Word processing software, can I get by with Apple Pages, Numbers, and Keynote?

Hi all. Currently I am in between jobs, hoping to land a job within the special education field. For whatever reason Microsoft Office will not work anymore because I believe I used it with my previous university email address and I am unable to login again for access. As such I can open documents in Word and Excel and such but I can’t edit them which renders it useless.

Over the past week I have been in a class for my endorsement for special education using Apple Pages as well as Keynote for my presentation and document creation needs. I’ve been creating my Rich Text Files in Devonthink Pro and then do the formatting and laying out in Keynote and Pages. Is there a better option for my use case? Is there a way to set up Apple pages to save as default to word files for compatibility? Curious what others would advise and people’s thoughts.

I avoid MS Office. On occasion, when a colleague sends me a Word doc or Excel spreadsheet, I get irrationally angry that I have to open these bloated applications. If you’re looking for compatibility, you can always send your work as a PDF. For extensive round-tripping between MS Office and non-MS Office, you’re always going to run into issues, especially for more complex documents with lots of fiddly formatting details. You can always get Libre Office for free, which I think is a little closer to Word/Excel/PowerPoint if you need to go back and forth much.

Another option is to use MS Office on an iPad if you have one. That’s free on the 9.7-inch iPad, as is Office Online, which works in a browser like Google Docs. If your needs are relatively simple (formatting-wise), you can definitely get by with one of these “light” versions of Word.

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Also MPU #429: iWork Deep Dive


If you have an iPad, Word and Excel are available for free, and while they’re missing some features, they are much newer and better than the Mac versions, IMHO.

This is true if the screen is less than 10" in size - but the current iPad Pro models need to pay.

I use Word and PowerPoint. I have to submit university documents in Word, and at work there are slides we have to create in PPT (using some plugin that only runs on Windows - so that’s where I create the slides actually).

For anything where I don’t need to use Word format I use the iWork Suite. It’s much nicer (to me), and I prefer it.

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Do you need to share the documents and collaborate with other people, or will it be personal use most of the time? The iWork suite is perfectly capable, even if quite different from Office.

However, as mentioned above, collaboration with others and round-tripping docs back and forth between iWork and Office is going to be a bit problematic.

Next thing to consider is how you use the text. Will you be outputting to paper? What is the target environment for the words? I mainly use Ulysses to write anything, sometimes Drafts. (Word is my least favorite of the suite.) In many organizations, text now goes up to wikis, Confluence pages, intranets and the like, so page layout becomes less of a concern.

For presentations, there are a lot of good options. Excel though, I find it almost impossible to replace for what I need.

The corporate world lives in Office 100% of the time (unless the corporation is Apple, I guess), so this may also be something to consider.

That said, my work involves using Office apps for the better parts of each day, and I have no issues with it on iOS or Mac, even if it does retain a slight edge on Windows.

If you’re able to submit or use your documents as PDFs, the iWork suite should be fine. If however there’s a chance you’ll need to submit any job applications or forms in Word or Excel, I’d pony up for an Office 365 subscription. And as @airwhale points out, the corporate world operates almost universally in MS Office. There’s something to be said for developing and maintaining skills in it if you’re going into that environment.


Being disabled myself (and have been for over 30 years), I find the accessibility community is often very traditional and therefore I would say Office 365 is a must. As an Apple user, it’s very frustrating that many are so far behind us but I tried to use only Pages, Plain Text & PDF for a couple of years but found so many in the disabled community are either not tech savvy enough or not willing to move outside Office (primarily on Windows) to make it possible. I have now been an Office 365 subscriber for a couple of years and it just reduces friction when dealing with non Mac users. I’ve found is best to buy a year subscription prepaid card from Amazon, it much cheaper.

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Interesting @themacquad insights, thanks for sharing. I think subscribing to Office 365 will be worth it in the long run then.

I think I’ll pony up for a Office 365 subscription. I’m so ingrained and used to using Word though I prefer Keynote for presentations or Google Slides depending upon.

Apple Pages, Numbers and Keynote are fine for working with others who have it installed on their computers, but for the other 90%+ of users who dont, I’d recommend using Microsoft Office.

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While I prefer iWork for a number of tasks, as someone in education, I’m planning to start putting money down for Office 365 out of pocket (not provided through my school) once my university’s access expires. While most things you can (should) send to people as PDFs, there’s enough things that you need to send people that need to be editable, and while Google Apps are popular in education, if you make a Google Doc editable as an attachment, then people are editing the master (which you often don’t want). It sucks, but Microsoft was very smart to get the stranglehold they have.

I don’t hate the apps as much as many here do. I don’t find them bloated or poorly optimized (though I do find the navigation of their settings to be far more byzantine than iWork), but I’d much rather be able to get by with PDFs for anything that needs exact formatting and crappy conversions from .pages to .docx for anything that doesn’t. Oh well.

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I’m planning to go iPad Pro only within too long. I use the Office suite for work, Eord, Excel and PowerPoint and I have a lot of documents for work in those formats stored in iCloud.

My organisation relies on OneDrive, Sharepoint and Office apps. I often open Word documents in OnrDrive for the web (on my Mac) and then add comments to them and save them automatically back into OneDrive for others to work on.

What is the best setup for my use case? Should I stay with the Office suite for my iPad Pro or switch to iWork?

It sounds like your workplace relies pretty heavily with the Microsoft Office products. The Office apps for iPad are actually quite good. While they don’t offer absolutely every feature that their desktop counterparts do, Microsoft has put quite a bit of effort into making the iPad versions first-class citizens that take advantage of the features of iOS (Files, multitasking, etc.). In your shoes I’d probably at least start out with the Office suite on the iPad Pro.

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Not sure if you are aware, but if your organization has an Enterprise account with Microsoft and Office 365, you can install the Mac, iPad and iPhone versions on your respective devices and activate them (using your login credentials) to have full access to all the features. That means fully functional versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneDrive on all your devices at no cost to you!

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I’m in the process of contacting my university to get a license.

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