NUM­BERS 5 FOR MAC: INCH­ING CLOSER TO BE­ING A MORE FULLFEATURED SPREAD­SHEET APP

Macworld (USA) - - Mac User - BY GLENN FLEISHMAN

Num­bers for Mac ( go.mac­world.com/ nm4m) has al­ways oc­cu­pied an awk­ward po­si­tion. It’s not pow­er­ful enough to re­place Ex­cel or Google Sheets for many busi­ness pur­poses, and it’s de­signed partly to be an in­ter­ac­tion, quan­ti­ta­tive-in­for­ma­tion pre­sen­ta­tion tool. Num­bers for IOS had even more of a bias to­wards pre­sen­ta­tion un­til the lat­est up­date brought it a lit­tle more power.

How­ever, Ap­ple keeps push­ing for­ward, and Num­bers 5 for Mac has only a sin­gle sig­nif­i­cant change that Ap­ple mostly un­der­played, as most of the

changes im­prove fea­ture par­ity and seam­less in­ter­change be­tween Num­bers for Mac and IOS ( go.mac­world.com/ nios), while also mak­ing the apps more con­sis­tent with Pages (Mac [ go.mac­world.com/p74m] and IOS [ go.mac­world.com/p44i]) and Key­note (Mac [ go.mac­world.com/kymc] and IOS [ go.mac­world.com/kyio]).

NEW FEA­TURES

The big macos change is rel­a­tively bor­ing but very prac­ti­cal: the abil­ity to im­port field-based data ex­ports from data­bases, apps, and web ser­vices. Un­til now, Num­bers lacked any use­ful way to con­trol how it parses in­for­ma­tion that needs to be plopped into col­umns and rows. You re­lied on what­ever de­faults and as­sump­tions Ap­ple made. If your data didn’t con­form and you couldn’t mod­ify the out­put of what­ever pro­gram app or ser­vice you used to meet it, you’d have to ma­nip­u­late your ex­ported data in yet an­other piece of soft­ware.

The big macos change is rel­a­tively bor­ing but very prac­ti­cal: the abil­ity to im­port field­based data ex­ports from data­bases, apps, and web ser­vices.

That’s now in the past with Im­port Set­tings, an op­tion that ap­pears when you click Ad­just Set­tings af­ter you open a text file that has for­mat­ted data in it, whether it’s in comma-sep­a­rated val­ues (CSV) for­mat or a fixed-width text for­mat. Tech­ni­cally, you don’t even have to use CSV for­mat any more, as you can ad­just to use tabs, spa­ces, semi­colons, or a cus­tom de­lim­iter.

The Ad­just Set­tings but­ton is a lit­tle bit ir­ri­tat­ing, as it ap­pears very briefly. The mo­ment you en­gage with the spread­sheet, it dis­ap­pears, and you have to re-im­port the file to get the op­tion back.

Im­port Set­tings also ap­pears when you paste text into Num­bers. Pre­vi­ously, you had to rely on Num­bers au­to­mat­i­cally in­ter­pret­ing and mas­sag­ing that im­port, although it tended to do bet­ter with pasted text than text in a for­mat­ted file. I tested copy­ing a va­ri­ety of ta­bles from Web pages into Sa­fari, and Im­port Set­tings def­i­nitely pro­vided far bet­ter re­sults. How­ever, Num­bers 5 no longer han­dles cer­tain for­mat­ting and wrap­ping is­sues cor­rectly when past­ing that the pre­vi­ous re­lease did. If you com­monly copy and paste from a browser, you may find Num­bers 5 adds a text-mas­sag­ing in­ter­me­di­ate stage, or at least un­til Ap­ple re­leases an up­date or adds ad­di­tional for­mat­ting op­tions.

As with up­dates to the other iwork apps, Num­bers gets donut charts, new in­sertable shapes that can be edited, and sup­port for col­lab­o­ra­tive edit­ing via the third-party Box doc­u­ment-shar­ing ser­vice. And Ap­ple of­fers a way to re­duce stor­age con­sumed by au­dio, video, and im­ages em­bed­ded in the doc­u­ment by opt­ing to down­sam­ple or use more ef­fi­cient for­mats (via File → Re­duce File Size).

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

BOT­TOM LINE

Num­bers 5 for Mac ad­vances the app, mak­ing it more use­ful for more pur­poses with less ef­fort, but it’s still a shadow of full-fea­ture busi­ness spread­sheet pro­grams. Nonethe­less, the set of im­prove­ments in the macos and IOS ver­sions make your work eas­ier in shift­ing back and forth and get­ting the most out of the nu­meric and pre­sen­ta­tion sides of the soft­ware. ■

New Im­port Set­tings ease the process of mas­sag­ing data from dis­parate sources into Num­bers.

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