iLife & iWork '09

Well, I bit and purchased iLife ’08. So far, I’m fairly impressed. I haven’t done much with the video editing features in iLife, so iMovie & iDVD are a bit of a red herring. The same is true of GarageBand. So that leaves me with iPhoto & iWeb. iPhoto is a nice improvement - it doesn’t ‘break’ anything, and just adds organizational features in Apple’s typical elegance. iWeb is... well, I’m trying that one out now. I did have to visit the Apple forums to find out how to get iWeb working properly. But it does have image handling features that I’m already liking (like being able to more easily scale the above image.

I could publish to DreamHost fine, but .Mac wasn’t working. Fortunately, it was just a .plist that needed to be removed, and the problem was solved. Others don’t appear to have been so lucky, but I wonder how much of it is them having a more complicated website, and how much is user error.

iWork is a worthy upgrade. I was honestly thinking of getting Office 2008 when it comes out; now I’m not even considering it. Both Pages & Keynote have features I thought were ‘missing’ to begin with (mostly formatting). Numbers is also slick - I don’t get into the really deep spreadsheet functions; I had enough of some of the solvers when I was helping a cousin with some decision analysis homework last year. So I don’t think I’ll run into things I’d miss in Numbers. One thing I wish Apple would support is ODF (OpenDocument - the ISO standard electronic document format). They went to a great deal of pain to get OpenXML working, and ODF is a much less complex standard.

I was also really impressed with something in OS X that I just hadn’t seen before. It’s a bit esoteric, though; not many people care about a ligatures is in typography, and fewer really know what they are. But, for some reason, typography interests me to some extent. Ligatures are used when you get characters that are ‘smooshed’ together -- common examples are ‘fi’ and ‘fl’. Coming from a Linux background, the ‘gold standard’ for me was LaTeX. The word processors I’ve used in the past didn’t seem to care about ligatures. However, it’s something that seems to actually matter on the Mac.

Don’t get me wrong; LaTeX produces professional results, and I like its output. It’s great to let the computer worry about how to lay out the page. And there’s not a whole lot that prints mathematical formulas nicer than (La)TeX - but that shouldn’t be a surprise since Donald Knuth wrote TeX because he wasn’t satisfied with a math book. A fair number of my textbooks in college were straight TeX printouts.

But options are always great. That, and I’ve never really learned TeX. I admit it, I’m a wuss and use LyX, which is a GUI for TeX & LaTeX. But LyX has the advantages of most GUIs: it’s “discoverable” -- you can find what you’re looking for without searching through the manual.