Microsoft Word 97 established the word processing application as a market leader. During an unprecedented period of popularity in personal computers, Microsoft Word quickly found itself in almost all businesses and many homes, establishing itself as the de facto standard for creating written documents. As part of the Office 1997 software package, users were able to use the program to create simple documents and quickly became familiar with the toolbar and menu driven user interface which remained consistent through later releases up to 2003.
The DOC file extension has become so synonymous with word processed files that it is arguably the most widely known file extension. Used for files created by Microsoft Word for DOS through to Word 2003, the format has seen a huge number of improvements but was superseded with the release of Microsoft Word 2007. Many users of Word 2007 continue to use the old DOC format to ensure compatibility with other users from different businesses.
Files with a .pages file extension are word processing documents created by Apple's "Pages" application which forms part of Apple's iWork office suite, a set of applications which run on the Max OS X and iOS operating systems, and also includes Numbers (for spreadsheets) and Keynote (for presentations). Pages is a hybrid application, first released by Apple in February 2005, that allows users to perform both word processing and page layout tasks. A direct competitor to Microsoft Word (part of Microsoft's "Office" suite) it originally aimed to take a more simplistic approach to document creation and editing than Word, stripping out many of Word's more complex features.
Pages includes over 140 Apple-supplied templates to allow users to create common documents such as posters, newsletters, certificates, reports, brochures and formal letters - iWork '09 added support for a further 40 new templates. Pages can used to create custom documents which include charts, tables, images, text boxes, shapes, equations and graphs. It incoporates most of the key features found in modern word processors, including the selection of fonts based on WYSIWYG ("what you see is what you get"), the use of headers, footers, page-breaks, footnotes, bulleted lists and support for automatically generating a table of contents. Pages also comes with the standard spelling and grammar checkers. Pages provides tools for collaboration through change-tracking and advanced commenting and feedback features.
Pages integrates well with other Apple applications - Since iWork '08 a media browser has been incorporated which allows users to drag and drop photos, movies and music from iTunes, iPhoto, Aperture and iMovie, and it is possible to link charts produced in Numbers to .pages documents so that they update when that data is changed. The version 4.2 release of Pages (in July 2012), added support for the auto-syncing of documents through iCloud, whilst the version 5.0 release (in October 2013) added online collaboration across Macs and iOS devices. The most recent major version is 5.5 released in November 2014, which was part of Apple's iWork '14 release.
The key advances in Pages are summarised below:
First version - basic features - tables, columns, headers & footers, and some formatting.
Released in iWork '06. Includes 3-D graphing, inline searching, page management, comment support and new table tools.
Released in iWork '08. Introduced a contextual format bar, change tracking, grammar checking (via "Proofreader"), support for Microsoft Office 2007 .docx files (Office Open XML) and image masking features.
Released in iWork '09. New features such as a running word count, full screen editing, equation support (via MathType), support for iWork.com, outline mode, improved support for Microsoft Office documents.
Support added for Mac OS X Lion, full screen document editing, auto saving, resume, document versioning, better compatibility with Microsoft Office.
Support added for Mac OS X Mountain Lion, document syncing via iCloud, retina display support, voice supoprt via Dictation.
iWork iOS 1.7 apps supported.
Allows online collaboration for both Macs and iOS devices, but removed a number of more advanced features.
Improved language support for Arabic and Hebrew, and better AppleScript support.
Support for iCloud Drive, improved compatibility with Microsoft Word 2013 and faster performance.
Official file format specifications for iWork Pages files are not published by Apple but there have been attempts by somedevelopers to reverse engineer them.
A .pages file is actually a compressed ZIP file comprised of a number of other different files combined that together make up a .pages file.
The most recent version of Pages saves files with an "Index" directory containing Apple's proprietary IWA file format, a "Metadata" directory with .plist files, a "Data" directory with any image assets (e.g. backgrounds) and one or more jpg files for allowing quick previews.
Similar to Microsoft products, the .pages file type suffers from a lack of compatibility with other leading Word processor programs.