Numbers: disappointment of the year :(

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by valiar, Aug 8, 2007.

  1. valiar macrumors regular

    Mar 14, 2006
    Washington, DC
    I was very excited this morning when I have read Numbers have been released. I have been searching for an Excel replacement for quite a while now, and thought my dreams have finally come true.
    Excel is not Universal yet, and won't be Universal for almost half a year. And everyone knows Mac version of Excel is crippled (I remember running Windows version of Excel 2003 under Virtual PC because it was faster than native Excel 2004).
    Alas... Numbers is not the replacement I was so hoping for.
    It is absolutely useless - and I am not sure Apple will ever fix it by the looks of things.

    1. There are no error bars in Numbers. Not in the bar chart, not in scatter plot. Numbers can calculate stdev - why not make inserting error bars easy? Even old versions of Excel could do that.

    2. Scatter plot implementation is simply a joke - and a really, really, really bad one. Yes, it is THAT bad.
    First of all, there is no easy way to plot several sets of "Y" data against a single set of "X" data on a single chart. Instructions in Help specify that two columns of data have to be used for each data series. No, duplicating my "Time" data for every one of my 12 experiment runs is NOT an acceptable option. I have tried to drag additional data columns to the chart, but I could never understand the results of this action.
    Second, the data markers are not resizable - and their default size is nothing short of gargantuan.
    Third, there is no way to make a spline line through all the data points.
    Fourth, Numbers incorrectly names data series. When I select two columns, it is quite obvious that the first column is "X" data - and it is plotted accordingly. Unfortunately, Numbers labels the data series by the name of that first column. Who would ever want to do that?
    My fifth and final complaint about scatter are the SLOPE and INTERCEPT functions. Knowing slope and intercept for a set of calibration data is really useful - as long as I also know the corresponding R2 value, and can visually assess the quality of the linear fit on the plot. In Excel it is a two-click operation. In Numbers it is impossible.

    3. There is no real inspector for data series. No central place to rename them, change the scope, etc. Even very old verisons of Excel have that.

    4. Dragging and selection are seriously mis-designed - and need a fix NOW. Yes, it is THAT annoying.
    When hovering over a table, the cursor changes from a "cross" selection cursor to an "arrow" move cursor if it is in the top 25-30% of the topmost table cell. This requires the user (me) to be extremely careful when making a selection. In half the cases I end up repositioning the entire table on the page, instead of selecting the top five rows. After a few times this behavior becomes really, really, really aggravating.
    On the other hand, when I want to drag data, it takes some mouse hunting to find the position where the column is actually draggable.

    At this point I have stopped my evaluation of Numbers.
    I am not talking about fancy curve fitting and data processing a la Origin, Sigmaplot, or ProFit here. I am talking about essential features and usability.

    It is really amazing that the same company that has managed to produce Keynote (a really marvellous piece of software) and iLife has now produced such an unadulterated piece of crud.:eek: It is simply amazing.

    As much as it pains me, after this I am considering a move back to Windows after using OS X for 5 years. Windows can be annoying and prone to entropy, but at least there is a proper Excel version - and also Origin and Sigmaplot. I have yet to find ANY decent Excel alternative for OS X, and that piece of crud Numbers is might have finally broken the proverbial camel's back :rolleyes:
  2. iBookG4user macrumors 604


    Jun 27, 2006
    Seattle, WA
  3. valiar thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 14, 2006
    Washington, DC
    Yes, I know what NeoOffice is.

    I would never want to use OOo even when it is running native on Windows or Linux - let alone that kludgy Cocoa/Java port. Ugh.

    It runs even slower than Excel 2004, it does not have all of the Excel's features, and it is butt ugly to boot. Oh, and last time I checked, it does not export its charts to clipboard properly, so that when they are pasted to Keynote, they are transformed to bitmaps.

    Did I mention it also looks butt ugly?

    Thanks for the suggestion, of course.
  4. c-Row macrumors 65816


    Jan 10, 2006
    Except for #4, I never heard of any of these "essential" features. :confused:
  5. valiar thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 14, 2006
    Washington, DC
    If you are a scientist, having error bars in your data analysis app is absolutely essential.

