create. share. enjoy. (Part 2)

create. share. enjoy. (Part 2)


Numbers’ most welcome improvement over other spreadsheets is its ability to include multiple elements - including different-sized tables - on the same page.

 

NUMBERS '08 - NUMBERS ALMOST ADDS UP

In many ways, Apple’s consumer software is all about looking good while accomplishing just enough to get by. Numbers - the new spreadsheet component of iWork ’08 - is no exception. The app’s most fundamental improvement over competing spreadsheets is that a page, or sheet, is a container for multiple elements and not simply an array of rows and columns.

 

Very Different Design. Lending a vein of creativity to something as potentially dry as a spreadsheet program, each Numbers sheet can include any or all types of Numbers elements, including charts, text boxes, shapes, sticky-note comments, images, movies, links to sound files, and tables, all of which can be in multiple sizes and configurations.

 

Rows and columns are the bread and butter of spreadsheets, and those in Numbers ’08 are appropriately toasty and tasty. A set of 10 basic table styles are provided, but elements such as headers, background colors, borders, and the like can be easily modified using either the Table tab in the Inspector palette or the appropriate icons in the Format Bar of the main interface. Once modified, a custom table style can be saved into the left-hand Styles pane.

 

Working in tables is straightforward; most familiar navigation and selection conventions apply, although you can’t assign the Return key to move the selection right or left. To accomplish simple math such as sums, averages, and counts, you select a range of data, then drag the result into your target cell from a list below the Styles pane. You can achieve more complex results by building English-language formulas based on the text in a table’s row and column headers.

 

You can also modify a cell’s contents using a slider or up-arrow/down-arrow stepper, as well as set the maximum and minimum values allowed. (These controls, however, can’t be used to modify dates.) Checkboxes and pop-up menus can also be used for data entry, but once you enter items in a pop-up menu’s list, their order can’t be changed. Also, if you’ve ever used Excel’s time-saving Paste Special > Transpose command to switch vertical tables to horizontal ones, don’t go searching for it in Numbers ’08 - it’s not there. Another disappointment: Conditional Formatting is limited to text and cell-fill color.

 

Spreadsheet geeks will be happy to learn that Numbers includes 168 special-purpose Functions (Excel, by comparison, includes 270). We’re generally happy with the selection; all of the familiar financial functions are there, although many statistical functions are missing. And don’t go looking for Excel-style macro functions - Numbers ’08 doesn’t support them. (Nor does it support password protection of cells, tables, or files.)

 

Perhaps by now you’ve seen a pattern here? Charting skills, for example, summarize Numbers ’08 in a nutshell: It’s a snap to produce absolutely gorgeous charts, but your control over them is somewhat limited. You can neither move a chart’s title (delete it and use a Text Box instead), nor can you change the color of a single bar or column. You can change a chart’s color set, but the selection of color sets is limited, and you can’t create your own custom sets. And you can’t create and save custom chart styles.

 

The ability to import data from other spreadsheets - Microsoft Excel, for example - can best be described as “generally acceptable.” In our tests, Numbers ’08 imported and exported most simple files without a hitch. More complex, multisheet Excel workbooks occasionally had broken cross-worksheet links, and imported charts in general were often a mess. That said, Numbers ’08 will open both your bank’s OFX (Open Financial Exchange) documents and files in Microsoft Office 2007 for Windows’ OpenXML format.

 

Finally, Numbers brilliantly solves all your spreadsheet-printing headaches. Simply select File > Show Print View, then drag your various tables, charts, images and the like from page to page. Wherever you put them, that’s exactly where they’ll appear on the printed copy.

 

The Bottom Line. Numbers is a competent app that can handle most personal and small-business spreadsheet needs with style and elegance. It won’t, however, lure hard-nosed financial types and serious number-crunchers away from Excel.

 

COMPANY: Apple

CONTACT: www.apple.com

PRICE: $79 as part of iWork ’08

REQUIREMENTS: 500MHz or faster G4, G5, or Intel Mac; Mac OS 10.4.10 or later; 1GB free disk space; 512MB RAM; 32MB video RAM

Tables can be of multiple sizes on the same sheet. Graphics are gorgeous. Printing’s a breeze. Sliders and steppers make “what if?” scenarios a snap. Universal binary.

A host of minor-but-annoying customization and interface limitations. No password protection. Doesn’t support Excel macros. Somewhat pokey performance.

 

 

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Or, you could just leave open the Info tab of the Document pane of the Inspector - nice

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"Getting a word count - essential information for anyone who writes for print - requires the user to navigate three menu items deep (Edit > Writing Tools > Show Statistics)"

Or, you could just leave open the Info tab of the Document pane of the Inspector.

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