The new iCloud beta got a significant update recently, adding an iOS 7 style look to go with the iWork apps previously added when it first launched. This site replaces the former iWork that included Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Notes, Reminders and Find My iPhone. It’s still missing access to photos and videos from Photostream.
A primary benefit of iCloud now with the iWork apps comes when a user must jump on a non-Apple product like a Windows PC or the Chromebook we’re reviewing. It also lets a user access their iCloud stored content on someone else’s machine, like when visiting family or working at another office.
The simple version of the iWork apps work well. We prefer them over Google Docs and Office 365. They look better and offer just as many features, but in an easier to use presentation.
With Pages users can do basic word processing tasks and even some simple desktop publishing. The templates look a lot like the iOS versions of the app. The first time a user opens one of the iWork apps, the site shows helpful yellow tool tips with visual cues about using the site. Click on the large plus symbol to open the Template Chooser, which shows available templates. Begin editing to create a masterpiece ready for coworkers or personal use.
Users can jump between iWork or iCloud apps from the file manager in each app. Click the cloud button on the upper left to do this in the iWork apps. Here’s one inconsistency between the iWork apps and the other iCloud apps. They don’t show a cloud icon, but show the name of the current app with a drop down arrow next to it which lets the user switch to the other apps by clicking the link.
When creating a new document, a new window pops up so that the user can return to the file manager or the iCloud home page just by switching browser windows.
The site works great on a Mac, and we even find it useful on a Windows or Chromebook machine. We like the user interface and enjoyed creating simple documents, spreadsheets and even presentations.
iCloud beta (link to Apple info page) has room to grow with more features needed. The iWorks apps don’t share the overall iOS 7 look that graces the other iCloud PIM tools. We guess that might change on final release, which some iOS 7 detractors may not like. We miss the menu across the top of the windows and some of the advanced features hidden in them, like creating a user template in Pages. We also think Apple should add Photostream access to the mix. The Mail app really needs to add POP3 access or better iMap access so we can use other mail accounts with the app, like we can on the mobile and computer versions of Mail. The same holds true for Calendar, which remains useless for Google Calendar users.
Only iCloud subscribers can access it and then only those who sign up for the beta and get approved by Apple. When it finally launches, likely about the same time that OS X 10.9 Mavericks hits the Mac App Store and new Macs, the current iteration of iCloud will offer enough to pull Mac users away from Google Drive or Office 365, if they prefer using iWork on their iOS device or computer. It won’t draw them away if they already invested in Microsoft Office 365 or use Google Drive heavily.