Several clues surfacing in recent days have hinted that Apple’s iWork and iLife suites may be undergoing substantial redevelopment.

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Late last week, Apple Bitch noticed two new job listings for senior software engineers for the company’s iLife team, with the descriptions emphasizing a desire to “re-imagine how user interfaces should be built and work”. MacNN followed up with its own reporting pointing to a number of other job postings for both the iLife and iWork teams suggesting that Apple is making significant additions to its teams.

Apple has recently added several job postings that explicitly reference the iLife team or the suite itself, including requests for an engineer in the iLife Frameworks QA department; a QA engineer to help test new features in iPhoto (that requires a “passion” for digital photography); a Senior User Interface Designer for iWork, and two Senior Software Engineer positions that explicitly reference working on the user interface of iLife.

Apple’s iWork productivity suite, which includes Pages, Numbers and Keynote, last received minor updates in December, while the last major update came over four years ago. iLife represents Apple’s consumer apps (iPhoto, GarageBand and iMovie) and saw its last major update in October 2010.

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Apple has also been active in the area of document management and the cloud, acquiring 18 patents addressing information management from Maya-Systems.

a file sorting system that can reorganize according to time, category, or a common theme — such as a work project — and sync with cloud servers and other users

New senior hires and patent acquisition may point to a major redevelopment of the software, but as new hires are typically done early in the development cycle, it may be some time before the fruits of such work are released to the public.

It is also likely that the new versions of iLife and iWork would lose the skeuomorphisms – emulation of real-life objects and materials like desk calendars, leather and wood. There have long been tensions within Apple over this approach, but with skeuomorphism proponent Scott Forstall being forced out of Apple and Jonathan Ive having now assumed responsibility for Human Interface aspects of software as well as hardware design, a new design direction for Apple’s software may be in progress.

Skeuomorphism or not, visual variety is useful: shape, texture and color cues that tell you instantly where you are and what you’re doing, and trigger your habits for that particular app. Much more productive and easier to use than having everything look alike, as pleasingly minimalist as that can be on an artistic level. I’m happy to have GarageBand feel unique in one way and Calendar feel unique in another. Same reason the folders of papers in my cabinet are color-coded!

(Example: OS X’s Finder sidebar icon like Home and Desktop that used to have colored sidebar icons. Now they’re all the same blue-gray and you’ve lost a visual cue that made them quicker to find and click. Compare to the Go menu which still has the colors. “Like” them or not, those colors were useful!)

I don’t think skeuomorphism is a problem… bad or useless skeuomorphism is! But so is bad or useless interface design of any kind. (Like relying on unique swipe commands with no visual cue to remind you how this app works.)

And one long-time classic skeuomorphic element makes good sense even with minimalist design: making buttons stand forward. In print, nothing is clickable and flat 2D design is great. On a device, some things are tappable/clickable/draggable–exactly like real-world controls–and giving them a little depth is a logical and useful convention. (Sorry, Windows Metro: I like the look and I’d hang it on my wall, but it has usability issues.)

So here’s hoping for minimalist UIs… with clean, simple skeuomorphic elements where they’re useful.

About time!
At least 64-bit please.
Let’s hope this overhaul means bigger buttons and missing features!

On a serious note, I bloody love those icons for some reason.

Just sort out iPhoto and most people would be happy.
iWork still can’t compete with Word and Excel for anything longer than a few pages of pretty text and pictures. It seriously lacks any advanced features and for novices, the ‘inspector’ seems ancient compared with Microsoft’s content aware ribbons.

As for iPhoto, it’s crazy that it can’t even work seamlessly with the iPhoto app on the iPad, although that point has been made plenty of times before.

About. God. Damn. Time.
iweb??!!?!?!? ok, probably not, but i can wish cant i? :(

It’s very much over due. Almost too late. iWork has been on the brink of abandonware and while iLife has received a little more love, it’s still barely make use of iCloud and the potentials with it.

While iLife could never be “too late” to the game, I was certainly hoping Apple would’ve had iWork take at least 50% of Microsoft’s Office business by now. Apple has had a productivity suite for many years and now that they have the iDevices to push their software into so many hands I thought iWork would’ve taken off by now. They just haven’t put forth much effort into iWork. Very sad. Not that it really matters but I never cared for the name.

While iLife could never be “too late” to the game, I was certainly hoping Apple would’ve had iWork take at least 50% of Microsoft’s Office business by now. Apple has had a productivity suite for many years and now that they have the iDevices to push their software into so many hands I thought iWork would’ve taken off by now. They just haven’t put forth much effort into iWork.

My friends working in Cupertino, seems Apple isn’t hiring enough engineers and designers as their company and base grows. Steve always kept a small team for communication between departments, and everyone knows Jobs shifted OS X engineers off 10.5 Leopard to iOS in 2007, delaying its release (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mac_OS_X_Leopard).

Hire more engineers Apple, stop shifting them between departments. You have the money, use it.