Apple Numbers 2.6.1 for iPad and iPhone review
Welcome to our review of Numbers 2.6.1 for iOS, updated on 10 February 2016. Original review by Lou Hattersley.
Numbers is often described as a rival to Microsoft Excel, but that's never really been true. While Keynote may have slick, easy-to-use animations and effects that make it a genuine alternative to PowerPoint, Numbers has never really attempted to match the powerful mathematical and analytical tools that Excel offers to business and scientific users.
That situation doesn't really change with this latest update, either; Numbers 2.6.1 doesn't include any significant new mathematical features or functions that would enhance the power of your spreadsheets. In fact, quite a few of the 'new' features that Apple lists on its website for Numbers were actually introduced in previous versions, leaving only a modest set of improvements this time around.
Update 16 September 2016: Since our review, Apple has added real-time collaboration to its iWork suite. This was showcased during Apple's event on 7 September 2016, where a free update (version 3.0) for iOS users was pushed out on 13 September. The update will come to macOS on 20 September. We're pleased to see an update to the iWork suite, as real-time collaboration will help those working in teams, such as global teams in businesses and even students taking part in university group projects.
The new version brings the following collaboration updates (among others):
- Edit a spreadsheet with others at the same time in Numbers on Mac, iPad, iPhone, and iCloud.com
- Share your spreadsheet publicly or with specific people
- See who else is in a spreadsheet
- See participants’ cursors as they’re editing
Numbers 2.6.1 for iOS review: Ease of use
Where Numbers works really well, though, is in providing quick and easy spreadsheet features for home users and students, along with slick tables, charts and other graphical tools that allow you to present your data in an attractive fashion. That ease of use remains the focus of Numbers 2.6, which was released towards the end of last year... and then followed by the traditional batch of bug fixes in version 2.6.1 a few weeks later.
Like the recent updates to Keynote and Pages, the latest version of Numbers primarily focuses on bringing the app up to date with new features in iOS 9. You can now use the new Split View, Slide Over and Picture In Picture modes for multi-tasking on an iPad. Split View, in particular, is very handy when you need to grab data from other apps that you want to use in a spreadsheet - but just remember that Split View is only available on the iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, and iPad mini 4.
Numbers 2.6.1 for iOS review: Shortcut commands
The onscreen keyboard within Numbers also gains a new Shortcut bar. This includes options for quickly formatting text or using the Cut, Copy and Paste commands - although it's a shame that you can't change font from the Shortcut bar too, as you can with the latest version of Pages. However, Numbers does now show recently selected fonts in its main Font menu, as Pages does, which also helps to speed up text editing a little.
If you've got a shiny new iPhone 6s or 6s Plus you'll also find that Numbers supports 3D Touch shortcuts, allowing you to quickly create new documents right from the Home screen. However, Numbers 2.6.1 will still run on older devices running iOS 8.4, so you don't need the latest, greatest hardware to carry on using the app.
One important new feature that is available on all devices is the ability to view the Version History of each spreadsheet. This shows you all the previous saved versions of each spreadsheet, and allows you to restore those older versions whenever you want. The current version of the spreadsheet isn't lost when you restore an older version, so you can still switch back if you need to.
Version 2.6.1 fixed a few problems that had appeared with the Version History feature, so this should work smoothly now. That update also fixed a problem that was preventing some Excel spreadsheets from opening problem within Numbers.
It's also worth mentioning that the iCloud version of Numbers has finally been released as an official Apple product - after being in beta for what seems like years - which gives you another alternative option if you need to create or edit spreadsheets online when you don't have your Mac or iOS devices to hand.
It's no Excel-killer, but Numbers 2.6.1 remains one of the best apps for home users and students who just need basic spreadsheet functions and simple tools for creating graphs and charts. And, of course, it's free with all new iOS devices and Macs, so it's an ideal alternative if you don't want to pay for a subscription to Office 365 in order to use the full iOS versions of Microsoft's Office apps.