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What You Get

The installation DVD contains templates and the other programs in the suite. There is also a good electronic help system. You can also view video tutorials on Apple's web site.

System Requirements

  • Mac OS X Tiger 10.4.11 or later
  • At least a 500 MHz G4 processor

Numbers (iWork '09)

By Monte Ferguson

Numbers continues the current theme with iWork updates. That being nothing groundbreaking but several helpful improvements. This yearís update goal appears to address perceived weaknesses in the programs feature set. It also fixes several deficits in the program.

The re are a number of welcome enhancements to the existing features. Yet there are also some added features that make using the program both easier and more powerful. It might be an early signal that Apple is ready to compete with Microsoft in the enterprise software market.

New
The first thing youíll likely notice is the enhanced Template Chooser. It lets you quickly find the right template to start off your project. Numbers í09 includes 12 new templates. This brings the total number of templates up to 30. (Examples include a checking register or a baby record.)

Formulas are the heart of any spreadsheet program. Apple has added a couple of features that will make working with formulas easier. First off Numbers 09 comes with 250 functions built into the program. You can click and choose one. Each of the functions has a clear explanation and built-in help. No need to guess how the pieces of a formula work. Better yet you can assemble a formula using visual placeholders for each variable. Click on a placeholder and insert a value.

Another new feature gives you an over view of your spreadsheet. This is handy because many projects include multiple sheets, tables, numbers and formulas. The Formula List View lets you see every calculation in your spreadsheet at one time. You can access right from the toolbar, it has itís own nifty Formula List button. You can also use it to search for formulas, functions or even cell references.

Many professionals work with large sets of data in one spreadsheet. Getting a handle on all of that data can be a chore. Appleís solution is called Table Categories. With one click, you can now group rows based on data in any column and create table categories. Each category includes a summary row. Using just the summary row, itís easy to collapse, expand, and rearrange the categories. Add functions to each summary row ó subtotals, averages, count, minimum, and maximum ó to organize your data even more.

Making your figures accessible, and visually appealing is another aspect of any good spreadsheet program. Numbers adds new chart types and visuals with this release. Combining line, column, and area series in a single mixed chart is now possible. Creating 2-axis charts with different value scales is also a handy option. You can also easily apply trendlines and error bars.

Numbers í09 finally addresses one of my pet peeves. It finally adds dynamic integration with other apps in the iWork suite. It does this with a dynamic linking feature. It works like this. Now you can create a spreadsheet in Numbers. Later link to it in Pages. When you update the spreadsheet the changes are automatically updated in Pages as well. Long time Mac users will realize that this sounds practically identical to an old Apple feature from the 90ís called Publish and Subscribe. Which it is. Iím delighted to see this feature make a reappearance. The lack of dynamic linking between components of the suite was my main gripe with previous iterations of iWork.

Now For Something Completely Different
Sharing your Numbers documents has always been pretty straightforward. You could always save them out as a Excel or PDF file. But now there is a new way to share your files. It also provides a limited amount of collaboration. Apple announced this feature as a new service, currently in beta, called iWork.com.

You have to publish a document to iWork.com to take advantage of the service. Which is as easy as clicking a button in Formatting bar. Once you have published the file you can invite people, via email, to view, comment or download the file. It works with both Mac and PC users.

When the recipients of your invitation arrive at the site they are presented with an excellent copy of the original document. It appears just as you viewed it in Numbers. Invited visitors can add comments, which look like sticky notes and have an ongoing chat type running conversation in the side bar. If they prefer to have a copy of the file they can download it directly from the iWork.com web site. While the file was being uploaded iWork created copies in Word and PDF format, as well as a native Pages file.

Right now the service is free, it is in beta, to anyone who has purchased iWork í09. Apple has said that at some point they do plan to charge something for the service. How much is yet to be determined.

Pros
The new, as well as improved features, solidify an already good program. It also positions Numbers as a capable, more nimble, and less expensive, alternative to MS Excel. Yet the program does not suffer from feature bloat. The iWork.com service is an interesting additional feature. Itís rather early to tell, but it looks promising.

Cons
My biggest grumble, lack of live linked data between apps in the suite, is no longer an issue. I really found no glaring faults with the program itself. I think iWork.com shows some initial promise but needs further refinement. Itís works well, as far as it goes, but it doesnít allow true collaboration. Say some kind of check in check out type of system so multiple people can work on a document. It would be nice if it supported other files as well, for example jpegs or photoshop files.

Conclusion
Numbers has moved forward yet again. For most people itís hard to get excited about spreadsheet apps in general. Much of the focus of this years release is tightening and improving upon existing features. Not exactly something that excites many prospective buyers.

This years release does not have much in the way of big features. It is more of an evolutionary update. The overall effect of the various improvements is that the program feels more complete and polished. It does sport some new features that can apply to a range of Numbers users and give the new version added value. I would heartily recommend the update. The combination of features, and low price point, make it worth the money to upgrade.

Posted: Sunday, November 1st, 2009


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