Making the Grade: iWork is an essential tool for schools without Microsoft Office

Numbers on macOS

iWork has long been thought of as the third tier of productivity suites on macOS and iOS compared to G Suite and Microsoft 365, but it combines free software with a robust local application that, when used along with side G Suite for collaboration needs, creates a vast ecosystem of tools in K–12. What are the reasons to use iWork in K-12?

About Making The Grade: Every Saturday, Bradley Chambers publishes a new article about Apple in education. He has been managing Apple devices in an education environment since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing 100s of Macs and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple’s products work at scale, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for students.

When I was planning through a new lease with Apple earlier this year, I took the time to think through what applications we install locally on our school-owned Macs. We’ve been a G Suite customer since 2010, and we heavily rely on Google Drive for collaboration. We had previously licensed each machine with a non-subscription version of Office, but spending that amount of money again or moving to a subscription really didn’t seem like a wise use of resources.

Default apps

One key benefit to having iWork in K-12 installed is that it can open .pptx, .docx, and .xlsx files that users download. Without iWork, the Preview app becomes the only app on the Mac that can open these files. Alternatively, users can upload Microsoft Office docs to G Suite and edit them. Having iWork on the Mac has made training our staff much more comfortable with our new strategy of not loading Office. Instead of having to work through all the steps to upload files to G Suite, all I had to was that iWork could open Office documents that are emailed to you or download from a website like Teachers Pay Teachers. I always encourage our staff to use G Suite by default for new documents, though.

Easy to use spreadsheet tool

Numbers on macOS

I would argue Numbers is one of the easiest-to-learn spreadsheet tools on the market. When you first launch it, there are multiple template options to pick from to start. If you want to create a class schedule for the month, Numbers has a prebuilt template for that project. Do you want to keep a simple attendance sheet on paper? Numbers has a template for that. Teachers won’t have to become spreadsheet experts to get a lot of use out of Numbers.

Publisher Alternative for Mac

One of the most underrated aspects of Pages on iOS and macOS is its flexibility for page layout. Word is much more rigged with placing images, text blocks, etc. With Pages, teachers can create rich material using a wealth of multimedia tools and drag and drop it exactly where they want to use it. It reminds me a lot of how Microsoft Publisher functioned, and it was used heavily by teachers to create InDesign style documents to use in their classroom and parent materials.

iCloud Sharing

For schools that are using Managed Apple IDs, iCloud File sharing provides collaboration and sharing options that work very well with Apple’s hardware. If you aren’t using G Suite, iCloud’s folder sharing options will be an easy way to keep fellow teachers updated with essential files and documents. iCloud file and folder sharing is an add on for iWork in K-12, but it’s a free add on that is enabled with managed Apple IDs.

Wrap up on iWork in K–12

Considering iWork is free, there is no reason not to use it in the classroom. It’s easy to use, works great on all of Apple’s hardware, and can scale up to power user needs. I didn’t even mention Keynote during this article, but it’s also a fantastic tool for making interactive presentations.

With our decision to get rid of Microsoft Office on all our devices, iWork has become a daily tool for our teachers to transition existing documents until Google Drive. It allows them to keep accessing all of their existing files natively on macOS. iWork in K-12 is a robust suite of tools that offers benefits even for G Suite customers

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