∞ Inside Apple's iWork.com update

If you have iWork ’09 and you have any need to collaborate with people, you should be using iWork.com. Apple’s recently sweetened the pot with some enhancements that make it safer and easier to use than ever.

iWork.com is an online service currently in public beta that dovetails with iWork, Apple’s suite of page layout/word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software it sells for $79. Available for free with 1GB of online storage capacity, iWork.com lets you share files you create in iWork with Mac and PC users alike — they access Web-based versions of your documents.

iWork ’09 was updated earlier this week with numerous enhancements to each of the individual applications, along with changes to the iWork.com beta service itself. New to the service is fully automatic 128-bit Secure Socket Layer (SSL)-based encryption and document password protection.

The security improvements alone make iWork.com beta’s update worthwhile; if you’re transmitting any information that’s confidential, encryption and password protection should be mandatory.

Other users of your iWork.com shared documents can annotate your file with their own notes — requests for corrections, say, or suggestions for improvements, or maybe just a “looks good, send it to the printer” note. Now you can be notified of those changes right away.

Another key improvement involves your ability to invite other users to check out your documents. Previously that notification was handled locally; iWork ’09 would pass off a message to Apple’s own Mail application, which would then send an invite. Not everyone uses Mail, however, so iWork.com now sends the message directly instead of through Mail.