be interesting to see if anyone decides to even compete in this market anymore.

        • Clark Goble

          I’d be shocked if they do. I think to be economic you have to carve out a niche. But with Office on the high end and iWork on the very low that might be problematic. I hope someone does. There’s a lot of innovation to be had. However developers have been squeezed heavily the past couple of years due to the downward pressure the app stores are putting on them.

      • Derick Fay

        Nisus is great, and is updated a couple times a year at least – I’ve been using it since 2006. It has a very robust, Perl-based scripting language and a very active user community. The UI may look old-fashioned but the feature set, esp. handling of styles, is outstanding.

        • http://www.patrickjames.co.uk/ Patrick James

          Yes, Nisus Writer Pro is great. It is kept updated. UI is old fashioned looking but it has the best find/replace of any word processor as well as stunning macro creation capabilities.

          I first used Nisus Writer in about 1996. The version on the classic OS was actually rather a different programme in some ways but had the find/replace and macro creation of Nisus Writer Pro.

  • PaulSorensen

    Could certainly be a bad sign, or it could be that Apple is willing to make self-disruptive moves. If they’ve built a new base but now they start bringing back things like rich and deep AppleScript support then it’s a good thing.

    Hopefully the latter. Fingers crossed.

  • Michael Powers

    Oy. Maybe I ought to have done a little research/waited before “upgrading”. Maybe an update will add some of this back.

    • Clark Goble

      The old versions should still be in /Applications. So I have a sense at least someone at the iWork team realized this would be a cluster.

  • mc

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m a historian and history prof with several books, many lectures, and quite a few articles in outline form. One of these is 240,000 words long. All will now require an enormous amount of work to return them to Word. There’s a lot that’s good in Apple’s DNA-music, for one. Writing and scholarship obviously aren’t. It is as though Apple told its music app users that now users won’t have to compose or listen to anything in a minor key as Apple has decided that people will be happier without. Time to ask Yo mister White to record another narration, leaving scholars out.

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  • Derick Fay

    The damage to Keynote’s Applescript capabilities is at least as bad:

    https://discussions.apple.com/message/23533553#23533553

    None of the content of slides can be accessed from Applescript any more. Basically all that you can do with Applescript in Keynote 6 is play or stop a slideshow.

  • Mark Banjak

    I never made the switch to iWork. Only one thing did I use numbers for, copying tables out of a browser(safari) and pasting into Numbers. Trying the same thing copying from Firefox or Safari and pasting into Excel didn’t work. I wonder if that works now, with the new Numbers? As the iOS OS gets more robust while the iOS devices get faster, the functionality of the Mac OS app will grow, in parallel, with the iOS app. The target audience is the general public for iOS devices. The target audience for the Mac is not and has not been business users, i.e. number crunchers. Those devotees of the Mac platform that need serious business technololgy are and will continue to be disappointed. These are the complainers. Apple is leaving this market niche to Microsoft, as it should.

  • Dave Beaudoin

    This is indeed a sad day. A year and a half ago I was talked into moving to Macbook pro because, as I was encouraged, Apple is better. I spend $3200 on a top of the line MBP Retina. I have been very disappointed by the insipid software offered by Apple. After using Keynote and Pages for a few months, I finally had to move back to MS Word, and would have done the same with Keynote to Powerpoint, buy my Retina MBP will not run Powerpoint properly because of some Retina glich. Waiting and expecting a nice upgrade to solve all my problems, now Apple has completely gone backward and broken iWork even worse then before. I have one and a half years left on my Applecare, and even now I am looking forward to returning to Windows.

    • DocNo42

      “even now I am looking forward to returning to Windows.” – why wait? Just load Windows on your Mac now if that’s what will make you happier. Windows runs great on Apple hardware.

  • has

    “What I suspect Apple doesn’t realize is how much small business and small shops workflow depends upon Applescript.”

    What small business and small shops don’t realize is that Apple really doesn’t care about _their_ needs, only its _own_. The current and future health of their bottom line is neither Apple’s responsibility nor problem: it owns them nothing. Apple is very much a consumer products company now, targeting low-cost, high-return mass markets with classy, polished consumer products, and it is utterly unafraid to burn existing or legacy niche vertical markets if it helps it to advance its own large-scale interests elsewhere – and rightly so.

    The only reason Apple keeps high-cost, low-return pro users around at all is because they their presence lengs status to the Apple marque. If all the pro users abandoned Apple for Windows and Linux tomorrow, it would hardly scratch their bottom line directly, but indirectly it would ultimately degrade their ability to charge luxury prices to all their other customers. Apple wishes to be Lexus, not Toyota. Customers don’t pay the Lexus premium because the product itself is a thousand times better at getting from A to B than a Toyota. They buy the Lexus so the much higher status of other Lexus owners reflects on them as well.

    Apple might claim to care deeply about their pro users too, but any good salesman would say that… and Apple are nothing if not first-class salesmen. Pay attention their actions, not their words. Apple may claim the new Mac Pro is a “pro users” machine, but which does it really remind you of: a top-end Lexus LS 600h L saloon, or a tough old Toyota pickup that actually works for a living? Apple’s radically redesigned novel new “Pro” products are aspirational goods aimed at aspirational Mac/iOS/iCloud consumers, and any high-end stuff that Apple does now is done in service of that.

    So if old school pro users like yourself can think of a way to make a nasty, hoary, stinky old workhorse junker like AppleScript even remotely relevant or desirable to those high-class products and their equally classy users, then top luck to you. Otherwise – well, you might think about starting to spread your risks a bit.

    • Clark Goble

      The problem is that no one really does this well except for Microsoft with Office. And I am spreading my risks. I’m not embracing VBA just yet but any new scripts I do will probably be more oriented around Office where scripting clearly is a high priority.

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