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Pages '09

iWork's answer to both work processing and desktop publishing, Pages still holds its own against Word. Fundamentally everything that made Pages '08 great still applies to this version as do a few of its foibles. The built-in dictionary, thesaurus and Wikipedia look-up interface is as useful as ever, the lack of an autosave feature just as frustrating - to give but two examples.

The most obvious addition in this '09 version of iWork is Full Screen mode. This, as the name suggests, takes the active page and spans it to fill the screen and blacks out the background providing a clean, distraction-free typing interface.

Move the pointer to the top of the window and the full toolbar, including text formatting options, appears, move to the left and page selection thumbnails appear while moving to the right brings up a scroll bar. At the bottom sit page and word counts; the latter particularly useful and which simply refuse to work for me in Word's full screen mode.

Finally, it's possible to change the background colour in Full Screen mode. I'd advise against white, though, as it leads to the disconcerting appearance of text floating by itself in he middle of the screen. The only slight annoyance is that using the Inspector - from within which most document customisation is carried out - doesn't feel particularly streamlined. That's hardly a deal breaker though.

Dynamic Outlines are another feature making their debut in Pages '09. Outlines provide a neat way of laying out documents which rely heavily on sectioned groups of text. Using the tab key to progressively demote text through what Pages calls levels, each topic group can simply be typed out, and the appropriate formatting is automatically applied when Outline mode is exited. It's much more efficient than messing around manually formatting all the headings, subheadings and body text font styles in a document once typed.

To further facilitate quick navigation of large bodies of text, these levels can be selected and body text therein truncated to show only the first line. This helps with the ability to quickly format documents in outline mode by dragging topic and sub tropic groups around the document, bringing all sub-levels with them.

Dealing with media items in this view mode is also made much easier thanks to the option to toggle thumbnail views of images. For Outlines to be of use also requires some foresight when starting a document to realise it's going to be complicated enough to warrant their use as applying such formatting mid-creation isn't particularly simple.

Mail Merge functionality is expanded to enable data from Numbers to be pulled into Pages documents before sending. Combined with a bunch of new and improved templates, this makes for easy creation nifty documents with minimal effort.

A pretty niche addition is native support for embedding EndNote and MathType into documents. I'm sure there are a few mathematics and English students who'll find such integration useful.

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