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Inside Numbers: How Apple Does Spreadsheets

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Ryan Faas tells you all about Apple’s new Numbers spreadsheet program, which is flexible and powerful enough for consumers and small businesses (and some larger businesses, too).
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Watch out Microsoft! Apple recently upped the ante in the office wars with the release of iWork ’08, which includes Apple’s first attempt at a spreadsheet program. The new Numbers program is flexible and powerful enough for consumers and small businesses, as well as some larger businesses. The number-crunching app sports an interface that’s both easy to use and equipped with a wide range of tools for making projects look more like professional presentations than mere spreadsheets.

Numbers includes several templates ranging from travel planners to invoices to grade books for home and small business uses.

These templates are displayed at startup or can be selected by choosing "New from Template" from the File menu. You can also create your own templates based on an open file by selecting "Save Template" from the File menu.

Tables and Sheets

Numbers differs from other spreadsheet programs by offering layout capabilities similar to that of Pages. Files, for example, are divided into sheets (as shown in Figure 1), and a file can have as many sheets as you like. But sheets aren’t exactly like pages in a word processing application because each sheet can print across multiple pages.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Actual spreadsheet data is placed in a table—effectively a spreadsheet unto itself—and you can place one or more tables on a sheet. Tables include a familiar grid of cells, which can contain data, functions, and formulas.

In addition to tables, you can also place graphics, freeform text, and charts onto a sheet.

The left side of the Numbers window includes a Sheets pane, which is used to view and navigate the sheets contained in a single file as well as the tables and charts stored on each sheet. You can select sheets, tables, or charts in the Sheets pane to modify them, or you can move tables and charts from between sheets by dragging them.

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