Apple Pages – A Good Replacement For Microsoft Word For Mac?

Apple pages vs. word

You have a Macbook Air or Pro and you need a reliable word processor. What is the best choice for you? Microsoft Word or Apple Pages?

It’s an easy decision if you don’t want to spend a lot of money. The biggest advantage of Pages vs. Word is that Pages is free for a Mac user.

But can Pages do everything you want to do for your writing needs?

Read on for a comparison of these two writing programs.

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Apple Pages word processor

I have used every version of the Pages app since Apple released it in 2009.

The iWork 09 version worked perfectly. But at that time, it cost $79.00 for the suite of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.

Later, in 2014, Apple released a new version. The pricing dropped to $19.99 for each app on a Mac, and $9.99 for an iOS device.

At the same time, the release of iWork for iCloud became available.

However, you could get the apps for free when you bought a new Mac computer.

Then in 2017, Apple finally made all three apps free on the Mac App Store for Mac, iPad, and iPhone.

apple pages

I have never found a lot of use for Pages for iOS, but it can be handy for a quick edit or writing when traveling on your iPhone or iPad.

I have used Pages documents and Numbers for Mac almost every day now for over ten years on my Apple laptops.

The number one advantage is that because the apps are designed for Mac, they work fast and integrate with all your other Apple tools.

 

Microsoft Office for Mac

Yes, I use Pages and Word for Mac too.

The current version of Office I have installed is Office for Mac 2011, which works with versions up to Mac OS Sierra.

But this version is not supported on Macs using macOS High Sierra, Mojave, or new versions.

If you want to use Word or other Office apps on a new MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, it is going to cost quite a lot of money to upgrade to Office 2016 or Office 2019.

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I have Word for Mac on three laptops. But I’m not sure I will install it on my new computers in the future.

The price to upgrade is very expensive, depending on which versions of Word you select.

office for mac prices

For a one-time purchase of the Office 2019 software for PC or Mac operating systems, it will cost over $350.00.

For a yearly personal Office 365 for Mac subscription, it will cost me 3 cents short of $180.00. The price depends on which country you are in and which version of Office 365 you can choose.

However, if you want to try Office on your Mac, you can get a one-month free trial version.

There is also this question to answer with subscription software. What happens to your data and files if you decide to cancel your subscription?

On top of that, of all the Office products, I would only use Word and perhaps Excel from time to time and never use the other apps in the suite.

If you don’t need all versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, and OneNote, why pay for what you will rarely or never use?

So given a choice between $350.00, $180.00 for an Office 365 subscription, or free, it’s doesn’t take much brainpower to consider using the Apple iWork suite to replace the Microsoft Office suite.

 

Apple Pages is free

If you are a Mac user like me and your primary requirement is for word processing programs, can Pages reliably replace Microsoft Word?

The short answer is yes, it definitely can.

In some ways, it is even better. Word vs. Pages?

Apple Pages is like having Microsoft Word for Mac for free.

 

Writing without Word

If all you need is an Apple word processor, Mac Pages can handle everything you will probably ever need to do.

Like Word in Office for Mac, you can start with a blank document or use the template chooser.

The word processing in page layout document view is easy to work with, and all the text formatting, fonts, outline styles, and writing tools are easy to find and use.

There is a spell checker, word count, auto table of contents, and track change with an add comments option.

It is difficult to think of a standard function in Word that is not available in Pages documents.

There are some areas of compatibility. They are mostly very advanced features of Word compared to Pages and Excel compared to Numbers.

Most issues are related to the compatibility of macros. You will only need to consider it if you are an advanced user.

Apple has a list of compatibility issues between Office and iWork apps.

You might consider this if you are using complex charts, tables, and macros. But there are no aspects that would concern an author, content writer, or blogger.

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You can write, format, make columns, import, export, and print in precisely the same way as you do with Word.

 

It’s easy to use Pages

Pages is a great word processor. It has had a lot of stability improvements over the years to make it extremely reliable and robust.

