Sharing Documents via iWork.com

The latest release of Apple’s iWork suite has brought a whole range of new features, notably an online collaberation system called iWork.com. Currently in public beta, the service aims to let you share your documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, allowing co-workers or friends to comment on them. This quick tutorial will walk you through how the feature works and explain the simplest way to get started.

Click the iWork.com icon to get started

Click the iWork.com icon to get started

In order to use iWork.com, you need to have a copy of the latest version of the iWork suite. You can try it out by downloading the 30 day trial which will give you time to decide whether it’s worth purchasing (for $79).

Once you’ve created a document in any of the three included applications, clicking the iWork.com icon will start the walk-through process of uploading your document to the ‘cloud’.

Uploading a Document

There are a number of options to choose when uploading

There are a number of options to choose when uploading

When asking to upload your document to iWork, a number of options are presented. You can choose who to address the invite to, enter a customized message to start the discussion, and specify the actions available to readers in terms of commenting and downloading.

It’s possible to invite additional people to review the document at a later stage if required, when viewing the document online. Don’t worry if you miss someone!

After clicking ‘Share’, iWork will format your document for sharing, create the different versions selected (Word, PDF etc) and proceed to upload everything to your iWork.com space. Emails are automatically sent to all invitees and you’re provided with a link to immediately view the document online.

Viewing and Commenting

After clicking the link to view a document online, you’ll be presented with an interface resembling that of a native Mac application:

The iWork.com interface closely resembles the local app

The iWork.com interface closely resembles the local app

The document itself is represented exactly as it displays on your local machine, on account of it actually being a simple embedded PDF. Multiple pages can be navigated through the viewer on the left, and clicking ‘Add Comment’ after selecting a portion of text will open a small box in which to enter a message for all others viewing the document. A general comment area is also available to the right.

One slight issue I have is that it isn’t possible to comment on an image, only selected areas of text. This is a little annoying for photography heavy examples such as the one used here.

There are a number of download options

There are a number of download options

If you would like to download a local copy of the document (and have permission to do so), you can select the type of download you prefer:

As the different versions were originally generated by the local iWork application, your document is generally well converted and represented in the various formats.

How Can iWork.com Be Used?

Whilst the execution is fairly slick, I was left wondering whether there are any situations where I would actually need this functionality. After considering it for a few days, I encountered a few different scenarios:

  • Sending a piece of market research to a friend after discussing it on the phone
  • Uploading documents for myself, when I know I’ll need to access them from a public computer
  • Sending out a web design contract for a client to review and comment on

iWork.com proved to be useful for all these tasks, but ultimately they could have been achieved through email or a free service such as Dropbox. You need to consider whether the ability for multiple people to comment on certain aspects of a document is important. If not, you may be just as well attaching the file to an email!

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on iWork.com. Do you feel that it’s a feature likely to encourage you to upgrade to iWork ’09, or are you not drawn in by the pretty interface with little substance underneath?