A Plague on the House of Apple Pages

You’ve been waiting for me to bust a rant, haven’t you? Good! Because I’ve had it with Pages.

I learned to use word-processing software in 1990 at the company I then worked for. It was WordStar, and I was working on a PC, back in the days before Windows when you had to interface with the C-prompt. It took me about a week—I had access to the computer a couple hours a day—to get proficient.

I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. Move whole paragraphs around with just a few keystrokes rather than typing the whole thing over? Oh! I was in heaven.

That same year my department was switched to Apple Macintosh computers. I achieved the same level of proficiency on the Mac in less than an hour. I learned to use PageMaker (v. 4!), which eventually morphed into InDesign. I bought my own Mac later that year, became a card-carrying Mac evangelist, and I have never, ever looked back. It was then and still is the right tool for me.

Now I edit books. And guess what? It doesn’t matter what type of computer you use, friend. As long as we are using the same software, we can pass your manuscript back and forth all day long.

However, the software the publishing industry uses is Microsoft Word. Full stop. It’s the industry standard. Thus, that is the software I expect you to use. Don’t send me a Pages document, dagnabbit. And don’t believe any marketing folks when they tell you Pages interfaces seamlessly with Word, or Word interfaces seamlessly with Pages, or that you can save your Pages document as a Word document and no one will be the wiser.

In my experience, this is not true.

Yes, both are word processing programs. In theory both have layout capability (though I wouldn’t bother; if you want a professional-looking layout, use InDesign). And in theory, both have the ability to track editorial changes (though I don’t find Pages’s interface very user-friendly). You know about track changes; we’ve talked about it.

I use three elements of the Word application in the editing process:

• Track changes
• Margin notes
• Highlights

I ask you, dear author, to accept my changes* on every round, so we start “clean” with a document that shows only your changes (or only my changes, when I send the MS back). Yes, Word assigns a different color to the additions and deletions of each user, so we don’t have to start clean, but it makes it easier to see only the most recent changes. And since many (actually? most) authors fail to do this for me, I do it myself at the beginning of the next pass—no biggie. But Pages does not assign you a new color for your changes, so when you send back a pretend Word document, I have to very carefully distinguish your work from mine. It adds time.

Want to know why I need to see exactly where you have added or subtracted from the manuscript? I’ll tell you: most of you introduce new errors to the manuscript when you’re tweaking. You add or remove an extra space, you remove some punctuation, you leave two periods, and on and on and on. I know you don’t intend to! But I’ve been doing this work for a long, long time, and I feel very comfortable saying most of you do. And I’m responsible for those errors.

I’ve said this before: editors are like hairdressers. You can’t hide anything from us. :) When my computer boots up Pages to open what looks like a Word document, I know there is something rotten in fair Verona, where we lay our scene.

Alas, it’s my beautiful Word doc, which has been interfered with by Pages. All sorts of crazy things happen. Pages doesn’t seem to recognize Word prefs, for one thing. My friend Michelle Ule had a nightmare with spell check after her Word doc had been beat up by Pages.

Don’t get me started on highlighting. I use this for so many different things: pointing out redundancies, noting how often the theme shows up, marking passages I think we might delete or move, and so on. Pages users can see them, which is great, since that’s what I intended. But after this document is run through the Pages mangle and comes back to me, those highlighted passages cannot be UNhighlighted. Not by me, anyway. The only way I can put the manuscript to rights is to retype every highlighted word, phrase, or paragraph, and deleted the colored stuff.

You can probably guess how much I enjoy doing that.

These may seem like small things to you, but they are very time-consuming to fix. And every pass that goes through Pages comes back to me with the same problems. (Or new ones! It’s a laugh a minute.)

On a recent project, all the quote marks and apostrophes kept showing up in Arial Narrow, even though the entire document was in Times New Roman.** So I would change them, send the pass back, and the manuscript would come back with Arial Narrow quotes, over and over. (I’m embarrassed to admit how many passes it took for it to dawn on me that Pages was the cause of this.) On later passes, it started reversing apostrophes too.

Why, Apple, why?

Margin notes haven’t been a problem. (Yet.) But I don’t find them easy to use in Pages.

You also can’t use an iPad if you want to work on an editing project with me. Again, why not? Because you’ve probably loaded Apple Pages, that’s why. (Apparently you can get Word for the iPad, although I haven’t tried it. Let me know if you have.) But look, kids—the iPad is a convenience device, intended for you to access the Internet, browse Facebook, watch movies, check your email, and play digital games. Word processing might be handy for journaling whilst you’re traveling, but not for writing or editing novels. Recently an author told me he was unable to accept my changes when he was using his iPad. (sigh)

So here’s the thing, kids. I don’t care if it’s Pages’ fault or Word’s. I’m done with Pages. I’m not interested in becoming more proficient with it because 97 percent of the authors I work with use Word. And since 100 percent of the publishers use it, too, well … I know which side my bread is buttered on.

Rant over.

* Or not, but you know what I mean. Clear them.

**TNR isn’t a pretty font, necessarily, but we use it in publishing for editing because most users have it in their computer. And because I’ve become very familiar with TNR, errors leap right off the page.)


Tweet: The publishing industry uses Microsoft Word. Full stop. It’s the industry standard.
Tweet: After my beautiful Word document is run through the Pages mangle, it’s a mess.
Tweet: I’ve had it with Pages. Don’t send me a manuscript if you use it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Posted in Your Editor Says … | Tagged as: , , , | Bookmark the permalink | Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By The Right Tool for the Job on 6 October, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    […] I know you do—you’ve got to use the tools the publishing professionals use. This means you can’t edit on an iPad. Or your […]

  2. By Short Saturday: Track Changes From A to Z on 13 February, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    […] We’ve also talked about why you need to use MS Word when you’re working with an editor, not Apple Pages. (Calm down, Mac users; I’ll establish my bona fides. To wit: I bought my first Mac in 1990 and […]