How to share files between Office and iWork

Office suites have come a long way in terms of compatibility from five and 10 years ago. Previously a document in one office suite would rarely open properly in a competitors office application, or if you could it was gobbledygook and unreadable. Even different versions of Microsoft Office couldn't talk to one another properly.

Slowly this has changed and today file compatibility is possible between applications such as Office, iWork, Open Office and even online suites from Google and Zoho to name a few. However, the process doesn't mean there isn't a few snags. In this article we'll focus on iWork 08 and Office 2007 (Windows) and Office 2008 (Mac) compatibility but you can use some of these same tips and apply them to your other favourite office suite.

PDF | Pages and Word| Numbers and Excel| PowerPoint and Keynote


In the left corner we have iWork, Apple's office suite of applications that includes a word processor called Pages, a spreadsheet application called Numbers, and a presentation piece of software called Keynote. In the right corner is the heavyweight beast of office suites from Microsoft with Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Unfortunately 100 per cent guarantees can't be given that documents are going to look exactly the same while sharing between the two applications. If your regular business document exchanges need to be precise then this will become a hassle and you may want to consider standardising on either iWork, Microsoft Office, or one of the other office suites available.

In saying that, you may not even have a choice to use iWork or even Office for Mac. The Apple platform does not currently support functionalities such as VBA macros natively, Pivot Tables, nor some custom back-end office applications built in Visual Basic. In these cases you'll have limited options but to use a Windows version of Office. If you're a power user you may want to try and recreate macros in iWork using AppleScript but it's a fidgety process and there's no current way to automate or translate them other than by hand.

While there are these productivity land mines to be aware of, it doesn't mean you can't share your documents effectively. Here's how:

When in doubt, use PDF
Whenever you're sharing a document, and it doesn't need to be changed by the recipient then the best way to share your files is turning them into a PDF. This is a breeze in both iWork and Microsoft Office and is the best way to ensure files will be compatible on just about any computer.

To PDF a document in iWork is similar in Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. Click on File -> Export -> PDF. Each application has different export options but all have PDF.

iWork and Office

To PDF a document in a Microsoft Office for Mac application such as Word, PowerPoint, or Excel simply click on File -> Save As -> Choose PDF from the drop down options. The Windows version isn't as friendly, and will require either Adobe Acrobat, or something like doPDF installed, both of which will install a virtual printer. You can then create the PDF by going to File -> Print and selecting the Acrobat or equivalent printer, and the file will be exported.

The problem with PDF documents is that while they can standardise the look and feel of a document it lacks the ability to collaborate and change documents.

File compatibilities
If you are going to share and collaborate using iWork 08 and Microsoft Office 2007 (Windows) or Mac Office 08 then its important to know how the two programs work together. When importing default Microsoft Office 2007 and Mac Office 08 files (open XML file formats with extensions such as .pptx, docx, and .xlsx) then iWork will import the files and report any incompatibilities automatically. However, iWork cannot save or export documents back into this Open XML format, rather it can only export back into previous Office formats such as .doc, .ppt, and .xls.

By default Microsoft Office cannot read iWork 08 files, you'll need to export them into a .doc, .ppt, and .xls file first before attempting to share these documents. This can be done in Pages, Numbers, and Keynote by clicking File -> Export -> and select either Word, PowerPoint, or Excel respectively.



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