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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.

New interface features
There are some nice UI touches in Permanent 2. For example, you get a (sort-of) contextual menu for cells and ranges: Tap a cell or drag a range, then tap the ellipsis button to display an overlay containing cut, copy, paste, style, merge, clear, sort, and fill buttons. I found this feature to be intuitive and easy to use. The ellipsis button appears next to the range or cell you're working with, so your finger doesn't have to stray far to access the button and, subsequently, the buttons in the overlay.

You might think you could use a tap-hold action to bring up this menu, but in Permanent 2, tap-hold activates the move feature. Tap-hold on a cell, range, or row/column heading, and you can then drag the selected item to a new location. I love this feature, as it makes rearranging a worksheet about as simple as it can be given the iPad's touchscreen-imposed UI restrictions.

Entering functions is a bit different in Permanent 2 compared to the original version, but it's not difficult to get used to. While you can type a function directly (for example, by typing =round(..., that's not the most efficient way to work with functions. Instead, tap the Fx button on the keyboard, which will insert the = symbol for you (saving a trip to another keyboard layout), and then start typing the function's name. As you type, Permanent 2 will show matching functions in a row above the keyboard, narrowing the list down as you type more characters. When you see the function you want to use, tap it and it will be placed in the cell, ready for editing.

Unfortunately, the functions aren't placed with their parameters, so there's no way to tell what syntax you need to use, for example, for find. (It's find("what to find",cellref), but I had to discover this through trial and error.) Due to the lack of detailed documentation, you also can't look up the syntax of a given function's parameters.

Things get worse with more-complicated functions. If you want to use something like OFFSET() or GCD(), you'll probably find yourself searching the Web for those how those functions work in Excel, hoping that Permanent 2 uses the same structure.

Permanent 2 supports a large number of cloud services for storing documents; it can also store documents locally on your iPad. Having built-in support for cloud storage is wonderful, as you can access all your spreadsheets from any iPad you use.

Going freemium
Permanent 2 also has a new pricing model compared to its predecessor. While Permanent 1 was $10, Permanent 2 is distributed free of charge, with an optional $10 in-app purchase called Permanent Pro. In free mode, you have access to most of Permanent 2's features, but you can't use Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive for storage--Box, Google Drive, and Evernote are accessible, though--and you can create and export files only in Permanent's own file format. (If you paid $10 for the original Permanent, a free "in-app purchase" called Permanent Pro Migration gets you the Permanent Pro upgrade at no charge; however, you must have Permanent 1 installed on your device for the upgrade to work.)


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