Numbers for iPad is a good alternative to Excel for Mac users not keen on Microsoft Office. However, it’s a less successful app for Windows users who routinely use Excel. Support for the more advanced features of Microsoft’s spreadsheet tool is not fully realised.
An issue with previous versions of Numbers was that it generated its own spreadsheet format, rather than being able to export as .xls or .xlsx. Version 1.5 fixes this, and adds iCloud synchronisation and the ability to create folders.
Numbers has some way to go before it can replicate the full desktop spreadsheet-charting and formulae-crunching experience, though. Hiding and unhiding cells isn’t supported, for example; neither is cell or row merge.
Taking these limitations into account, we stuck to creating original spreadsheets on our iPad. On the tablet’s generous 9.7in screen, we were able to enjoy fullscreen documents and data set overviews, and switch between landscape and portrait modes at will. These features don’t work on the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4/4S versions of Numbers. You can see everything, but as very small text,
or only a handful of cells at once.
More importantly, editing and entering data is frustrating using the iPad’s touchscreen; less of a problem if you’re using a Bluetooth keyboard.
Verdict: Mac OS X users will get more from Numbers than iPad-owning Windows users. For simple spreadsheet creation on the go, it’s not a bad £6.99 app, but don’t expect to enjoy the full sophistication of Microsoft’s Excel software.