Pages '09 is mostly a collection of improvements to existing features, rather than big changes. Many of these improvements are cosmetic.
As with the other iWork '09 programs, there's the updated Template Chooser when the program launches, which gives you mouseable thumbnail previews of the themes, of which there are an additional 40 in Pages.
The default Toolbar has been updated, with the new Outline and Full Screen modes getting buttons and iWork.com replacing Track Changes in Pages' affections – although the icon is still there in the toolbar customisation sheet.
The iWork '09 Share menu also appears in Pages and acquires the Send to iWeb and Export options previously available under File, as well as the Send via Mail option for emailing Pages, Word or PDF versions of your document.
Anyone worried about whether the dreaded .docx is supported can rest easy since Office 2007/8 formats are supported throughout iWork '09.
Top of proper new features though is Full Screen view, which makes Pages fill the entire screen while losing the Desktop, Dock, menubar and any palettes you might have open, leaving just your document, a page number indicator, a word count and a pop-up sidebar for page navigation. This is to remove distractions when you're trying to compose your thoughts.
While Word doesn't really have anything like this, WriteRoom, for example, does and it does it better with more customisation. We also found that when switching back to normal view, trying to persuade Pages documents' not to continue to block out other programs was almost impossible without hiding the whole program.
A detailed outline
Outline mode lets you create a detailed outline view of your document, with multiple levels of topics and subtopics. While Word has had that since as far back as Word 4.0, Pages lets you drag and drop topics to reorganise them, while the information associated with each topic and sub-topic will follow it around. It also includes inline images and movies in the outline view.
Pages' mail-merge facility has also been updated to be able to draw on tables in Numbers documents, something that's considerably easier than with Word 2008. For more advanced users, there's integration with both EndNote X2 and MathType 6.
EndNote lets you create and edit bibliographic references while MathType lets you generate equations far more sophisticated than those produced by OS X's Grapher application. Both tools (which have to be purchased separately) offer greater capabilities than those available in Word, although both come with native integration with Word (and other Office apps).
On balance, for the ordinary user, Pages '09 doesn't really have much that Pages '08 didn't. It's easier to use than Word, but it doesn't have its power. Of course, with Word often being accused of feature bloat, that might be a good thing as far as many people are concerned, and it also doesn't come with Word's price tag.
Nevertheless, Pages, while good enough for many people, just isn't going to be giving Microsoft too many sleepless nights for now.