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Permanent 2: updated iPad spreadsheet gets more useful, less quirky

Rob Griffiths | July 31, 2014
The first version of the Permanent was, for better and worse, unlike any other iPad spreadsheet we'd ever used. The update loses some of the quirks, but gains in utility.

When I previously looked at Permanent (2.0 mice), I concluded that the iPad spreadsheet app had potential, but that potential was mostly untapped. The app simply lacked many features--printing, cell styling, pinch-to-zoom, deleting rows and columns, and more--you'd expect from a well-rounded spreadsheet program.

However, Permanent did have some unique features, and I concluded my review by stating, "I think there's an interesting model here, and it definitely could work well if the authors can deliver on their promises."

Permanent 2 (version 2.2.2 as of this review; free with in-app purchases) loses much of the uniqueness found in the original version of Permanent, such as floating tables and images, and scrolling within a sheet instead of within the screen of the iPad. But the end result is a much more usable application.

Missing features addressed
I was pleased to see that nearly all the shortcomings I noted in the original version of Permanent have been addressed in version 2. Unlike its predecessor, Permanent 2 can be used in both portrait and landscape mode; it offers many more functions (I counted 133, up from 30); there's a full set of cell-styling functions; it supports printing; pinch-to-zoom works; and you can add and delete both rows and columns.

Other improvements include the removal of the visually confusing undo browser; tables can be longer than the screen; the navigation keys on the numeric keypad have been rearranged into a more logical layout; you can set heights and widths for both rows and columns; rows and columns can be easily moved around; and formulas adjust their references when you add or remove columns or rows that affect a formula's location.

In short, Permanent 2 is now a much more usable iPad spreadsheet application. Of the issues that I noticed during the first review, only two remain.

First, there's still no full-fledged help, leaving some aspects of the program to be discovered through trial and error. As an example, the "freeze panes" icon is a snowflake, which (kind of) makes sense once you realize what the button does, but its purpose isn't obvious without tapping it to see what happens. There is now, at least, a simple tutorial to get you up and running with the basics, which is a good start.

The second remaining issue is that you still have to manually type cell references when entering formulas. If you're writing a formula that refers to a number of cells in various locations, you'll find yourself dragging the screen around to find the proper cells to reference; once you find them, you then must type them, which requires lots of annoying toggling between the alphabetical and numeric keyboards, as cell references are in the typical letter-and-number format.


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