iWork ’08 Review - Numbers Review


Although tables are the main thing you’re likely to want on a sheet, you can put text, pictures, video and sounds on it too, producing much more media-rich documents. Simply dragging and dropping from the media browser, which picks up on the main sources of media on your Mac, is enough to turn a sheet from a dull financial table into a glossy annual report.

It all works well most of the time but there’s a shortcoming or two in all this wizzery. There’s a peculiar mismatch in the manipulations you can apply to photos and video clips. You can use the new Instant Alpha facility to intelligently remove a background from an image, a feat several dedicated photo editors still find difficult, but a simple thing like rotating a picture doesn’t appear possible.

When it comes down to heavyweight number crunching, there are 150 formula operators available, about half of Excel’s complement, under headings like Statistics and Financial, with easy ways of applying the most common ones. You can also add tickbox, slider and stepper functions to cells, which make what-if scenarios easy to set up. A tickbox switches the data from a particular row on or off, a slider enables you to alter values by dragging a pop-up slide control and a stepper provides simple up-down arrows for clicking to alter cell values.

Although it can import files from Excel, Numbers can’t do pivot charts, so any transferred worksheets which use them will display, but not pivot. File compatibility throughout the suite is good, with Office files, even from Office 2007, generally coming across well. There’s no support for Open Document Format, though, which could be a problem in offices running on mixed Mac/open source platforms.

As you might expect from Apple, charting is a strength of Numbers, with 2D and 3D charts easy to prepare. The program automatically creates a legend from row or column labels, 3D charts can be adjusted for angle and lighting and all charts remain live, so changes in source cell data are immediately reflected in the graphics.

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