Numbers-- First Impressions

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by Analog Kid, Aug 12, 2007.

  1. Analog Kid macrumors 601

    Analog Kid

    Mar 4, 2003
    I haven't had a chance to actually use Numbers for any real work yet, but I've been dinking around with it a bit to see what it can do. Figured I'd post my thoughts and see what others have to say-- there's comments spread through a bunch of other threads but I haven't seen a focused discussion yet.

    My first reaction was elation-- Apple has gotten us off the grid! One of my principle frustrations with Excel has been that everything goes on the same grid. Titles, and other random data that doesn't fit the table need to be stuck around the edges and get caught up in row and column selection (or put on a separate sheet where it can't all be seen at once). Numbers makes it easier to make documents around spreadsheet data. Random data can be put into a separate table on the same sheet and moved independently.

    They've made other interesting changes as well-- how cells are named, for example. Cell names are automatically derived from the row and column header titles. If you have a row with "Expenses" in the header cell, and a column with "July" in its header cell, the cell at the intersection of that row and column can be referred to as "July Expenses" without having to name it manually. Pretty cool, really, and intuitive. I do think I'd like the ability to name a cell specifically, though, which I can't find a way to do, but I think that's probably just a matter of adjusting to the new paradigm.

    The print view control, if you haven't seen it, is a godsend. Printing spreadsheets has always been a bit of a trial and error process, and the level of control Numbers gives in arranging a printout is just fantastic.

    The list of available functions seems pretty broad, with Excel being the obvious prototype here. As I said, I haven't done anything too complex with it yet, but the functions I've looked for have been there.

    Charting is the real disappointment here. Early rumors were that charts were where Apple was going to distinguish themselves, and there was plenty of room for them to do so (Excel charts are notoriously horrible), but they failed. Charting options aren't all that different from what we were used to in Pages. They're pretty in the same way that Pages charts are pretty, but they're really not much different from gussied up Excel charts-- and as others have pointed out there are some serious omissions. No error bars, no trendlines or connecting lines in scatterplots, etc.

    The other place where Numbers can be improved is performance. There's times when it's frustratingly slow, particularly with large tables (I imported 10 years of stock quotes and it got pretty painful). It looks like the application is single threaded, which is surprising given Apple's push to multi-core machines. I'm guessing this will be low hanging fruit for the next upgrade.

    There are a few minor nits to pick-- when you import there's no way to define headers and footers, and there's no way to declare existing cells as headers or footers. Headers and footers are restricted to one row or column each, and there's times it would be nice to have multirow headers. I'd also like to be able to reduce a table to smaller than its natural size, with scrollbars to select what portion is visible, locking the headers and footers in place. You can do something similar by pulling summary information into a separate table which works for most tasks, but with all the cool layout capabilities it would be nice to be able to stick a table in the middle of a sheet and scroll to the interesting bit without it dominating the entire sheet.

    My last observation is that I'm not entirely sure why Numbers is a separate application. It seems like it would be that much powerful if these capabilities were just added to tables in Pages. Numbers is clearly targeted at document generation as the tables are just objects on a page, and Pages is a great document generation tool. It would add complexity, but I think I'd like the payoff.

    All in all, I'm impressed with it. It's surprisingly rich for a first generation application. Performance is a no-brainer for the next revision along with more sophisticated graphing, but as it stands it's more than sufficient for almost all of what I use a spreadsheet for.
  2. CybrMike macrumors member

    Mar 16, 2006
    does it save in a format that is backwards compatible with excel?
  3. Analog Kid thread starter macrumors 601

    Analog Kid

    Mar 4, 2003
    Yes, it does. You can export to PDF, Excel or CSV.
  4. furious macrumors 65816


    Aug 7, 2006
    It cannot be used for Stats work I do so it not suitable for me. However I think it is a great program and I wish more programs were released with so many stable features. Thumbs up Apple.
  5. Analog Kid thread starter macrumors 601

    Analog Kid

    Mar 4, 2003
    This thread didn't seem to create much interest, but I'm going to keep posting to it as I find more:

    Turns out that Pages does, in fact, have what looks to be full support for embedded Numbers spreadsheets! In typical Apple style, it's not obvious until you try to do something complicated enough to justify exposing the full interface... If you create a table and try to enter a formula into a table, the row and column tags appear along with the formula editor. Under the Insert menu, you can select "Function>More Functions" to get the full array of Numbers functions.

    It's also possible to cut and paste tables from Numbers to Pages, and the formulas stay intact. Pages is smart enough to not carry over formulas that reference other tables though, and only embeds the results in that case.
  6. jonparadise macrumors member

    Nov 5, 2005
    London, UK
    I'm not a maths person at all, and have tried to use Excel many times in the past to set up a spreadsheet to get my finances in order.

    Any easy task for a lot of people I know, but it's just not what I'm into.

    After trying numbers however, I had a lovely financial sheet set up within an our, all with lovely charts.

    I find it very intuitive and easy to use, so a big thumbs up from me, especially as it's a version 1 release.

    Pages, meanwhile, has improved no-end, and I find it much more useful now, especially something as simple at the bar at the top of the page rather than in the inspector.
  7. rdp5008 macrumors regular


    Jun 23, 2006
    Numbers lags and is far too slow for me on my 12" 1.5Ghz PB with 1.25GB ram. I hope a software update fixes some of these problems. Excel runs way faster for me, especially for spreadsheets with large data sets. Someone suggested inefficient programming in Numbers, and that this lagging issue is masked with faster processors and more memory.

    I was hoping to get rid of Excel, but Numbers is just powerful enough yet. It does have some neat features that the OP mentioned.
  8. macrumors newbie

    Aug 19, 2007
    Casual Use

    As a casual user of excel (keeping class registers etc) I find Numbers to be much easier to use, I particularly like the abiliity to add stickies to individual cells which then pop up on mouseover. I also like the page layout features and the ease with which you can create formulae that are readable - overall a good first attempt at a spreadsheet and one which is bound to improve with age.
  9. DoFoT9 macrumors P6


    Jun 11, 2007
    i dont think numbers (from what i can tell) will be as accurate and effective as excel, not in terms of simplicity and functionality.

    but the looks of it are so good, it will give a whole new look to spreadsheets (not boring and grayscale hahaha apple ads)
  10. aspro macrumors 6502

    Apr 29, 2005
    Hobart, Australia
    I find it great for the small scale home related spreadsheets that I do, but I can see that it is not really aimed at the professional market anyway. For what it is aimed at it functions wonderfully.

    To be honest I hope they don't try to make a full fledged Excel competitor as it will likely take away from the strong points this program currently has in ease of use and simplicity

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