Use iWork – Pages and Numbers – at Your Peril / by Tony Rundle

Well, I finally got fed up with High Sierra and, on advice from my local Mac specialist, removed the OS and had a clean re-install of El Capitan.

The good news is that it’s like having a new computer. Things work again – like “sleeping” when it should, Lightroom and other apps all working correctly, and it goes like a train! It’s as if I’d performed a major upgrade – much faster than before.

My iMac is a mid 2011 machine, with 24Gb of memory, and an SSD. The processor is a 3.4GHz, 4 core Intel core i7.

Magically, by the wonder of iCloud, my contact details and address book are as they should be, and I’ve got Mail up and running properly too.

So far, so good. But that’s when my troubles really started. And it’s all because of iWork.

iWork is Apple’s equivalent to Office. It includes Pages – a word processor, Numbers – a spreadsheet program, and Keynote – like Powerpoint only different.

Now I’ve been using Pages for just about all my word processing for over 10 years (I had a Macbook before I bought the iMac). So all my documents are in Pages format – that includes contracts, invoices and all sorts of other stuff for my business. I am obliged to keep many of these for at least 5 years in case those sons of fun at the HMRC want to look at them.

But there’s a big snag. The most recent versions of Pages don’t run on El Capitan, and you can’t get hold of the earlier versions. I used to have the original install disks from the time I bought the machine, but threw those out when I had a clearout last year. So, the only version actually available won’t run on my machine. Not only that, but the format of Pages files has changed a few times over the last ten years. Even if I managed to get an old version of Pages up and running, it wouldn’t be able to read files I’ve created or opened since newer versions came out.

 Microsoft Office and Open Office don’t read Pages files, so I’m pretty well stuck. So here’s what I’m doing:

1)         I’m using Cloud Convert to batch convert as many files as I can from Pages to Word docs. It’s an on-line service, and it only seems to be able to convert about half of my files, but it’s a start. Some are apparently iWork bundles (how was I supposed to know that?) and it may be possible to convert them by adding a .zip extension, but that’s not a batch processing option.

2)         I can actually look at the unconverted ones individually using Preview, and can save them as PDF’s. Having said that, the last document I tried this with resulted on a blank page!

3)         I can use the version of Pages in iCloud to convert individual files to .doc format as needed. It’s a slow and painful process, but I can take my time doing it. In fact, it looks as if I can do that from a Windows machine too.

4)         I’ve switched to MS Office instead of iWork, because I can install it on my machine. I have also installed Open Office (actually Neo Office), just to be on the safe side. And no, Open Office doesn’t read Pages files.

So now I’ll shortly be in a position where the documents I need can be edited by more than one program, on both Mac OS and Windows. Of course, this makes it much easier for me to switch to a Windows machine later if I decide to do so.

I suppose the preferred option would be to buy a brand new iMac, but the issues I’ve had with High Sierra mean that it’s a bit of a gamble. Be warned then, if you want to restore an old version of OS, convert all your Pages and Numbers files to Word and Excel format first! In the meantime, bear in mind that all your backups of valuable documents will be useless if you downgrade your operating system, or move to a new one.

But, if you are using the iWork apps on your Mac, be aware that it may be the one thing that makes it very difficult to ever change to another OS.