    I cannot prepare a chart with no error bars - because the error bars are as essential for understanding the data as the values themselves.

    As far as my complaints about the scatter plots go, again - my use case is quite typical for almost any science user. We want to do scatter plots, and a lot of them. With error bars and spline guidelines for easy readability. We want to be able to do at least linear fits to our data - easily. We want to be able to toggle between linear and log scales for the Y axis. We want multiple data series on every plot, with fully customizable markers, traces, error bars, and axes.

    It is understandable that you might not have thought these features to be necessary - you are probably not a scientist.

    However, it is INEXCUSABLE that the design team at Apple did not anticipate such a typical use case, and has made a few absolutely idiotic and blockheaded design decisions.

    And in this case it is really a shame because when I have first started it, the app looked so pretty - and there are plenty of nice touches in it everywhere. Sadly, it is useless :(

    And speaking of useless, Pages has become a really neat app - but it still cannot do endnotes, and it still saves in proprietary bundle format - which is not parseable by any existing bibliography application. Thus, Pages cannot be used with either Endnote or Bookends... Which makes Pages completely useless for any scientific writing... :(
    Thankfully, there are such great apps as Mellel and Nisus Writer.
  6. c-Row macrumors 65816


    Jan 10, 2006
    Indeed, I am not. I see how it's essential for you, but I guess that's diving into realms of Excel I will probably never see. :eek:
  7. Queso Suspended

    Mar 4, 2006
    I don't think it'll ever be Excel standard. Excel is one of the two products from Redmond that actually shine (the other being Exchange). Numbers is aimed at an occasional user more than anything.
  8. netdog macrumors 603


    Feb 6, 2006
    It's not meant to be an Excel-killer. It's meant to be Excel for the rest of us. As someone who used to train people in Excel, rest assured for 99.9% of us, Numbers is just fine. For those of us who do financial analysis and the like, and require very sophisticated formulas and macros, Excel is still the only game in town.
  9. valiar thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 14, 2006
    Washington, DC
    I was not even looking at Numbers for any kind of really sophisticated analysis. I have Origin for that (Windows only and running in Parallels, but what can you do).

    Here is what I wanted Numbers for:

    1. Do rough and quick examination of raw data (import CSV, do a quick plot, do a quick linear fit to the first 10 data points, print, discuss with colleagues).
    2. Do simple cleanup, normalization, or unit conversion operations on data. For example, I have an instrument that produces its timing data in minutes. I will, obviously, want that in seconds. Or I would want to normalize a set of data (it boils down to dividing every cell in one column by every cell in another column).
    3. Make nice-looking plots and charts for presentations, posters, and publications. For all its power, Origin makes decidedly ugly plots.

    As you can see, it is hardly rocket science - I do have a real data analysis program for actual rocket science.
    Yet Numbers cannot do those simple things (which I could EASILY do in Excel 97 for Windows 11 years ago - with at most two clicks of a mouse).
    Extremely disappointing.
  10. Caezar macrumors 6502

    Jun 9, 2004
    Between a rock and a hard place
    Numbers is probably designed for home use, not for statistical analysis. Therefore, I do not believe Apple will ever "fix" Numbers to include these features you require.

    I am myself a keen VBA user. Would I whine about Numbers lack of VBA support? No, because I know it is meant for home use. I will purchase iWork for my wife to control my expenses :)D) and to monitor the performance of my portfolio.

    To edit the spreadsheets I bring back from work, I will use MS Office thru Parallels. As for Office for Mac 2007, it will be of no use for me, since the only feature I miss from Numbers (VBA) won't even be available in Office:Mac.

    Conclusion: Numbers will probably be an outstanding piece of software for its intended use and taking in consideration the low price. I do not see the point of whining because it lacks some basic statistical analysis features.

    To each his own: Numbers/iWork for the home user. Excel for the professional. And SAS for poor bartelby... :p
  11. orbitalpunk macrumors 6502


    Aug 14, 2006
    Thats why Steve-O said "its spreadsheets for the rest of us!". NOT FOR SCIENTISTS.

    jesus. stop freaking out and listen to the keynote.
  12. Eraserhead macrumors G4


    Nov 3, 2005
    The fact that it can only do one series seems to be a bug, the image of a scatter chart shows two series.