It only takes half an hour or so to become familiar with the menus, options, and text styles. You will find that Pages is very easy to use.

apple pages word processing

The sidebar menu is intuitive and changes depending on what you are doing or where you place your cursor. For most users, every tool you want to use is visible when you need it.

One big plus with Pages is that you never need to bother with doing a save because it automatically saves as you work. This is a huge bonus and timesaver. You never have to worry about losing one single word of your work.

Every day tasks like inserting headers and footers, text boxes, or adding page numbers are all simple. The image galleries make adding and adjusting images and pictures quick and easy.

 

Images in Pages vs. Word

Working with images is one area where Pages really shines. There is so much more control over images compared to Word.

You can scan a document using an iPad app and then drop your photo or scan into a document. Equally as easy, you can add an existing image from your hard drive.

For authors working with paperback covers, it is easy to drop in a high-resolution cover image, make your adjustments, and then export directly to pdf.

images in apple pages

 

One minor image feature that is missing in Pages compared to Word is adding a hyperlink to an image.

You would probably rarely need to do this. But if you do, there is this workaround on Apple Discussions. It works by simply overlaying a text box and then making it invisible.

 

Epub for ebook authors

One other big plus for Pages for authors is that you can export directly to epub without the hassle of converting your file in another program.

apple pages epub export

 

If you are publishing ebooks, this is a massive time saver.

There are not a lot of options compared to what you get with Calibre.

But it is more than enough to export a perfectly acceptable epub file directly from Pages ready for publishing with Amazon KDP, Smashwords, or Draft2Digital.

 

Working with Word files in Pages

There is no doubt that you will have times when you need to collaborate on documents and work with Word users. But it is quick and easy to convert Pages to Word, or Word to Pages.

It would be rare that authors and writers need real-time collaboration tools.

Generally, the real need is to open Word documents or to send Pages documents in doc or docx file format.

To open a Word file, simply open it with a double click or right-click open file as you usually would do. If you do not have Word installed on your computer, it will open automatically in Pages.

When you need to send a Word file, you can do a quick export of Pages files.

export pages to word

You can choose either .doc or .docx file format, then save your document, and you can send it to any Word user.

 

Advantages of Apple Pages vs. Word

If you want to move away from the expense of Microsoft Word for Mac, you have two logical choices.

You could opt for Google Docs, which is also free.

However, it requires an Internet connection and only works in a web browser. But there is a way to access and edit files offline with a Chrome extension.

The Pages word processor is a much a better option for Mac users because it autosaves directly to your computer hard drive, or more likely to you iCloud drive when you are online.

On top of that, you can get the full suite of tools for free. So you get Pages along with the other iWork apps, Numbers, and Keynote as a bonus.

If you are a Mac user, all you need is your Apple ID to download Pages Mac and iOS from the Mac App Store.

If you are creating documents and want to work on the move with an iOS device, you can use Pages on your iPhone or iPad. It can also use Apple Pencil, which is a cool tool for adding smart annotation.

There is no version for Apple watch. But I can’t imagine how it would work on such a small screen.

Currently, you might be working with Word and Pages side by side.

But when it comes time to spend a lot of money to upgrade to the Microsoft Office 2019 version, it might be time to consider using Apple Pages only and forgetting all about the expense of Microsoft Word for Macbook laptops.

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Are there any drawbacks?

If you are a Grammarly user, there is no support for Word for Mac anyway.

But it is super easy to use the Grammarly editor. You only need to export to docx from Pages before you open your document in Grammarly.

The same goes for using ProWritingAid as it too only accepts docx files, so you can use the same method.

You might want to exchange document versions with a proofreader or editor. If they are using Word, you will need to convert or export and import your pages and word files.

If you want to use advanced features like macros, Pages is quite limited in this area.

If you can live with these few and very minor inconveniences, then yes. You can certainly write and survive quite happily with only Pages as your primary word processor.

On top of that, you will save yourself an awful lot of money by doing so.

