I spent some time this weekend playing with iWork ’08’s Numbers. I’ve mentioned before that I like this spreadsheet a lot – but I wanted to compare the functions it has to those in Microsoft Excel: to see what functions are missing and give people and idea of what they can expect if they try and import Excel documents using Numbers.
I figured the best way to do this was to list all the functions in Excel, and highlight the ones that are not supported in Numbers. Sounds like an ideal use of a spreadsheet – so I prepared the list in Numbers itself. I also wrote a few notes on functions where I found they differ slightly from Excel (I blogged about some of these differences here).
So, first the results.
Functions in Excel versus Functions in Numbers
And here is a summary table:
As you can see, Numbers has roughly half the number of functions as Microsoft Excel. It isn’t quite as bad as it sounds though. Some key points from my research:
Text Functions: Almost all functions in Excel are available in Numbers – the exceptions being
TEXT and the double byte character functions that are only available in Japanese Excel. Japanese users might be distressed by this however.
Date and Time Functions: The missing functions tend to be more obscure or those that may not be consistent across platforms such as
Mathematical Functions: The missing functions are Array and Matrices related and a few more obscure functions.
Financial and Statistical Functions: This may be the killer for many users – only around half of these functions in Excel are in Numbers.
Other Functions: There are no Engineering or Database functions in Numbers at all. If you use any of them, you’re out of luck.
Check the actual spreadsheet to see if there is something you think you need that Numbers won’t cover.
Now that I’ve used Numbers a bit more, I should make some observations.
First, it is very slow on my G5 iMac (2GHz, 1GB). It is much smoother with an Intel machine, and more memory (of course). But Excel on the same hardware is a speed demon.
Unless I’m missing something, you can only print one sheet at a time. This is very annoying. If you Export instead to PDF, it can only print all sheets with one sheet per page, so that isn’t a substitute for sheets that span more than one page.
It is really nice not having to mess with tables in order to add explanation text or headings. Once you get used to doing it that way, you don’t want to go back to Excel. Ever.
I’d like to see more functions – I tried importing some spreadsheets I’ve used for years and found they import fine, but have some warnings on some very trivial functions (like
ISNUMBER) that don’t exist in Numbers. I’d like to see Apple expanding the Excel compatibility (and not have to wait for iWork ’10 to get the new functions).
It would also be great if Apple revealed some plugin architecture for adding more functions. If there is such a thing, and Apple publish instructions for using it, we might get third parties completing the functions needed for Excel compatibility – and some new functions that are Numbers specific for doing some very cool number manipulations.
Hopefully this information is useful to someone. There could be mistakes in the spreadsheet – I did my best, but I did rush it a little. Let me know if there are any mistakes.