Thursday, September 27, 2007

iWork Numbers: Apple's spreadsheet - Part 1

Numbers is the name of the new spreadsheet from Apple. It is part of the iWork suite and I just started testing it. I must say that I'm a user of Microsoft Excel and until now I found nothing wrong on it, all the opposite: Excel is a great tool that helps me to manage my company. Said that, I have to confess that Numbers is a real competitor for Excel.
There is a place where Numbers can't compete ant it is in the area of data management: pivot tables, conexion to Windows SharePoint Services and other sources of information.
In other areas Numbers introduced many interesting concepts and broke the paradigm of working with spreadsheets: boring grids full of cells that are unused.

I don't know why but one of the first things I looked for is the Zoom functionality. It is actually very useful for me when I have huge reports or when I work in a high resolution screen and then I change to other with lower resolution. The Zoom functionality exists and I must say that works like it should: it doesn't affect much the quality and visibility of the texts and images.

Numbers can manage multiple sheets and handle many components inside of each one. Components like tables and charts.
Numbers organizes those component in a left side bar and it makes it very easy to understand an manipulate.
Numbers handles each table like a different worksheet. And that is where makes the difference with Excel. Numbers is build to organize different components in "sheets", those components are not over a grid of cels, they are over an empty space. The tables can be moved and located wherever needed on the page and act independently from other tables in the same sheet.
Numbers works very good with images so the images are also inserted on the empty spaces and that is powerful because simplifies the work of reporting. In my personal case I work on reports only so I get the data from a database and then I build my report on Excel, managing images is also simple in Excel but it is a problem to format correctly because the images are actually floating over some other cells.
I think that Office 2007 is actually more powerful with image components and shapes. Numbers gives the basics but makes it very usable and simple.

On the left side, just bellow the section where the sheets are organized there is a section of styles. Those are simple color schemes for formating the tables. They are nice looking but I would like to see more.
It is not necessarily needed but having more doesn't heart.
In any case each style can be customized on the same page by changing the colors of the cells, fonts and backgrounds.
Numbers also lets you to create and add styles. I just need to discover how...

Tomorrow I will be writing the next part of my discoveries with Numbers. Stay tuned!


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