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iWork ’08 is Apple’s successor both to iWork ’06 and to AppleWorks, which was discontinued a week after the ’08 product was launched. AppleWorks was aimed at small business, with a fairly traditional set of applications: word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, database, drawing and painting. Until this release, iWork had comprised just two: Keynote for presentations and the Pages word processor.
iWork ’08 adds Numbers, a spreadsheet, to complete the Big Three apps traditionally making up an integrated suite. Some might argue there should be a Personal Information Manager like Outlook in there, too, but with Address Book and Mail, the Mac is better provided for in its base software than Windows is with Outlook Express.
The new suite doesn’t require a bang-up-to-date Mac, like iLife ’08 does. It’s happy with any G4 Mac over 500MHz and with 512MB memory or more. It does require OS X 10.4.10, though.
We’re going to start by looking at the spreadsheet, because Numbers is about as much like a traditional Excel-style spreadsheet as a kitchen catalogue is like a sales ledger. In fact, one of the sample worksheets in Numbers is designed as a kitchen planner, with illustrations of the various appliances, tied in with schematics and lists of plumbers and electricians, who might do the installation work.
Numbers can do traditional number-crunching on conventional-looking worksheets, if you want, but has a number of features that make it a much more friendly and useful, tool than many ‘straight’ spreadsheets. If you’re used to thinking of a sheet as an array of cells, you’ll need to do a minor mental rejig.
In Numbers, a sheet is a blank work area, like an empty page in a DTP program. Onto that page you can place one or more ‘tables’ – like mini worksheets – which can be of any size and design. They can work independently of each other, or be tied together in a relational way, with any table drawing on data held in others. Tables can be dragged around a sheet, with handy alignment lines popping up each time a table edge is aligned with other objects, and they can be dragged from sheet to sheet, using icons in a tree window at the left of the screen.