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How to edit spreadsheets on an iPad

Joe Kissell, Macworld.com | May 24, 2011
Calculate on the go with files from Numbers, Excel, and more

As the iPad ecosystem expands and matures, it becomes easier to leave your laptop behind and accomplish much of your business work on Apple’s tablet computer. If you only need to view Microsoft Excel files, you don’t need extra software, because iOS natively displays .xls and .xlsx files. Several fine tools also exist for creating and editing even large and moderately complex spreadsheets on an iPad, but because no iPad version of Excel exists, you may have to jump through a few extra hoops, give up some functionality, or both.

 

As the iPad ecosystem expands and matures, it becomes easier to leave your laptop behind and accomplish much of your business work on Apple’s tablet computer. If you only need to view Microsoft Excel files, you don’t need extra software, because iOS natively displays .xls and .xlsx files. Several fine tools also exist for creating and editing even large and moderately complex spreadsheets on an iPad, but because no iPad version of Excel exists, you may have to jump through a few extra hoops, give up some functionality, or both.

 

Choosing a spreadsheet editor

Unfortunately, none of the apps that can edit spreadsheets on an iPad supports all the features of Excel or Numbers on Mac OS X (not even Numbers for the iPad). At minimum, you can expect to lose some formatting (such as fonts that aren’t available on your iPad) when you import the files. If you use only common formulas, all the math should continue to work, but depending on which app you choose, charts, graphics, and certain advanced features may not come through.

What’s worse, in most cases (except with Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite and Documents To Go, as I explain in a moment), after you edit the spreadsheets on your iPad and reopen them on your Mac, all those items stripped out during import will still be gone. So if it’s essential to you that every last element of your spreadsheets survives the round trip, be sure to choose an iPad app that makes that possible.

That caveat aside, here are my top picks for editing spreadsheets on an iPad. (There are many more; if you don’t see your favorite here, make sure to share it in the forums.)

Numbers Apple’s $10 Numbers for the iPad app can import documents in Excel or Numbers for Mac formats and offers the widest range of spreadsheet features of any iPad app, including input forms and lovely (2D) charts. Numbers can’t simply open an existing spreadsheet and save it in place; incoming files must be imported, and outgoing files exported (and then transferred to another location). A service called DropDAV makes this process simpler by letting Numbers connect to your Dropbox account via WebDAV. The service costs $5 per month.

Numbers for the iPad
In Numbers for the iPad, you can use a full-size numeric keypad plus other handy keys for entering data quickly.

 

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