In my November 2013 review of Numbers 2.0, I found the app to be a “good, solid, usable spreadsheet tool.” Fast forward a couple of years and Numbers for iOS has reached version 2.6.1, with many new and/or improved features. So how does it hold up now, especially in light of Excel’s free entry into the iOS spreadsheet market?
What’s not new
Instead of starting with what’s changed, here’s what’s not changed: Numbers is still a good, solid, usable spreadsheet tool for iOS. The templates are first rate, there are more than enough formulas and charting features for all but the most diehard spreadsheet jockey, and the interface is clean and relatively easy to work with.
That interface is relatively unchanged since 2.0, still showing a screen devoid of UI elements beyond some text on the left and a few buttons on the right. This provides you with the most screen real estate possible for working, which is important on the iPad (and critical if you’re trying to use Numbers on an iPod touch or iPhone).
Behind the scenes changes
Apple has done a lot of work behind the scenes to improve Numbers in ways that aren’t apparent as shiny new features. First up, Numbers can finally import Numbers ‘08 spreadsheets, so those who have older worksheets aren’t locked out when they update.
Second, users who use VoiceOver on their iOS devices will find much better support in this version of Numbers: More elements are VoiceOver accessible, including working with rows and columns (adding, deleting, rearranging) and interacting with special cells, such as sliders and steppers. In my testing, these features worked well, and will make Numbers much more usable by those who use VoiceOver.
Numbers now supports Handoff between the Mac and iPad, as well as iPad multitasking via Slide Over, Split View, and Picture in Picture. Finally, you can work on your spreadsheet while catching up on last week’s TV shows! Or perhaps more usefully, look up information in a web browser for inclusion in your spreadsheet. (You can actually do both if you want: Picture in Picture works when Split View is active.)
Finally, iOS 9’s text selection gestures are also supported, so you can drag-select text in cells from the onscreen keyboard area.
The visible changes
Numbers also has many user-visible improvements, including more default colors as well as a custom color mixer (on iPad) to create your own colors. You can also use the color picker to select any color in your spreadsheet. In practice, I find that Numbers’ themes do a good job with color selection, but it’s nice being able to use the custom mixer to make one that’s just right for your project.
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