This week I got an email from Apple inviting me to try out the Beta version of iWork for iCloud. I was keen to see how useful this could be for educators in the classroom, and whether or not it could be a serious contender to my current favorite online productivity suite – Google Drive. So, I logged in to iCloud with Chrome on my Mac and there they were – Pages, Numbers and Keynote – complete with all the documents I had created on my Mac and iPads.
The interface is familiar, yet different. The menus are a hybrid of the desktop and iOS version of iWork, but they are intuitive enough that you can almost always find what you are looking for without too much trouble. You won’t find all the features you are used to in the desktop (or even iOS) versions, but more functionality will doubtless come in time, and most of the essentials are included in the beta version.
iWork for iCloud runs on Mac or PC and is compatible with the latest versions of Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer. For some reason, Firefox is not a supported browser right now, but if you click past the warning messages it does seem to run as you would expect it to in other browsers, so it will likely be supported once it leaves the beta stage of development. iWork for iCloud is an HTML5 environment which Firefox is obviously more than capable of running.
Syncing has worked great, but I have never really had a problem in the past moving between documents on my iPad and my Mac, so that didn’t surprise me too much. Changes made on the web, my Mac, and my iPad were all quickly synced to the other devices.
Does it beat Google Drive? Not yet, for me at least. iWork for iCloud works well, but right now it still lacks some collaboration and sharing options that I have come to enjoy with Google. For instance, real-time collaboration can be a great boon for teachers and students, as can the ability to leave comments on a document. There are no signs of either appearing in iWork any time soon. That said, the ability to share a link to your document is listed as “coming soon” so the potential for improvements in this area does exist.
If you are curious to check out more about what iWork for iCloud can and can’t do, you can check out the newly created Apple online help guides, even if you don’t have access to the Beta program at this time. The links for those are below:
UPDATE: Another important support page to read is Opening iWork for iOS and iWork ’09 documents in iWork for iCloud Beta. This gives more information on what to do if you try to open a document that has features that are unsupported in the current version of iWork for iCloud. Thanks to Kathy Schrock for the heads up on this one.
Have you been playing with the new iWork for iCloud Beta? What do you most like about it and how do you think it could fit into your classroom workflow?