Mac users don’t need Office or Google Docs. If you own a Mac, you already have access to a fully-featured suite of productivity apps for free. It’s called iWork, and it includes Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. Here’s a look at what makes it special.

Understanding Apple iWork

First introduced in 2005, iWork is Apple’s in-house answer to the Microsoft Office application suite. As of 2022, it currently includes three apps that work on Macs, iPhones, and iPads. To understand each app’s purpose, it might be helpful to compare them to Office or the Google Docs Editors suite.

  • Pages: Apple’s word processing and page layout application, which is roughly equivalent to Microsoft Word or Google Docs.
  • Numbers: Apple’s spreadsheet app, similar to Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets.
  • Keynote: Apple’s slide-based presentation app with features similar to Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides.

Apple also offers iWork for iCloud, which is a suite of cloud-based versions of these apps accessible through a web browser on any platform (including Windows) if you have an Apple ID.

Examples of iWork apps on Apple devices like iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Each of these iWork apps can handle importing or exporting files from their Microsoft equivalent apps, which makes collaborating with Windows owners a little easier. You can also edit the same documents on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and in the cloud. Let’s take a brief look at each app individually below.

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Pages: A Versatile Word Processor

Pages running on a Mac.

Perhaps the crown jewel of the iWork suite, Pages is a solid word processor that also doubles as a page layout app similar to Adobe InDesign. It includes all the features you’d expect in a word processor since 1984 (fonts, bold, italics, justification) plus support for tables, charts, and inserting rich media into documents. It also includes nice templates for various types of documents like resumes, letters, books, and reports—and it edits Microsoft Word documents with ease.

Numbers: A Capable Spreadsheet

Numbers running on a Mac.

Numbers is the relative newcomer to the iWork suite, but not by much: Apple added Numbers to iWork in 2007 with the iWork ’08. It’s a spreadsheet app sporting a deep feature set (charts, sorting, formulas, inserting media) that can also work with Microsoft Excel workbooks. And like the other iWork apps, Numbers includes very handy templates that cover a wide variety of situations, such as planning a family budget, calculating savings, creating invoices, and even keeping track of school attendance.

Keynote: The Secret to Nice Presentations

Keynote running on a Mac.

Keynote originated as an app developed for Steve Jobs to help him with his trademark live keynote presentations. Apple first launched it in January 2003 on the Mac, and it’s remained an essential Mac app ever since. It handles graphically-rich presentations with great transitions, embedded video in slides, high-quality charts, and even supports multiple people giving the same presentation. It’s basically a juiced-up Microsoft PowerPoint with a sense of Apple aesthetics.

How Can I Get iWork?

Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are all free apps for any Mac owner. Most Macs ship with the apps installed by default. To run them, open launchpad and type the name of the app, or look for the Pages, Notepad, or Keynote icons.

If you don’t have the apps installed already, you can download them through the Mac App Store if you have an Apple ID. (Similarly, the iPhone and iPad versions of the apps are in the App Store.)

Alternatively, you can access iWork for iCloud in any major browser—even on a Windows PC or Chromebook—after you log in with your Apple ID. Have fun creating!

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Profile Photo for Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a former Associate Editor for How-To Geek. Now, he is an AI and Machine Learning Reporter for Ars Technica. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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