Despite the numerous fixes and enhancements included in Numbers for iPad 1.2, many things still present a hurdle for the spreadsheet component of the Apple iWork suite for its tablet platform.
The spreadsheet component of Apple's iWork suite for iPad
still needs some work before it can be considered as a serious business tool. The
1.2 release, which Apple made available in late September along with updates to
Pages and Keynote, fixes many flaws and introduces some new features that users
will find valuable.
But what's almost criminal are the things that still aren't
right with Numbers for iPad, such as the glaring inability to use the arrow
keys of Bluetooth-connected wireless keyboards and the lack of support for such
basic spreadsheet constructs as hidden columns.
As other heavy users of spreadsheets do, I take for granted
the ability to navigate a spreadsheet with a keyboard for data entry. The inability
to move between cells by means of arrow keys-absent from the iPad's soft
keyboard-makes Numbers for iPad very frustrating for all but casual use.
Furthermore, hidden columns are there for two reasons:
convenience and security. There are countless spreadsheets that companies live
by that contain data that in detail only matters to a handful of people. In the
second case, aggregate data may be acceptable for general distribution, while
the details that make up the totals will be a trade secret.
Document sharing has received attention in this release of
Numbers for iPad, in parallel with the other iWork applications. As with the
other iWork for iPad applications, users of Mobile Me's iDisk service and other
WebDAV-based services now have the option to copy spreadsheets between Numbers
and these services. One can now export spreadsheets from Numbers for iPad in
Microsoft Excel .XLS format and open CSV
files from the iPad's Mail app.
This release fixes a number of bugs that assert themselves
when importing spreadsheets that contain large images, when importing or
exporting spreadsheets with overlapping objects, or when importing or exporting
Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Other bug fixes are related to document sharing
through the public beta of Apple's iWork.com Website.
A number of improvements to Numbers' handling of tables are
included in this release; these address the exporting of tables with customized
borders and add new text options for cells in tables including cell-specific
settings for font, size and color. Finally, Numbers '09 tables that use images
as background filler for cells can now be imported and exported from Numbers
Apple claims it has improved the font-matching routines for
this process when opening a Numbers -09 or Microsoft Word document. The company
says it has also improved the process of creating or editing hyperlinks in text
boxes, and added the ability to group and ungroup multiple objects in a Numbers
Although what there is of Numbers for iPad works well enough
in practice, I'm unable to recommend it for use cases that require a
substantial amount of data entry, or where hidden columns must stay hidden. The
lack of support for Apple's wireless keyboard-which works well enough with the
iPad versions of Pages and Keynote-makes Numbers a non-starter for all but the
most general and innocuous purposes.
P. J. Connolly began writing for IT publications in 1997 and has a lengthy track record in both news and reviews. Since then, he's built two test labs from scratch and earned a reputation as the nicest skeptic you'll ever meet. Before taking up journalism, P. J. was an IT manager and consultant in San Francisco with a knack for networking the Apple Macintosh, and his love for technology is exceeded only by his contempt for the flavor of the month. Speaking of which, you can follow P. J. on Twitter at pjc415, or drop him an email at email@example.com.