Apple Pages Versus Word: Which is Best?

Pages versus WordWhen we look at Pages versus Word, it really is the age old competition between Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple and Bill Gates and Paul Allen of Microsoft. The original version of Word was actually developed by Simonyi and Brodie, who worked first on Xerox Bravo, which was the very first “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) software for word processing.

Apple Pages is just one component of Apple’s iWork software suite. It’s the main word processor for Mac and though it’s quite popular with many Mac users, it never really gained a foothold in the business world, quite possibly because there were just so many people tied to Microsoft Word.

MS Word, currently available for just over $100+ (cheapest price)

Apple Pages (through iWork) currently available for $30 to $40 (cheapest price)

Pages Versus Word: Interface

There’s no getting around the fact that if you are used to using Microsoft Office for Windows, you will be more familiar with the blue and white MS Word interface on your Mac. Word on the iPad and on the desktop lays out functions clearly in tabs across the top of the screen: File, Layout, Review, etc.)

The interface for Apple Pages is less cluttered across the top but it’s an unfamiliar orange and white. The functions are split between the top and the bottom of the screen and the menu uses symbols, such as a wrench and paintbrush, as opposed to words. Deciphering what the symbols stand for, and remembering that when you need to perform a task, just takes a little more effort to learn.

Power Word users may be disappointed with the simplicity of Pages. Some reviewers described Pages as a watered down version of Word. I believe it all depends on the type of documents you are creating. There are a ton of MS Word users who never scratch the surface of what MS Word is actually capable of when it comes to documents. It’s my belief that those users will be content with Pages.

Pages vs Word: Document Sharing and Collaboration

One of the main reasons to use a word processor in the first place is to be able to share thoughts, ideas, and other written documents with other users. Because it seems MS Word still dominants the marketplace when it comes to word processing, this means being able to view, edit, and share files with PC users and other Mac users is crucial.

You’ll find that neither program does well as far as compatibility when opening and editing files created in the other program. If you are a Pages user who collaborates with MS Word users, you will want to use MS Word for iPad in order to edit and return documents in Word to others. You can make use of your iCloud to sync Pages files across all your devices but Word won’t do this.

Once you’ve mastered the learning curve of Apple Pages, however, you’ll find it is superior in function to MS Word. Pages offers four different formats to save your file including as a Pages or Word file, a PDF document, or as an ePub file. Word offers multiple formats for saving as well.

You may still find MS Word users who aren’t keen to work with your Pages document but if they are willing it can be done. Pages also enables you to simply email a link to the document on your iCloud so collaborators can open, view, and edit the document right there, even if they don’t have Pages or iCloud themselves.

Pages vs Word: Pricing Structure

MS Word does offer a version for the iOS but only with a yearly subscription. There is a free version of Word with limited features that you can use which is enough if you only use it for word processing and not for document formatting and layout. You do have to register and set up an account with Microsoft to use their free version and their paid version will cost you around $8-$10 monthly.

Budget-savvy users who want to use that $95-$120 a year on something else will want to seriously consider Apple Pages. The functionality of Pages is great and you can purchase just Pages via a Mac App store for about $20.00. If you want the whole iWorks suite, the cost will run between $60-$80, but that’s a one-time fee. Purchasing Microsoft Office suite for Mac will run around $220 upfront, not to mention renewal fees and licensing fees for multiple devices.

So when it comes to making a choice between MS Word and Apple Pages, it seems that Pages will win for most Mac fans, but don’t make a decision based on cost alone. Long-time MS Word users may have difficulty switching over because they are comfortable, they don’t want to learn something new, they are afraid, or they feel “everyone” is using Word. None of these are valid reasons to dismiss Apple Pages.

Consider the amount of document sharing and collaboration that you need to do with other non-Mac or non-Pages users. If you use your word processor infrequently or only for personal use, you may be perfectly content with Pages. Before you say goodbye forever to MS Word though, make sure to talk to other Pages users and test drive Pages yourself to make sure it’s going to work for all your projects.

Pages Versus Word: Extras

To learn more about the best writing software and to discover the essential programs that all writers should have, read my article on the Writer’s Toolkit. Freelance With Us is also packed with reviews of other word processing programs, including everything from LibreOffice, OpenOffice and more. Just click onto our article section, or run a search.

If your goal is to make it as a freelancer and you’re still struggling to get over those initial hurdles, checkout The Online Writer’s Companion from our resident writer PJ Aitken (who is actually a big fan of the Pages software). This book details everything that you need to know to make it as a freelancer, everything you need to replicate Aitken’s own success and to make a six-figure salary in your first year.


  • Matt says:

    A few things extra to think about:

    1. Document layout and design features
    2. Document structure management
    3. Rich-text element (like tables & images) styling

    I started my life as a technical writer on Word, because Pages years ago just wasn’t up to snuff. I replaced my home MacBook a few years ago and didn’t buy a new license for Word, and I’ve been ok with Pages as a simple word processor. But I’ve been recently writing slightly larger documents again that require some structure, and I’ve become really quite frustrated with Pages.

    Tables are difficult to build. Most things I copy and paste in will never take applied styles correctly. It looks nice, but I’m actually about to finally buy a license for Word again because I just can’t take what’s missing anymore.

  • Cyndy says:

    Great article! Considering switching over to pages from using MS word (forever) however will I be able to edit my word docs once I switch to pages?

    • alex says:

      Yes, Pages can open .doc or .docx files. however, I can’t make any promises that you will get the exact formating you had in word. sometimes it’s a bit off.

  • Kweku Addy says:

    Concise and very informative! Heap thanks, FWU! Appreciate.

Leave a Reply to Matt Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *