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Numbers: Spreadsheets for Interestingness

Numbers, Included in iWork '08

I have had a good look at Apple’s new spreadsheet program, Numbers, and have concluded that they have done the unthinkable: they’ve made spreadsheets interesting! Once again Apple has succeeded in helping us actually enjoy using our computers while we are being productive.

As a test, I’m using it to plan our trip to England using one of the templates that come with the program. Using multiple sheets, I’m tracking our budget for the trip, I’ve laid out all the plane flights, and I’ve got a list of places we’ll visit and things we’ll do. Sure, I could have done this in Excel, but the results are much better in Numbers because it was made for a much more intuitive and creative user experience.

First of all, the ability to have different tables within one sheet makes it a lot easier to keep the data presented on the screen, and to format it without worrying about a change to one part of the table effecting another part. On every sheet I have at least two tables, and I can make them interdependent with formulas, or make them stand alone. Once I’ve set them up, I can easily move them anywhere on the page without loosing any formatting or causing formula problems.

Also, before using Numbers I never thought much about putting pictures in a spreadsheet. But using the template for planning this vacation has me adding small pictures of Big Ben, Westminster Abby, and Stonehenge.

I’ve also moved our budget to Numbers, and it converted seamlessly from Excel. My only complaint relates to my need to learn new shortcuts and commands, but I’m happy to do it for the benefit of using a superior program.

Suddenly, Excel seems boring and bland. Now remember, Excel was made to be bland; it’s a program for adding up numbers and building formulas. It’s just that I never noticed its bland-ness. Neither will you… until you use Numbers.

(Numbers is included with iWork ’08, available at Amazon for $69.99 and includes free shipping.)

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