The Right Office Apps for the iPad at Work, Round 2

The best spreadsheet editor for the iPad

The capabilities of the candidate spreadsheet editors are much closer than for the word processors.

Numbers. Similar to Pages in its richness of functionality, Numbers is a full-on spreadsheet editor. You can enter complex formulas, create charts, and have multiple worksheets. The on-screen keyboard adapts to what you are entering, making special symbols and formulas very accessible. What takes a little getting used to is switching your entry mode for a cell, such as to text or to formula or to date, but that's how Numbers knows what controls to put in the on-screen keyboard.

Numbers, like its Mac OS X counterpart, takes an odd approach to spreadsheet creation if you're used to working in Excel: Adding a worksheet results in a blank page with no cells. Excel users will be mystified as to what to do next. What they need to do is add a table to the worksheet -- that's the grid of cells. In Numbers, a worksheet can have multiple tables, whereas Excel has just the one table automatically created. Once you know this, Numbers is easy to use.

Like Pages, Numbers has a good find-and-replace capability. Alas, like Pages, Numbers has no Save As feature; you need to duplicate a document before opening to leave the original intact.

Quickoffice. Excel users will take to Quickoffice quickly, as it works very similarly. Quickoffice has a large set of functions available, and it's easy to work with cells, rows, and columns. Quickoffice's on-screen keyboard doesn't have the sophisticated contextual display that Numbers' does, but its interface is nicely designed, so it works well without that ability.

Quickoffice has a Save As functionality, unlike Numbers. What it doesn't have is a set of charting tools or the ability to sort columns or rows, both of which Numbers can do. Quickoffice also can't hide columns or rows -- but neither can Numbers. Quickoffice can search and replace in spreadsheets, but it lacks Numbers' ability to search based on case and/or whole words.

docstogo
DocsToGo. The spreadsheet capabilities in DocsToGo are similar to those in Quickoffice, with better search and replace capabilities than Quickoffice. DocsToGo also can hide rows, sort columns, and freeze panes, none of which Quickoffice can do.

But again its user interface is deficient. Switching among worksheets is more work than necessary, for example. The fact that the formatting controls are on the bottom of the screen isn't as problematic as it is for text documents, since you use the keyboard less in a spreadsheet. Still, it remains a pain.

Soonr Workplace. Soonr's spreadsheet editing and formatting tools are fairly complete: You can add and edit formulas, add worksheets, sort rows or columns, insert columns, copy and paste cells, and edit cell contents. What's lacking is the ability to move rows and to create charts, and to replace text (it can only search). Plus there's no numeric keyboard for working with cells as there is in Numbers.

The verdict: Numbers is the most capable of the spreadsheet editors, and its quirks are ones you can adjust to pretty quickly. It's my choice for spreadsheet editor.

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Product mentioned in this article

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  • Apple iPad 2 family

    The iPad 2 remains a solid choice, thanks to its lower price and strong app choices.

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