    The lack of error bars is annoying for Scientific Analysis, and you do use them for School reports, however I have always found the ones for Standard Deviation in Excel to be broken (I don't know about Excel 2007 as I haven't used it).
  13. rockstarjoe macrumors 6502a


    Jun 2, 2006
    washington dc
  14. PlaceofDis macrumors Core

    Jan 6, 2004
    lets see... its a 1.0 release. and you expect it to do everything right off the bat?

    this is just the first release!
    i know it should be 'full featured' and it is according to Apple and it probably is for the vast majority of people.
  15. eRondeau macrumors 65816


    Mar 3, 2004
    Canada's South Coast
    ...and the new iMovie probably would disappoint Steven Spielberg too, but it is really is all that 95% of us need. Methinks you have set your expectations unreasonably high. Have fun with Windows.
  16. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    Original poster is just not in the target market.

    Target market = "The rest of us".
    His market = "The rest of us scientists".
  17. Angrist macrumors 6502

    Mar 11, 2005
    MI or NJ
    Amen to that!

    Just like Pages and Keynote, it'll improve in the next couple of revisions.
    I'm looking forward to giving Numbers a try, not for my hardcore simulation data analysis (PhD), but for simple tasks and results graphs for Keynote.
  18. whooleytoo macrumors 604


    Aug 2, 2002
    Cork, Ireland.
    By the look of what things?!? It hasn't even been out for 24 hours! :p

    It's a 1.0; and as with every other non-trivial programme it'll have bugs and will lack features in comparison to more mature competitors. Give it time. i.e. more than a day.
  19. Eraserhead macrumors G4


    Nov 3, 2005
    To be fair I used error bars and lines of best fit (which haven't been mentioned) for A Level coursework ;).

    Though I have to admit Numbers looks very solid so far, I'm going to be using it a lot (now I don't need error bars any more :p), it is so hard in excel to make a decent looking spreadsheet, whereas Numbers looks like it makes it easy.
  20. iBunny macrumors 65816

    Apr 15, 2004
    I have been using excel for 5 years now.... and I have no clue what an "Error Bar" is, so im happy :)

    Looks like "Numbers" will be good for me! ;)
  21. macbwizard macrumors 6502


    May 23, 2005
    Agreed. I'm not sure why people are defending this app's lack of some of these features. Best fit lines are essential, even to those in a secondary-school level course, let alone college students.

    I also am disappointed in how it graphs data. The method of selecting data sets for each axis (and data labels) seems very unintuitive and I have yet to get it to do exactly what I want.

    Hopefully we'll see a 1.1 release before 2009.
  22. WildPalms macrumors 6502a


    Jan 4, 2006
    Honolulu, HI
    Guys, can you slow down on the number crunching talk....the propellors are spinning so fast its blowing the papers off my desk!


    :p :p

    Ditto. We are dumping Notes for Exchange though so it might be getting worse. We almost, almost picked up Zimbra...*sigh*
  23. Project macrumors 68020

    Aug 6, 2005
    As a Scientist, Numbers isnt for you. I thought that would have been fairly obvious from even a cursory look at the event yesterday or the accompanying iWork website.

    Keynote was missing many 'essential' features in version 1 too.
  24. johnee macrumors 6502a


    Can't you use Mathematica or the program formerly known as Matlab?
  25. Pittsax macrumors 6502


    Dec 8, 2004
    Toronto, Ontario
    You can. You can also use any number of graphing/stats programs. Or you can use Excel.

    And to all the people dismissing error bars as some sort of "advanced feature" that isn't needed in a program like Numbers, I'm sorry, but it's a pretty basic function of any spreadsheet program. The fact that you can calculate the standard deviation but have no way of actually putting it into a graph makes things even worse. A graph without error bars only tells half the story, and I'm immediately skeptical about any graph that doesn't have them.

    The bottom line for me is that if Apple wants Numbers to be a simple, easy to use, barebones program that is more concerned with making things look pretty than being fully functional, that's fine. But to call it part of a "productivity suite" that is obviously aimed at replacing Office, there is a long way to go. I just hope that 2.0 is a major improvement.

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