Apple's free iWork update has an unexpectedly high-tech feature

Word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software isn't exactly sexy, but Apple's latest iWork suite does add an unexpectedly high-tech feature to the productivity package it gives away free. iWork is actually used on mobile devices like iPhone and iPad more than it is on Mac, and the latest upgrade makes that more straightforward too.

The feature which is arguably most impressive is Keynote's new picture-in-picture system. There's a reasonable chance that you've sat through an online presentation over the past 18 months or so, and that might have included either a live or prerecorded speaker. While dropping a video clip into a presentation is simple, embedding a live video feed has typically demanded some complicated compositing.

This new Keynote version, however, makes adding a Live Video as simple as inserting a photo or chart. Like those, you can move it, resize it, change the aspect ratio, and go full-screen. There's support for adding text and bullets on top of, or around, it, together with frames, reflections, shadows, and colors.

It can use the webcam built into your Mac, or any USB webcam. In fact, you can have multiple connected at once, switching between them for different views. If you want to share an iPhone or iPad screen, meanwhile, a single USB connection can share that display embedded into your slides.

The other big addition in Keynote is co-presenter support. Rather than one person being responsible for moving forward and backward through the slides, the main host can elect collaborators who can each have control of the presentation in turn.

As for Pages, turns out that's most frequently used on iPhone, rather than iPad or Mac. Since that can result in text in documents being unduly small – or layouts that require a lot of swiping around and pinch-zooming – there's now a new Screen View option for the iPhone version of the app.

Much like Reader View in Safari, it reformats the document in a way that's optimized for a smartphone screen. Bigger fonts, a vertical layout, and images resized to suit. The original document retains its layout, but you can also edit within Screen View. Apple uses algorithms to try to accommodate extra text you might add, without messing up that original layout, though people will probably want to check it still looks okay after they've finished editing.

Finally, the new version of Numbers gets an addition that's been requested for many years now: pivot tables. Again, perhaps not the most exciting of features, but Apple is apparently the first to offer it in an iPad/iPhone app. You can easily adjust categories and columns, add filters, and use pivot tables to generate charts.

While iWork may not be as thrilling as, say, new Final Cut Pro features, the fact is that it's far more broadly used. All new iPhone, iPad, and Mac models get a copy free, and the new versions are available in the App Store and Mac App Store today.