Apple’s Numbers app, part of the iWork suite of apps for iOS, has often been one of the most popular apps for crunching those numbers on the go, despite some rather painful limitations. It was certainly not a perfect app, far from it, but it worked well enough and looked good enough to still be useable, especially in the absence of any form of Microsoft Office for iOS.
With the relaunch of iWork on both Mac and iOS, Numbers received a huge makeover to include some of the new, and welcome, features that have made them so popular.
As per the rest of the iWork suite, Numbers received a significant makeover, eschewing the last remnants of the stitched leather and dark linen, moving towards a totally unified experience that flows seamlessly between not only the rest of the iWork suite, but iOS 7 itself. While many developers are, quite rightly, carving their own take on the newer, gradient-free iOS, Apple can enjoy the luxury of trying to keep its apps looking as close to it as possible.
This unification makes using each iWork app much easier and familiar, as the layout between them is almost identical, so you’re not having to learn (or re-learn) each app.
On the iPad version, a help button is a permanent fixture, that provides an overlay of information as and when necessary. This overlay functionality originally came from iPhoto for iOS and seems to have struck a chord with Apple who have continued using it.
Numbers, like the rest of iWork, uses iCloud at its core and you would be remiss if you attempted to use the app without it. Spreadsheets are kept in almost constant sync across all your devices, including iCloud.com. Being able to create a spreadsheet on an iPad, edit it on a Mac, add more information to it on an iPhone and finally collaborate with another iCloud user, all without the fuss of copying files, is a rare glimpse at the iCloud that Apple wants users to see, even if it isn’t always the one we have right now.
Despite what your friends may have told you, spreadsheets aren’t actually as fun or exciting as you’d hope and accountants rarely enjoy the glamorous rock-and-roll lifestyle that they were once so accustomed to.
But, it seems, Apple is making the case to put the “fun” back in “funding allocation and cost projections for the next fiscal year” with a plethora of templates to start your new spreadsheets from, ranging from simple checklists to advanced charting and scheduling. Certainly, there is something for everyone and we’ve all benefited from a spreadsheet at some point or another.
These templates tend to be less about creating a starting point and more about demonstrating just what you can do with Numbers, and there’s certainly a lot it can do. Spreadsheets offer multi-sheet and form support, advanced formulas and data detection/sorting bring almost as much functionality from the desktop version to iOS. For example, building a graph or chart is ridiculously easy and is, quite literally, just a case of highlighting a selection of data and then tapping “Create Chart”. That’s it, no wizards or assistants, just data that is instantly charted correctly.
One of the best features of Numbers has always been that new sheets within a spreadsheet never exist as one big table and, in some ways, the app is similar to Pages. You can add multiple tables and lists to the same sheet but have far more control over the layout of each, keeping them independent — far easier than other spreadsheet apps that are more popular on other platforms.
In terms of layout options, a number of objects, text boxes and even photos can be added to sheets.
One of the biggest new additions to iWork has been the refinement of its sharing options, and Numbers is certainly no exception. In addition to automatic syncing across all iCloud devices and iCloud.com, multiple users can edit it via iCloud’s new collaborate feature.
Exporting spreadsheets is, thankfully, much easier if you’d prefer not to use iCloud. With the all-new option to export to 3rd-party apps, spreadsheets can finally be placed into your Dropbox folder or any other file management app. In addition, spreadsheets can be exported in native Numbers format or Excel, PDF or CSV formats.
Numbers is free for existing users and anyone purchasing a new iOS device. For everyone else, it’s still $9.99.
Numbers always felt like the app that was left behind with more focus seemingly on Pages and Keynote. With Numbers 2.0, Apple has brought the same interface and functionality that is found in the other apps and made it an app that is just as easy to use, in most cases, than the others.
It’s a shame that you are, still, unable to search by name for spreadsheets you’ve saved, a feature missing from the rest of iWork for iOS, so anyone who is amassing a rather large collection of spreadsheets will find navigating through them getting more and more difficult as it grows.
Using Numbers for creating and editing spreadsheets is, quite simply, fantastic. The embedded iCloud support, providing an up to date version of a spreadsheet no matter where you are makes for excellent platform independence when it comes to editing and you won’t need to constantly be importing or exporting your data.