Numbers 1.4 for iPad and iPhone review
Numbers for iPad worked well for creating original spreadsheets and working on Numbers spreadsheets from your Mac, but it fell short due to its inability to output files in Excel format. Numbers for iOS 1.4 addresses the Excel issue, and adds some other welcome features. It can now be used on the iPhone (3GS and 4) and iPod touch (third- and fourth- generation) too, though there are a couple of iPad features that you won’t get on the iPhone or iPod touch: full-screen mode and landscape view.
On the iPad version, you can enter full-screen mode to get an overview of your data, and run quick summaries of data sets with a simple flick of the finger. You can’t do much more than that, though, so the lack of this feature on the smaller iOS devices may not be a major issue.
The iPhone’s small screen means you must choose between seeing almost everything and reading nothing, or reading everything but seeing almost nothing.
The biggest problem is that there’s not enough screen real estate to work productively. There’s a lot of scrolling and zooming involved to make sure you select the right cell, or to see the big picture. This makes it difficult to get a sense of how your finished project will look when you’re laying it out one section at a time.
One other minor but potentially annoying feature in Numbers on the iPhone and iPod touch is that you can only undo and redo changes by shaking the device – in the iPad app, there’s a dedicated button on the toolbar that’s not available on the smaller iOS devices. If you use undo and redo a lot, shaking the phone over and over again can get irritating really quickly, leaving you longing for the iPad’s dedicated button.
This Numbers release includes several new features that make it easier to do what you need to do, and share what you’ve done with others. Foremost is that Numbers can now export in Excel format; previously, it could read, but not write, Excel files. This means you can now work on an Excel file on your iOS device and output it back to that same format, so you can share it with those who use Office instead of iWork.
You can now create folders in the spreadsheet browser mode. Folders work here exactly as they do in iOS in general – just drag-and-hover one icon over another, and you’ll create a folder. For those with a lot of spreadsheets, this is a welcome addition.
Numbers still can’t import hide rows/columns or merge cells, which are two features that many spreadsheets use extensively. You’re also limited to your device’s font collection and headers/footers, and certain features on graphs also won’t survive the transition from the desktop to your iOS device.
Working with files is still more painful than it should be: you’re generally restricted to working with one file at a time, and you can’t open more than one spreadsheet at a time.
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.