Reader Request: Using EndNote with Pages 08

We at the compound were amazed when a comment popped into our moderation queue with an actual question, and not telling me how I can make my male member larger. So, we have our first Reader Request: How to use Endnote with Pages 08. I originally posted this in the Pages discussion forum on Apple’s website. I cleaned it up and added some screenshots for clarity as well as incorporated some comments by other posters.

Continue reading “Reader Request: Using EndNote with Pages 08”

Thinking of going web-based for writing

I recently got an iPhone which starts to eliminate the need for me to carry around a laptop, but more on that later. I love my Macbook and OS X in general, but lugging seven pounds of laptop around with me for little gain is more pain than it’s worth. I’ve been living a daydream of writing on the train for several years, but it’s rarely come to fruition. There’s two main reasons for this: I tend to fall asleep on the train ride in more often than not, and the train ride home is often too crowded to break out the laptop.

So, I’ve been hauling around this dead weight for the times I feel like writing at lunch. I’m starting to think that web-based tools will work just as well for most of the stuff I’m working. The advantages are pretty obvious: At work and home, I’m connected to the Internet so therefore I have access to my stuff. The MBTA is in the process of rolling out WiFi onto the trains–I guess they figure since the trains are always late, maybe we can get some work done on them–so once that happens, if the stars align and I feel like writing I can still get to my docs.

The downsides are also pretty obvious, in that I need to be connected to the Internet. I’m not sure how time-sensitive the stuff I’ll be working on is, though. Google Docs is pretty good but it lacks proper formatting. Anything for school, where I’m adhering to academic standards will need to be done in Word.

I’m going to be giving ScriptFrenzy a try — the NaNoWriMo of Scripts, where you have a month to do 100 pages. Scripped.com has a nice little on-line script tool, but I’m a little suspect of its apparent PDF only export.

I’ll let you know how I make out.

OS X 10.5.2 comes out on the negative side for me

Bugs/Issues I had with OS X 10.5

Mail: Often my IMAP mailbox shows as empty. Also, Smart Mailboxes often show duplicate entries for my inbox. One with “Inbox-writersmark” as the source; one with just “Inbox”

Automator: Unable to accept text inputs when a workflow is run as a Finder action. The best example is I have an action to rename photos from DSCxxxx to boston-august-XXX. This is a known bug.

System Preferences: My Expose shortcuts get blanked, forcing me to re-enter the F9, F10, F11, and F12 shortcuts.

When you get down to it, those are the three major bugs/issues I have with Leopard. None of them are that bad and I can work around them.

OS X 10.5.2 comes along, and it’s supposed to be the mother of all patches. So, let’s see how I faired.

Mail Bugs fixed: Zero. Mailbox behavior is the same.
Automator bugs fixed: One. Text input when run as a finder action works fine.
System Preferences Bugs fixed: 0/1
New Bugs introduced: Macbook drops Wireless connection frequently when on battery. Now, I didn’t have this problem before, but a lot of people did. Now, I’ve got it.

So, here’s my scorecard on 10.5.2.

Existing issues fixed: 1/4.
New issues introduced: 1

Now, math wise it’s a wash–one got fixed, one got added. Except it’s hard to work around the wifi drops when on battery, except to always make sure I’m near a power source when I’m on battery.

Microsoft Releases Office 2008 Prices: Panic and Confusion Engulfs World

Yesterday Microsoft announced the pricing for Office 2008, due out January 15th. The prices are as follows:

$150 gets you the Home and Student Package which at least gives you Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It *may* come with Entourage but it will not allow you to connect to an Exchange server.

$400 gets you the Home and Student Package plus the ability to connect to an Exchange server in a SKU called Office 2008 Professional.

$500 gets you all of the above plus some fancy media organizing package no one knows jack shit about right now. My feeling is this will come in handy for people who make media-heavy presentations. Like Steve Jobs.

Naturally, this got the Internets going on Microsoft releasing too many confusing SKUs when one will do. I don’t see that in this case. The Home edition is for people who need more out of a suite than iWork provides. For roughly double the price you get about three times the features. Yes, yes, I know some of you are perfectly happy with Text Edit. $150 for a package that gives you close-enough-for-government-work-guaranteed compatibility with Office users is a good deal.

The $400 version is really a $250 tax on being a corporation and needing to connect to an Exchange server. I find this reasonable, especially since volume pricing drives the price down quite a bit anyway. What’s that, you say? The poor college kid that needs to connect to the campus Exchange server has to shell out all that extra cash? Um, no. You see the “real” student price for Office 2004 is actually less than the Apple Education price for iWork. Through my University I can get Office 2004 Student for $68, and the Pro version for $80. Assuming those prices are inline with the 2008 pricing, college students can get Office 2008 Professional for about $80.

While I’ve switched a lot of my general word usage to Pages, I’ll be getting this day one. I’ll be damn glad I can get the student price on it though. Do I *look* like I’m crazy enough to spend $400 just so I can connect to the Exchange server at work?

Pages 08 and Word Compatibility: First Look

One of the oft-asked questions is if Pages 08 is a true Word replacement. The answer is not as obvious as you might think.

It is obvious if you work in a heavy MS Office environment where you exchange files with Word users on a daily basis. At the least, the need to export every Pages document to a .doc file is a hassle and leaves you with two copies: one in .pages format and one in .doc format. At the worse you end up dealing with inevitable file compatibility issues. In that case, sticking with Word is your only real choice.

Pages has gotten much better at reading Word files. During my test run I opened files from three document templates I use often: the manual style I use at my day job; the manual style I’m using for my tech writing class; and the manual style I’m using for a research paper. Here’s how they all fared.

