Num­bers 4 for iOS

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iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS - Glenn Fleish­man

Ap­ple views Num­bers for iOS as a tool for visu­al­iz­ing and pre­sent­ing data, rather than as a work­horse spread­sheet app. But the lat­est up­date of­fers im­prove­ments on both sides of that equa­tion. While not pil­ing on fea­tures, Ap­ple has brought the iOS ver­sion more in line with the Mac app, as well as har­mo­niz­ing fea­tures with Pages and Key­note for con­sis­tency. This means less frus­tra­tion when mov­ing among apps and be­tween plat­forms.

com­pany pro­motes the ad­di­tion for draw­ing us­ing an Ap­ple Pen­cil or your fin­ger on iPads that Pen­cil. Be­cause Num­bers sheets can be quite elab­o­rate and used for pre­sen­ta­tion pur­poses, I can un­der­stand adding draw­ing op­tions, which are now found in all the iOS pro­duc­tiv­ity apps – though they make more sense in Pages and Key­note.

But the sec­ond flag­ship ad­di­tion is in a short bul­let point in the ‘what’s new’ list: im­proved, cus­tom­iz­a­ble im­port of CSV and text data, with sup­port for cus­tom de­lim­iters and fixed width files. For peo­ple try­ing to use Num­bers in more pow­er­ful and so­phis­ti­cated ways, de­spite the many ways in which it falls short of Mi­crosoft Ex­cel and Google Sheets, this is a big one.

When ex­port­ing data from a data­base or a web­site, you often have the op­tion to have it dumped in a field-based for­mat, so you can im­port it into an­other data­base, into an­other ser­vice’s API, or use it with a spread­sheet app. CSV (comma-sep­a­rated val­ues) and text for­mats are com­mon, but have a lot of vari­a­tions. Un­til now, if what you were try­ing to im­port into Num­bers didn’t fit Ap­ple’s no­tions of pars­ing that data, you had to use an­other piece of soft­ware – like BBEdit or a script – to pre­pro­cess your ex­port and mas­sage it to Num­bers’ needs.

In­stead, you can now se­lect a CSV-for­mat­ted or fixed-width text file by brows­ing to it via the Spread­sheets view, and then tap an Ad­just Set­tings but­ton that ap­pears at up­per right. This opens an Im­port Set­tings sheet that gives you a fair amount of con­trol to cus­tom­ize the CSV or text de­tails. (This but­ton ap­pears very briefly: the mo­ment you en­gage with the spread­sheet on any other be­hav­iour, it au­tosaves as a Num­bers file, and the only way to get Ad­just Set­tings back is to re­open the orig­i­nal text file.)

For par­ity with pre­vi­ous ver­sions of Num­bers for Mac, Ap­ple now of­fers con­di­tional cell for­mat­ting, which lets you cre­ate style rules (such as italic, a back­ground fill, or type colour) based on eval­u­at­ing the val­ues in a cell. It also brings in sort­ing and fil­ter­ing op­tions pre­vi­ously in the Mac ver­sion, al­low­ing you to chain to­gether a series of sorts to pro­duce a more so­phis­ti­cated or­dered re­sults, and add mul­ti­ple fil­ters to cre­ate a kind of sum­mary re­port of data in­stead of view­ing ev­ery­thing in a sheet.

As with up­dates to the other Mac and iOS apps, Num­bers gets pie charts, new in­sertable shapes that

can be edited, and sup­port for col­lab­o­ra­tive edit­ing via the third-party Box doc­u­ment-shar­ing ser­vice.

Though seem­ingly a lit­tle out of place, you can also in­sert an im­age gallery into a Num­bers sheet, just as in Pages or Key­note, although you can only move through these images within a Num­bers doc­u­ment; there’s no way to ex­port it for in­ter­ac­tiv­ity.


Num­bers for iOS now matches the macOS ver­sion in most im­por­tant ways, mak­ing it a much bet­ter com­ple­ment and stand­alone app. It still has a long way to go to meet fea­tures in com­pet­ing iOS and web app spread­sheets, but as a base­line for most peo­ple, Num­bers now en­com­passes more peo­ple’s needs for im­port­ing, sort­ing, and view­ing or­ga­nized data.

Num­bers han­dles im­ports of large amounts of data and ably works with large spread­sheets

An new Im­port Set­tings op­tion lets you cus­tom­ize and mas­sage im­ports, re­quir­ing less pre­pro­cess­ing and other work

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