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First Look: Numbers '09, spreadsheet

updated 05:20 pm EST, Fri January 9, 2009

First Look Numbers 09

As the last new application for iWork, Numbers introduced superior features, but lacked calculating firepower when put head-to-head with Microsoft's Excel. Numbers '09 attempts to remedy this problem, while building on the unique paradigm of a canvas where you place objects like tables, charts and shapes to create a visually-pleasing spreadsheet.

One crucial feature is the addition of more than 100 new functions, boosting Numbers' library to over 250. The increase brings Numbers closer to Excel's function library, though it still falls short -- there are no AMORDEGRC and COUPNCD functions in the financial library, for example. If you need a particular function, or plan to import Excel spreadsheets that use omitted functions, you'll have to create your own formulas from scratch.

Whether you use built-in functions or create your own, the biggest problem when dealing with formulas is trying to identify where all your calculations appear. To identify formulas quickly, Numbers '09 includes a Formula List icon embedded in the toolbar. Clicking this displays a list that shows the location of all formulas, along with the cells from which the formulas receive data.

While Numbers can be handy for presenting information, you may still need to present charts within a Pages or Keynote document. If you copy and paste a chart, you'll simply wind up with two versions of the same item, and risk updating one without updating the other. To avoid the problem, you can now link charts from Numbers to either Pages or Keynote. As a result, any changes made in Numbers are automatically reflected elsewhere.

In some spreadsheet apps, the way you organize spreadsheets can determine the visible information. You might, for example, enter a list of services you've performed, including a category that identifies types of services, such as Lighting or Appliances. This list could be arranged by date to start with, but if you wanted to see how much was done in Lighting, you'd have to sift through contents yourself and take down the tally. To solve this, Numbers can now rearrange spreadsheets based on category. If you click on a a column heading and choose Categorize by This Column, the app will sort data appropriately.

Like all members of the iWork '09 suite, Numbers takes advantage of the new template chooser, which lets you slide the mouse across a template to view all pages, rather than just the first as in previous versions. To help create a spreadsheet, Apple has added 12 new templates, for a total of 30.

The program also includes built-in sharing via Mail, and the ability to export spreadsheets to Excel or PDF files. The former option includes Microsoft's XLSX format.

Numbers has always been great for spreadsheets, and its latest features help remedy some of its weaknesses as a calculation and analysis tool. The program has improved drastically; if you're a heavy user of Pages and Keynote, linked charts can make Numbers '09 an obvious choice over Excel, while casual users will at least find Numbers more visually interesting. Excel remains, however, the champ for serious number crunching.

by MacNN Staff



  1. abusamer

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Linked charts

    Anyone who used a Mac back in the days of System 7 already had Publish and Subscribe built into the OS. Bringing this ability to one or two apps seems underwhelming in 7 or 8 Mac OS updates later. Anyone remember PowerTalk?

  1. ZinkDifferent

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Let's hope...

    ..that Number '09 has better performance -- the '08 version suffered greatly when your spreadsheets grew.

  1. chas_m



    Numbers is great ...

    ... for people who HATE doing spreadsheets, but have to do them occasionally (and they have to look good when done!).

    Excel is still the champ for people who have to do this c*** all the time, but at least the graphic arts dept can now be handed a boring Excel chart and turn it into something with pizzazz for the board meeting/annual report/newsletter.

  1. mjs975s

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Please tell me it finally does trendlines. I wanted to use Numbers previously but without the ability to add a trendline, equation, and R^2 value to a scatter plot it was basically worthless for anyone in any area of science, academic or professional.

  1. Sabon

    Joined: Dec 1969


    mjs975s - Yes on trendlin

    mjs975s - Yes on trendlines. Look at the Numbers page on Apple's website. They actually show that as an example. I'm assuming you HAVE looked at Apple's page for Numbers '09 ... right?

  1. danangdoc

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Yeah, Right....

    And for those who just bought iWork in Dec or in the last quarter? No upgrade path? Full price? No way! Way too greedy, Apple. Way too greedy.

    And "One More Thing..." - since no Apple netbook is ever coming (per Steve Jobs) my first laptop will be the MSI Wind I'm about to purchase, and I'm doing a Hackintosh on it. I'll bet more netbooks (Dell, MSI, ASUS, etc.) are bought to run OSX than Windows!

  1. gdhnz

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Sheet limits

    Tables are still restricted to less than 256 columns and 65534 rows.


  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Export Issue...

    When you save to Excel, most formulas don't export.

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