Work File: This one is the most complicated file. There are graphics in the headers and footers, a Table of Contents, tables, and embedded Visio files–pretty much the worse case scenario. Pages 06 took one look at this file, cried for its mommy, and botched the job entirely. Pages 08 did much better. The header graphics came in fine but the footer graphics got cut off. The Visio drawings and the tables looked OK with some minor padding issues on the tables. The TOC didn’t come in well at all–it was too bold, too big and badly formatted. Verdict: Not bad. Most of the issues are minor. I wouldn’t want someone opening the file to collaborate with it, but just for reference reading none of the issues get in the way.

Tech Writing File: This was the second-most complicated file. It has a TOC, odd/even page numbering (where the page number is always on the “outside” of a page as this format is for a double-sided printed manual), call out boxes in the left-hand margin, and section breaks. Everything came in OK except for the page numbering format–that it insisted on putting on the right-hand side of the page. The section breaks, TOC and call out boxes all looked correct. Verdict: If the page numbering placement isn’t a deal-breaker, it came in perfect. I’d feel comfortable working on this in a collaborative environment.

The MLA-formatted Research Paper: Fairly basic document. Just double-spaced all the way through with some quotes indented. File came in perfect. Verdict: Simple file gave no problems. Zero issues in a collaborative environment. Pages also ships with a nice research paper template.

There was one common issue with all Word conversions: all styles were lost during the conversion. The text still looked right, but there were no corresponding Pages styles created.

Pages 08 does use Word-compatible commenting and track changes; it reads and writes them to Word with no problems. If you have occasional need to collaborate or exchange files with a Word user then Pages is a good low-cost solution, but I’d love for the ability to save as a Word compatible file, and save an opened Word file in its native format without needing to re-export the file. If Word compatibility is a daily issue you’ll want to stick with Word. In the past I recommended even college students get Word for ease of exchange. Now I’d recommend Pages for college students. It is possible to use biblio programs like EndNote with Pages, but you’ll need to jump through some formatting hoops–you can site references using the Services menu, but you’ll need to export the file as an RTF and run it through EndNote to do the formatting. I’ll cover how exactly to do this in another post. It’s also worth noting Pages opens files created in Office 2007 on the PC.

I’m undecided if I’m going to buy it. There’s no way I can fully escape Word’s shadow, but having a quick word processor I can load up and use when I don’t need the full weight of Word has value. There’s also no guarantee Word 2008 is going to open any faster than Word 04.

Edit:
I saw a report on the Apple discussion forums about Word files opened in Pages growing in length. This is something I can confirm. The research paper I opened in Pages was seven pages long in Word and is eight pages long in Pages. It looks like it added about 3-4″ of text length somehow. After doing some side-by-each testing, it looks like it’s because Pages line spacing is a point or so off from Word’s, causing a subtle creep in line spacing. This may also be an issue for folks.

Final PocketMac update

PocketMac and I have agreed to start seeing other people.

While I haven’t uninstalled it yet, I’ve been using MissingSync and so far it’s been working ok. I haven’t actually tried tasks yet; while that was my beef with PocketMac, I’m finding ListPro lets me categorize them a little easier. That combined with an intense dislike for how iCal handles tasks hasn’t made task syncing a big issue.

Fair warning, though, I’ve only synced once so all bets are off on repeated syncs.

Yet another PocketMac Update

Oddly, PocketMac is the current leader on search hits for the site so I thought I’d give an update for anyone following along.

I’ve half given up.

It’s worth mentioning that PocketMac’s support has been very helpful; while they haven’t been quick, they’ve given me some good stuff to try. The last round was detailed instructions on how to uninstall PocketMac and reinstall it, which I did. That actually felt like it made things worse: some of the key components got buried into \library\pocketmac instead of \applications\pocketmac and I had a hell of a time getting it discover the PocketPC.

One of he symptoms I noticed before is the device name of the PocketPC would sometimes change in PocketMac (usually it would see the Axim as PocketPCPocketPCDellAximX54Vx). However, sometimes on connect it would see it as PocketPCPocketPCDellAximX51. If it saw it as a different device name, I was guaranteed to get duplicate tasks on sync. After the re-install I got duplicate tasks on just about every sync.

Since Calendar and Address Book info isn’t duplicating, which is the main reason I got the program, I’ve just started using ListPro for all my task management. It’s not quite as clean as doing it natively, but I can break the tasks down a little better so it’s a wash.

Thoughts on the Jobsnote

After reading the feeds to last year’s Jobsnote I was disappointed. While I could see a use for Spaces and the new Dashcode, the only new feature I really was interested in was Time Machine. While Leopard was a must-get for me, it was more because eventually apps I use would be Leopard only, so there’s no way to put off the upgrade.

This years left me really looking forward to its release. Now, I’m more interested in features that’ll make me more productive, so the 3d dock, transparent menu bar and the like do little for me. But the new Finder–who, boyo, do I want that now. Will they take a check?

I’ve lost track of the times I need to see the revision date/number on a document, or just need a live preview without waiting for Word, Photoshop, Preview, Reader to load and have it be in a separate window. The Cover Flow feature, which basically brings the iTunes interface to the Finder, allows you to scroll through some decent-sized previews of files. I’m leery to use the word “thumbnail” since it’s larger than that. But the best feature is you can flip through the pages of a document this way. Need to see if that PDF is the one with the index, or not? Just flip through it.

Will Apple take a check? October can’t come soon enough.

Update to the PocketMac Situation

Well, things got off promising. PocketMac’s support team got back to me with some tools to run to clean out sync services and to delete two files from the PocketPC.

Unfortunately, cleaning out sync services didn’t work, and the two files were nowhere to be found on the PocketPC.

I’ve been escalated to the next level with no word in a week. I’ve requested if this is something that can’t be sorted out for a refund and license revocation.