 

Derek Haines

A Cambridge qualified CELTA English teacher and author of 18 books with a life long passion for publishing in all forms. I started my working life as a lithographer and spent over 30 years in the printing and publishing business. Originally from Australia, I moved to Switzerland 20 years ago. My days are spent teaching English, writing and wrestling with technology while enjoying my glorious view of Lake Geneva and the Alps.

16 thoughts on “Apple Pages – A Good Replacement For Microsoft Word For Mac?

  • October 14, 2019 at 1:07 am
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    I recently bought the Home and Office version of Microsoft Office because I determined that I couldn’t rely on Pages to be a Word replacement.

    I’ve been looking for a job and most employers want a resume in Word format. And I found that Pages does not display all Word docs 100% correctly. For instance, my resume had a header. When I opened the resume in Pages, the header was gone. So I decided I couldn’t rely on Pages for my job search.

    I had been paying monthly for Office 365 but finally decided that the one-time purchase for Home and Office made more sense.

    I also actually think Word is better program than Pages. However, like the author of the article, I had minimal need for Excel and PowerPoint. I wish I hadn’t had to spend so much money just to get Word. I also really dislike how I can only install the Home and Office version of Microsoft Office on one Mac. I have two Macs and I’ve purchased a lot of software over the years and I can install 99% of them on both Macs.

    I do think Pages is a good alternative to Word in some instances. But, for me, it didn’t cut it.

  • October 4, 2019 at 7:31 pm
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    The issue is not the lack of common tools, but the means to get to them. The Inspector sidebar versus the Toolbar. Inspector has three panes, really four counting Document, which means clicking around to find the tool I want. Some tools are not as easy in Pages as in Word. But yes, the tools are there and it is free.

  • September 29, 2019 at 8:02 am
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    Previously I was a Word user who explored most of the menu and felt the advantages. I used it not only for writing. After I change into Pages, I find that Pages is far below Word for many things mostly for efficiency.

  • September 11, 2019 at 7:17 pm
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    As a Mac user from 1984, I go back to the MacWrite days (remember that first word processor?), then iWork suites, and now the newest versions of the apps. And I’ve also been a Word user for just as long.
    My biggest need is compatibility with Track Changes for critiquing book submissions to writing contests I judge. Got to do some more testing, but I hope Pages can use and produce compatible Track Changes edits that a Word user can read and use.

  • July 26, 2019 at 10:45 am
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    I am an academic. Besides being free, Pages looks much more Apple-ish than Word. Much more elegant, pleasant to the eye. Not distracting. Word is clunky, with thousands of functions I will never use in my life. It slows things down considerably. A very good alternative to Word for those who want lots of footnotes and have long documents is Mellel. It has its own logic though, you have to learn from scratch so to speak.

  • June 16, 2019 at 6:40 pm
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    I have to correct you about Pages being free. It wasn’t free for a long time. I had to pay almost $10 for it due to Office not being available for the iPad. You might want to update your article to include that information.

  • June 9, 2019 at 12:02 am
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    Hi, I think my biggest frustration with Word is the whole package. I subscribe to 365 and have the 5 version copy. Thats great until for some reason you get a message from Microsft that they cannot debit your registered card (bogus as my subscription is still valid for 6 months and my card is fine for all my other Apple products) and then lock you out. Thus losing access to email history and account. I am just very tired of being dictated to as to how and when I can use my computer software by a third party. And yes, I could pay for the non-subscription version, not have any back-up and pay through my teeth (the once off price is crazy), and have my version slowly become obsolete, but I am thinking if I have to have someone electronic in my life profiling me and ripping all my personal data (read the Microsoft terms of use) they can pay for my software.

  • May 31, 2019 at 5:13 am
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    My family has an older Mac mini we all share and we’ve been using Pages on it without a hassle for years. Yes the tasks are simpler ones compared to advanced users but it does the job and is incredibly easy to use. An example is that my wife is a preacher so during the week she works on her sermon in Pages under her Mac account on the mini. Then like magic it appears on her iPad mini to preach from on Sundays. It’s so cool! She can see all her sermons and notes from iPhone, Mac or iPad anytime with Pages. As the author says it’s a free app specifically made for Apple devices and it works great.

  • May 14, 2019 at 6:06 pm
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    The biggest problem with Pages for me is referencing. I write a lot of academic papers and you have to use a third party app to get the same level of referencing support as Word.

    Also, the way Pages handles tables is a mess. And I’m stumped at why this is so difficult. It should be easy to resize columns or at least evenly distribute them, but its not intuitive. And where are drop down and where are the radio buttons?

    However, the thing I can’t forgive is the ability to copy and paste formatting. In Word this is so simple, you copy something and when you right click an area to paste you are faced with that lovely shortcut menu. Bliss. In Pages I find I’m foraging for these things and it should be so much simpler. Even the sidebar for formatting seems to be a huge waste of screen real estate.

    I have tried several times to ditch Word as my primary editing tool and opt for Pages, but I always end up having to go back. Not because I hate Word, it’s my favourite editing software, but because I am constantly working with Word documents that are shared in my office and Pages destroys the formatting.

  • February 2, 2019 at 2:56 pm
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    Thanks, actually I had another look at it and I found that the spellcheck can run as a pop-out window so that solves that problem. On word count, I guess I can get around pages’ limited options by just defining what I want to count and not defining the footnotes.
    One other very annoying problem: when I finish a paragraph I hit the period key to end the sentence, and then hit enter. The cursor, as it should, goes to the next line and indents. Then I start typing the first sentence of the new paragraph. but, strangely, the first word is not capitalized. After a period between sentences in the same paragraph, the new word is autocapitalized, but not after I hit enter and start a new paragraph. Do you have that problem too? It’s really annoying.

  • February 1, 2019 at 2:10 pm
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    Thanks for your comment, Ian.

    I always use right-click for the spell checker and it works fine for me.

    And the word count? I must admit that I always have it turned off. I don’t like the little pop-up window it is in as it is quite distracting.

  • January 31, 2019 at 11:26 pm
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    I’ve found a few annoyances with Pages.
    1. Word Count. The biggest is that Word Count only gives you the total words, including footnotes (no way to exclude that) and you can’t tell where you are in the doc–so if you have dumped a pile of notes in the file and are writing through from the top, you can’t tell how many words you’ve written–only how many total words are in the file. This is a big annoyance if you’re writing to length.
    2. Also, spellcheck is primitive on Pages. You hit command and semi-colon and then a misspelled word is highlighted. You have to right-click on it and scroll down to change. With you you don’t need to fiddle with the mouse or track pad–it gives you a pop-up window and you can hit “enter” to accept a change right off the bat. I might not be explaining this well, but it’s definitely way slower with Pages.

    These might not matter to you, but they’re annoying and slow things down.

  • January 31, 2019 at 7:34 pm
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    Hi Lorraine. Okay, here are my answers.

    1. No, you don’t need to convert all your files. Only when you want to use them. Open in Pages and then save.
    2. Yes. Just open in Pages and your files will work.
    3. I doubt Word for Mac 2011 will work with Majove, but you can try.

  • January 31, 2019 at 5:24 pm
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    I have to update my Microsoft 2011 for Mac. The reviews for Microsoft Office 2016 for Mac are pretty bad. I am considering getting Apple Pages.
    I have many Word documents (30 years of genealogy research).
    1). Would I need to convert all my Word documents to Pages?
    2). Can Word documents be switched easily to Pages documents?
    3). I have macOS Mojave. Will my Word documents written with Microsoft Word 2011 become unuseable?

  • December 20, 2018 at 2:03 pm
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    As matters stand Since October It will not cost you USD 180 to download three copies of MS Office, but USD 60, to down load to an unlimited number of devices (5 signed in at anyone time) and for that you also get 1TB of clould storage, whereas for Apple to get that storage you have to buy a 2GB package at USD 9.99 per month or a tad under USD 120 pa.

    For USD 100 a month one can buy subscriptions for 6 users who each get office on an unlimited number of devices with the concurrent sign-in in limit of 5 per user and with 1TB each.

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