iWork '09 gets mixed marks

In the past I've complained about iWork '08, specifically about the limitations of Numbers in creating a chart and about Pages being unable to create mailing labels. Well I got iWork '09 on Friday and installed it today. It's a mixed bag.

Numbers seems to be much better in terms of performance. At some point last year I had split the cat weight spreadsheet into two parts because my desktop Mac Pro would often beach-ball when trying to add data to the chart. Yes, you read that right. I've got around 3 years of data for my cat weights and it was too much data for Numbers '08 to crunch smoothly on a four-core machine with four gigabytes of RAM. Two cats, weighed roughly weekly, and a second set of weights to draw a "target weight" line. (I no longer draw that target line, but I did back in 2006 & 2007.) Definitely less than one thousand data points in the set, probably around 600. I'm happy to report that Numbers '09 seems much improved in terms of performance. I fiddled with the old chart a bit just to see how it worked with the "big" data set and couldn't get a beach-ball. The chart still can only have 10 steps, but it does allow me to set the chart's min/max values to ones inside the data set. This means I can make the chart go from ten to twenty pounds and Heisenberg just spikes off the chart for that one week where he broke twenty pounds.

Pages opened a few Pages files I have lying around just fine. It still has absolutely no options for printing mailing labels, despite adding a stack of new formats. (Is "Loft for Rent Flyer" really a more useful format than "sheet of return mailing labels"? Really? I do love the specificity of it though. Don't try renting your crappy old suburban condo with this format buddy!) It did occur to me to check if Address Book would print a sheet of labels and for a moment I thought I was onto something. Address Book will print labels, but only one label per Address Book entry and you can't pick which label on the page it is. (In other words, Address Book is optimized for printing labels for a whole Christmas List of people which isn't a bad thing but it isn't useful for my task.)

Some of these issues are getting more severe because I've banished Microsoft Office altogether from my Macs. (I still have Excel 2000 installed in a Windows ghetto box for work reasons, but I don't have to like it, and even there I think I only installed Excel, not the full Office.) I've been debating what to do about my own personal weight spreadsheet (which I only have on paper for the last few months) and I'm almost out of return labels. I'm happy to say that I think I could easily recreate the weight charts from The Hacker's Diet in Numbers '09 now and not feel like I dip my computer in molasses to update the data.

As for the labels ... I'll probably borrow one of Karin's laptops, use Microsoft Word and print out a PDF file of a sheet of labels. That's ridiculous but Apple doesn't want to seem to solve the problem. I was hopeful that Pages '09 would print labels because mail merge is a big feature they added but no dice.