Numbers for iPhone

Numbers for iPhone review: Not all is perfect in Numbers-land

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Apple Numbers for iPhone
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  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Can export in Excel format
  • In-app help menu works well

Cons

  • Can’t import hide rows/columns or merge cells
  • Not enough screen real estate for proper editing

Bottom Line

Numbers is a solid spreadsheet program for the iPad and iPhone/iPod touch. Depending on the complexity of your spreadsheet needs, the iPhone/iPod touch support may be a key feature to you, or may just be something that’s good to know if you ever have a critical need to edit a worksheet and you’re not carrying your iPad.

Would you buy this?

When I reviewed the initial release of Numbers for iPad in April 2010, I noted that it worked well for creating original spreadsheets, and for working on Numbers-native spreadsheets from your Mac, but that it fell short due to its inability to output files in Excel format. (Though Apple’s app could read such files, it would convert them to Numbers format). That version of Numbers was also available strictly for the iPad, and not the iPhone or iPod touch.

Macworld’s last review is printing via AirPrint printers, though I was unable to test this feature.

Finally, if you’re the type who never reads in-app help, you should break that habit and read Numbers’ in-app help. It contains a lot of usability tips that will help you get the most out of the mobile spreadsheet app. For example, Help reveals how to restrict a drag operation to a straight line. (Hold one finger from one hand on the screen while dragging the object with a finder on your other hand.)

Not all is perfect in Numbers-land, however. Numbers still can’t import hide rows/columns or merge cells, which are two features that many spreadsheets use extensively. In particular, not being able to merge cells (and having merged cells break on import) will cause some layout headaches. You’re also still limited to your iDevice’s relatively meager font collection, and headers/footers and certain features on graphs also won’t survive the transition from the desktop to your iDevice.

Working with files is still more painful than it should be: you’re generally restricted to working with one file at a time (i.e. when copying to/from iTunes), and you can’t open more than one spreadsheet at a time.

Later this year, Numbers (as well as Keynote and Pages) will support Apple’s iCloud service. This should greatly ease the sometimes-tricky document management issues related to working with one file on multiple devices. Instead of winding up with multiple copies of the same file on multiple devices, iCloud integration will allow you to have one copy of the file that’s simply synced to all your devices. Create a spreadsheet on your Mac, close it, and you will then be able to pick up your phone and continue working, right where you left off.

While iCloud integration looks like a win, it’s not clear yet what will happen with iWork.com, Apple’s perpetually-in-beta iWork document sharing service. The features provided by iWork.com aren’t necessarily replicated by iCloud, so I would expect that it will continue to exist, at least in some form.

The potential upside of iCloud support in Numbers is huge, but we’ll have to wait until later this fall to see exactly how well it works, and what becomes of the iWork.com beta program.

Numbers is a solid spreadsheet program for the iPad and iPhone/iPod touch. Depending on the complexity of your spreadsheet needs, the iPhone/iPod touch support may be a key feature to you, or may just be something that’s good to know if you ever have a critical need to edit a worksheet and you’re not carrying your iPad. But the other features in Numbers make the program worth consideration for working with spreadsheets on the go.

Former Macworld senior editor Rob Griffiths is now master of ceremonies at Many Tricks.

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