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iWork '09 Pages .doc Support

In my experience Pages is a much better alternative to Word on OS X; offering better integration, a more intuitive interface, and it just seems to work a whole lot better. One of the major drawbacks, however is the lack of compatibility with .doc & .docx files from Word.

By default Pages allows for you to open word documents, "save as"/export word documents, but crucially you can't save an open document - it must be exported or saved as a copy. This means that if you open up a document, make some changes, you can't simply hit save and expect it to happen.

After a bit of digging in the "Info.plist" file within Pages.app I discovered that alongside the list of supported document types there was a key named "Role" that could be defined as either "Editor" or "Viewer". For document types natively supported (.pages & templates) this was set to Editor, and Viewer for the rest.

It turns out that changing the Role values from "Viewer" to "Editor" allows (fairly good) native handling of word documents, step-by-step instructions of how to do this are below. There are some slight drawbacks though. Compatibility isn't 100%, so the fancy charts you make in Pages won't render correctly when you open up in Word, and the same goes to say for many of the features unique to Pages. Despite this, if it's just simple text documents that you're working with then this works a treat.

How It's Done

You will need a means of editing ".plist" files. If you know XML then a text editor will do, otherwise Xcode works, or a free trial of PlistEdit Pro.

  1. First off, make sure Pages is installed. Locate it within Finder, right click (control-click) and then select "Show Package Contents". This will open up a new Finder window with the app bundle.
  2. Now you need to grant yourself write access to the Info.plist, locate the file (within the Contents folder), right click and select "Get Info".
  3. In the new Info window click the padlock on the bottom right, enter your account password, and then change the drop-down menu next to the "everyone" group to "Read & Write", click the padlock again to lock the permissions and close the window.
  4. Now open up the Info.plist file, if you're using Xcode's Plist Editor you will see a window like that shown below. Expand the "Document Types" tree, and you'll see a list of (~14) items. Screenshot of Pages.app Info.plist File
  5. You need to concentrate on each item relevant to "Microsoft Word", in this case 8-11 inclusive. For each one expand the tree, and change the "Role" value from "Viewer" to "Editor". Once done save and close.
  6. For completeness now follow steps 2-3 again, but this time change the "everyone" group permission from "Read & Write" to "Read Only".
  7. Thats it, job done! You should notice now when you click save on a word document rather than asking to export Pages simply saves it in the background.

TL;DR You need to change the Info.plist file of Pages.app so that the Role of each of the MS Word Document Type is "Editor" not Viewer".

Even Easier Replace the Info.plist file in Pages.app with this one, make sure to check file permissions (you probably won't be able to write by default).

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Disclaimer

  1. As I said above, compatibility isn't 100%, so if you're working on something important make sure that you have a backup, or just work with the native (.pages) file type.
  2. I seem to have more success with old-style ".doc" files than newer ".docx" versions, presumably because this is an older standard that has better support baked in.
  3. The fact that this functionality exists suggests that Apple meant for it to be there, but obviously there is a reason it isn't enabled. Maybe the reasons are political - they just don't like .doc files, but more than likely its due to compatibility, so use with caution!
  4. From time to time I have encountered errors relating to Pages saying that a file could not be saved, though usually this is with more complex documents - so make sure you check before making a large amount of changes!
  5. As far as I know the same method doesn't work for Numbers/Keynote, internally they seem to handle things differently - you'll notice that even the export as Excel/PowerPoint doesn't work well. But, you never know, it might just work.

This was originally posted on my (old, now defunct) blog back in January 2009, I've updated it here to try and make it more concise and to ensure compatibility.

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